In Memoriam

Charles Sumner Lofton (1912-2006)

Charles Sumner Lofton, who shepherded thousands of young blacks toward higher education as principal of Dunbar High School in Washington, D.C., has died from congestive heart failure at his home in the nation’s capital. He was 94 years old.

Lofton, who was himself a graduate, was principal of Dunbar High School from 1948 to 1964. During the 1950s, when all black students in the district were racially segregated, Dunbar sent 80 percent of its graduates on to higher education.

Lofton was a graduate of Howard University, where he also earned a master’s degree in history. After teaching briefly at what is now Virginia State University, during World War II Lofton taught history at Armstrong High School in Washington and in a special Army training program at Howard University.

After his appointment as principal of Dunbar High School in 1948, Lofton insisted on high academic standards, neat dress, and proper behavior. He instilled confidence in his students that they could succeed, even in a racially segregated society.

After his retirement from the city school system, Lofton served for 10 years as executive assistant to the president of what is now the University of the District of Columbia.

Robert Louis McCullough (1942-2006)

Robert McCullough, the leader of the group of college student civil rights protesters dubbed the Friendship Nine, died earlier this month at his home in Rock Hill, South Carolina. He was 64 years old.

McCullough and eight fellow students at Friendship Junior College in Rock Hill followed the lead of black college students who began the lunch counter sit-in movement in Greensboro, North Carolina. But the Friendship Nine brought further attention to the movement when their strategy of “jail, no bail” landed them at the York County Prison Farm where they were assigned to a chain gang. The Friendship Nine received national press attention for their courageous stand and the harsh treatment they received in the South Carolina penal system. This tactic undoubtedly revealed the injustice of Jim Crow to millions of Americans and accelerated the progress of the civil rights movement.

After college McCullough worked as a computer technician and a volunteer firefighter.

Mary Starke Harper (1919-2006)

Mary Starke Harper, the last living member of the health care team that conducted the Tuskegee Syphilis Study, died from cancer late last month at her home in Columbus, Georgia. She was 86 years old.

Harper was a nursing student at what is now Tuskegee University in the early 1940s, serving as the personal nurse to George Washington Carver when she was assigned to care for the black men who had contracted syphilis. The black men went untreated despite the fact that the government doctors knew the disease could be cured by penicillin. Government researchers then tracked the progress of the disease. Harper was unaware of the true nature of the Tuskegee study until 1972.

Harper’s career in health care spanned more than 65 years. She spent 30 years with the Department of Veterans Affairs and more than two decades at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. While there, she organized the National Institutes of Health’s minority fellowship program which has provided funding for thousands of minority students who sought training in medicine, nursing, dentistry, and other health-care professions.