In Memoriam

William L. Smith (1930-2008)

William L. Smith, the last commissioner of the U.S. Office of Education before it became a cabinet department in 1980, has died from cardiovascular disease at a hospital in Silver Spring, Maryland. He was 79 years old.

Smith was a native of Boston. He was a 1949 graduate of Wiley College in Marshall, Texas, where he played in the school band. Serving in the Army during the Korean War, he earned a Purple Heart and the Bronze Star. He held a master’s degree in education from the University of Massachusetts at Boston and a doctorate from Case Western Reserve University.

In 1970 Smith began a 37-year career with the federal government serving in a wide variety of positions. In 2005 he was appointed director of the Center for Rural Education. He retired the next year.

David Thomas Shannon Sr. (1933-2008)

David Thomas Shannon Sr., former president of Virginia Union University and Allen University, died late last month at a hospital in Atlanta. He was 74 years old.

Shannon was a native of Richmond, Virginia. He became a licensed preacher at the age of 16. He was a graduate of Virginia Union University and earned a master’s degree at the Oberlin Graduate School of Theology. He held two doctorates, one from Vanderbilt University and the other from the University of Pittsburgh.

In 1960 Dr. Shannon was named pastor of the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Richmond. In 1979 he was named president of Virginia Union University. He later served as vice president for academic affairs at the Interdenominational Theological Seminary in Atlanta. From 1994 to his retirement in 1997 Dr. Shannon was president of Allen University in South Carolina.

W. Avon Drake (1946-2008)

W. Avon Drake, until recently a professor of political science and African-American studies at Virginia Commonwealth University, died at his home in Trent Woods, North Carolina. He was 61 years old. He served on the Virginia Commonwealth faculty for nearly 20 years before his retirement in 2007.

A native of Hickman Hill, North Carolina, Professor Drake was a graduate of North Carolina A&T State University. He held a master’s degree in African-American studies and a Ph.D. in government from Cornell University.

Prior to joining the faculty at Virginia Commonwealth, Dr. Drake taught at the State University of New York, Hobart and William Smith Colleges, and the University of California at Santa Barbara. He was coauthor of the 1996 book Affirmative Action and the Stalled Quest for Black Progress.