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First black member of the Washington County Board of Education dies

August 12, 2011|By DAN DEARTH | dan.dearth@herald-mail.com

Princeton Young, the first black member of the Washington County Board of Education, died Wednesday after succumbing to cancer. He was 64.

Young, whose full name was William Princeton Young, was appointed to the Board of Education by former Gov. Robert Ehrlich in 2003 to fill a seat vacated by Doris J. Nipps, who was elected to the Washington County Board of Commissioners. Young later lost a re-election bid.

One of the things that Young was remembered for during his tenure was forfeiting the salary that he earned serving on the board. He donated the money to establish scholarships for minority students.

On Friday, family and friends remembered Young as a wonderful man who always reached out to help others.

His wife, Shelby Jean, said they were married 34 years ago by a Salvation Army chaplain at Washington County Hospital. She said Princeton was recuperating in a body cast after being struck by a vehicle on a Hagerstown street.

"I don't know how many people can say they got married in Washington County Hospital," Shelby Jean Young said. "He thought something might happen and he wanted to make sure I had his name. He was not only my husband, he was my best friend and the love of my life."

Shelby Jean Young said her husband was diagnosed with cancer about 1 1/2 years ago. He died only three months after his 63-year-old brother, Henry "Phillip" Young, lost a battle with cancer.

"He went to see his brother all the time," Shelby Jean Young said. "When his brother passed in May, Princeton just went downhill."

Shelby Jean Young said she had four children before she and Princeton got married. She said he treated her son and three daughters as his own, and never referred to them as "stepchildren." He also refused to put her mentally challenged sister in a care facility.

"He said, 'I can't see putting her in a home when she can come live with us,'" Shelby Jean Young said. "She lived with us for 25 years. God works miracles."

According to his obituary, Young was educated in Washington County Public Schools and graduated from North Hagerstown High School in 1965. He received his Associate of Arts degree in 1971 from Hagerstown Community College. In 1980, he graduated from the University of Maryland University College summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts degree in human services and a Bachelor of Science degree in urban planning. In 1985, he was awarded a Master of Arts degree in community counseling and gerontology from Hood College in Frederick, Md.

Lloyd "Pete" Waters said he studied psychology with Princeton Young at Hood College. The two also worked together in the state prison system south of Hagerstown — Waters as a corrections professional and Young as a psychologist. Waters, who served as warden at Maryland Correctional Institution, said he chose Young to be his assistant warden in the early 2000s.

"He was always concerned about little people," Waters said. "He got along with the prisoners and staff. He always strived ahead to better himself. I guess that's why I enjoyed working with him so much. He was just a decent man."

Waters said Young loved one of his earlier jobs in the prison system working as a psychologist to help mentally ill inmates.

Young dealt boldly with his illness and never complained, Waters said. The two saw each other for the last time about three weeks ago.

"He wasn't afraid to die," Waters said. "A person's true wealth is the good he or she does in the world. He was a wealthy man. That's what set him apart."

Ivan "Ike" Williams, principal of Antietam Academy, said the two started working together in the mid 2000s when Young was hired as a crisis counselor at the school after retiring from the prison system.

"He took kids with issues and helped them focus," Williams said. "He was a very big asset. He will be greatly missed."

Michael Maginnis, fine-arts teacher at Antietam Academy, said Young's sense of humor was appreciated by the at-risk children at the school.

Maginnis said that one Christmas not too long ago, Antietam Academy had an ugly Christmas sweater contest. The school was about ready to crown one of the teachers the winner, when Young, who had been stuck in traffic, came in wearing a "monstrous" sweater adorned with tinsel and Christmas lights. Maginnis said the students demanded a recount and Young was named the new winner.

"He reached a lot of kids," Maginnis said. "Princeton had a way of making life a lot more bearable."

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