Veteran Northampton educator dies

Published 12:00 am Friday, November 30, 2007

PENDLETON – While Willis Hare Elementary School has lost a guardian here on Earth, the school has gained an angel to look over it.

For the majority of his years, Oscar B. Spaulding Sr. was the face, voice and leader of the school and for many years after he retired from his principal position he kept a watchful eye on the school that sat just yards across the road from his own front lawn.

On November 24, Spaulding passed away at Roanoke-Chowan Hospital after a brief illness. He was 90 years old.

For many in Northampton County, Spaulding was the epitome of the term “community” as he served on several educational and county government committees and was involved in various groups.

“Mr. Spaulding was our volunteer security cop,” wrote current Willis Hare Principal Barbara Stephenson in a resolution presented at his remembrance service. “He would call over to the school and inform Mrs. Daye if the flag was upside down or if someone came on the grounds and sat in the car a certain length of time without coming into the building. We will miss his extra eyes.”

Born on February 16, 1917 in Sunbury, Spaulding was the son of Reverend William McLean and Carrie L. Spaulding. In 1922, the family moved to Rocky Mount. He completed his childhood education at Booker T. Washington High School.

Spaulding received his Bachelor of Science degree from Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte.

During World War II, Spaulding served his country by working as an electric welder at the Norfolk Navy Yard.

Spaulding took his first job in education, teaching chemistry, biology, mathematics and physics at Coates Elementary School in Seaboard in 1946.

In 1951, he completed his master’s degree in education from New York University in New York City. The same year he became principal at Willis Hare Elementary and High School, a position he held for 30 years.

He furthered his education at North Carolina Central University in Durham and off campus work at East Carolina University.

Spaulding is survived by numerous relatives, including his two children Oscar Jr. and Yvonne, his three grandchildren and a great granddaughter. He was predeceased by his late wife Ethelyn W. Spaulding, whom he was married to for 55 years.

Director of Community/Schools Relations and Student Services Susie B. Johnson described Spaulding as unwavering in his generosity toward education.

“He never turned down Northampton County Schools for anything,” she said. “He was always willing to help, always ready to serve.”

Johnson, who attended Spaulding’s remembrance service, said those in attendance represented a “who’s who” in education. She said that though Spaulding served the community through various organizations, his heart remained with education.

“He liked keeping up with what was going on in education,” she said.

Johnson noted Spaulding was the vice chairman of the Northampton County Schools Education Foundation, served on the Teaching Fellows screening committee as well as other education related committees and groups.

Stephenson credited Spaulding for getting her first summer school job while she was in college.

“He was always willing to give his honest opinion,” she said. “He strived to get the best out of life.”

Stephenson said when she took on the role of principal at the school she was subjected to Spaulding’s spiel he would famously give to each new principal.

Stephenson said he spoke about leadership skills among other topics.

Though education was at the center of his world, Spaulding also found other ways of helping his community through church and various county government committees and roles.

“The loss of Mr. Spaulding is certainly a tremendous loss to Northampton County,” said Northampton County Manager Wayne Jenkins.

Jenkins said he considered Spaulding a personal friend and “a true southern gentleman.”

Jasper Eley, who served on the Northampton County ABC Composite Board with Spaulding, said he would miss his friend dearly.

“He’s a good friend of mine,” said Eley. “Just an outstanding person…I enjoyed working with him.”

Last May, Spaulding made his way across the street for Willis Hare’s first Teacher Appreciation Day. There former Principal Reginald Ennett announced the Oscar Spaulding Scholarship, a $100 endowment given to a student.

Spaulding was the featured speaker at the event and true to his way of life and opinion on education he said: “Teachers are like a housewife, their work is never done.”