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'Local trailblazer' honored at black history celebration

Educator Leon Brumback praised for his accomplishments

February 26, 2012|By DAVE McMILLION | davem@herald-mail.com
  • Leon Brumback, left, and U.S. Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin, D-Md. joke Sunday afternoon during the third annual Doleman Black Heritage Museum's Celebration of Black History at The Maryland Theatre in downtown Hagerstown.
By Kevin G. Gilbert/Staff Photographer

HAGERSTOWN — Leon Brumback, a longtime educator in Washington County Public Schools who blazed new trails as a black student, was remembered during a ceremony Sunday as one who was the “wind under the wings” of countless students in the county.

Brumback was honored for teaching more than just subject matter, and instead helping students with the lessons of life and helping them deal with issues like racial tensions while he was at North Hagerstown High School.

Brumback was the honored guest during the third annual Doleman Black Heritage Museum’s Celebration of Black History at The Maryland Theatre in downtown Hagerstown.

The 5 p.m. event attracted local elected officials and ones from across the region who took turns praising him.

Del. John P. Donoghue, D-Washington, said events during Black History Month often pay tribute to black leaders like George Washington Carver and Martin Luther King Jr.

But it is an honor to set aside an event to celebrate a “local trailblazer,” Donoghue said.

U.S. Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin, D-Md., reflected on Black History Month and President Obama. Then he turned his attention to the story of Brumback and his success.

“All you have to do is look at his tennis teams,” Cardin said.

After teaching at E. Russell Hicks Middle School, Brumback became director of student activities at North Hagerstown High School in 1968. After a few years, he taught social studies, coached tennis and served as adviser to several classes.

His tennis teams won three state championships.

When Brumback took the podium, he remembered the central figures in his life, like the educators at North Street School who “put forth every effort” to make sure students there received a good education.

“It has certainly been a memorable day for me,” Brumback said.

“We were really a village where it was expected for you to do well,” said state Sen. Joanne C. Benson, D-Prince George’s, who is also a Hagerstown native.

Raised in Hancock, Brumback was bused with other black students to North Street School, the only black school in the county. He spent 11 years there before Washington County schools integrated, and he graduated from Hancock High School in 1956.

That fall, Brumback attended Hagerstown Junior College. He earned his Associate of Arts in 1958, making him the college’s first black graduate. He then transferred to Frostburg State Teachers College, now known as Frostburg State University. He earned his Bachelor of Science in 1961, becoming Frostburg’s first black graduate, too. He also earned a Master of Education in 1967 from Frostburg.

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