In Memory

Donald Reddick

Donald Henry Reddick, 80; Walter Johnson High Principal

By Patricia Sullivan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, August 23, 2008 

Donald Henry Reddick, 80, who as principal of Walter Johnson High School from the late 1960s through 1981 created an open and relatively unstructured atmosphere at the school, died July 30 at Buckingham's Choice Health Care Center in Adamstown. He had coronary artery disease.

Dr. Reddick was hailed as a "student's principal" who enjoyed the ideas of rebellious students, allowed students to go off-campus for lunch, abolished the dress code and hall monitors, and let students, rather than computers, make their class schedules.

"Of course kids slip through" the relaxed academic environment, he said in a Washington Post article upon his 1981 retirement. "They exist. They existed before. But we've provided an opportunity" for their development.

The year before, he joked at graduation that half the students probably didn't even know who he was.

A longtime champion of education, Dr. Reddick was a past president of the Montgomery County Education Association.

He was born in Wisconsin Rapids, Wis., and served in the Navy. He graduated from the University of Maryland, where he also received a master's degree in education in the early 1950s. He received a doctorate of education from George Washington University in 1965 .

Dr. Reddick taught and was a guidance counselor before becoming principal of Leland Junior High School in Bethesda. In 1966, he moved to the top spot at Walter Johnson.

The teachers were not always supportive of Dr. Reddick's innovations. However, he joined the picket lines in a 1968 teachers' strike and later formed the Faculty Association, which gave teachers a voice in school policy.

He urged the parents association, which was rewriting its list of priorities in response to budget cuts, to stick with several long-desired projects.

When students acted out, he found ways to engage them as thinking humans. When students stole the school's big gates after an assistant principal locked them out, Dr. Reddick installed new gates but never closed them. He then extended the lunch period, which allowed clubs to meet, gave teachers time to confer with students, and provided space for occasional guest speakers.

Another time, an assistant principal took a long-haired student to his office and ordered him to get a haircut. The boy, full of 1968 righteousness, threatened to call a lawyer. Dr. Reddick was called in, and he discussed the relevance of short hair to educational achievement. Soon the hair rule and the dress code were things of the past.

Dr. Reddick taught part time at George Washington University after his retirement.

Survivors include his wife of 58 years, Jean Bible Reddick of Frederick; two daughters, Linda Brainerd of Frederick and Nancy Reddick of Sperryville; and three grandchildren.

© 2008 The Washington Post Company

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10/17/09 02:55 AM #1    

Tammy Jacobs (Bell)

Ok, so this is 'way late, but one of my formative moments came when Dr. Reddick backed me up personally and taught me a lesson in Constitutional law which has lasted 40 years.

Ellyn Brooks (then Ellyn Hochen) had left her English and journalism position to take care of her first child. The new journalism teacher, Susan Barrett, promised an "A" to any student in her 11th grade journalism class who got the Sr. Editors to let him or her write a certain amount (80", I think) of copy. I was the Sr. Features Editor.

Michael "Sandy" Driscoll and I collaborated on a two-page spread about drug use at WJ. It was the first time (albeit not the last) that I ever saw marijuana, or smelled it. It was, I think, perhaps the first time that Mike actually earned an "A" on a major project.

Well-meaning Ms. Barrett attempted to censor the article. It was not "appropriate" for the school's image. I marched down to Dr. Reddick's office, and he called Susan Barrett in. He gently but firmly explained to her that she was the advisor of the "Pitch" but the student editors were the ones responsible for its content. Period.

The story ran, Mike-Sandy (my late mother's later nickname for him) became a lifelong family friend, and after working as a newspaper reporter between college and law school, I wrote my Harvard Law School thesis on the First Amendment and press access. I now pay more attention to the 4th, 5th and 6th Amendments as a defense attorney; but I still cherish the memory of the principal who taught me in one brief conversation two lessons --to value my own opinions and instincts, and that the First Amendment works.

11/03/10 06:53 PM #2    

Michael Loughran

     O.K. ... this, too, is coming a little bit late, but when I was in the 11th grade - 17yrs. old - I had the great idea of running away from home to BOSTON in April '68.  I stayed there (mostly on BEACON HILL - BOSTON'S version of GEORGETOWN (or HAIGHT-ASHBURY) - until August '68.  School was to start in a few weeks, and I hadn't been to classes since one of Marsha Shook's parties in March. I got a haircut, both of my parent's and I met with Dr. Reddick to see where I was at and whether or not I was to stay back again as a Junior ...  or move on as a Senior?  Dr. Reddick basically "kicked me upstairs" and allowed me to stay with the classmates I had grown up with.  The details of the PARENT-TEACHER-STUDENT meeting we had are still a little bit foggy, but the gratitude  I felt at saving me from feeling like a complete idiot still resonates. I think that our class of '69 just might have had one of the most unique principals ever !!

01/29/11 01:21 PM #3    

Mitch Clark

In 1968 I got into a little trouble at School to the point of being asked to move to Walt Whitman. My parents and I spoke with Dr. Reddick explaing that the atmosphere at WW was Way worse than at WJ. I was allowed to remain and finally graduated.

in 1979, while I was stationed at the Naval Academy I drove to WJ to see Dr. Reddick. I thanked him for giving me the opportunity to turn my life around, and had it not been for him I wouldn't have been afforded the opportunities to succeed. He was, as always, humble about it. In my estimation he was a great man and educator, and I wish I could have seen him again.

01/23/14 09:57 AM #4    

Elaine Orr

I was a fairly good student, but one of my brothers (a very smart man) was not. Learning disabilities were not diagnosed (much) in the 1950s. He was on the track team, but he skipped a lot of school. He was well-liked and respectful. Dr. Reddick sat him down one day and asked him what it would take for him to be in school more regularly. He said he needed a job. (Both our parents were sick.) Dr. Reddick got Montgomery County to hire him as a school custodian, and my brother probably knew him better than most people because they would talk after school. My brother is the kindest, funniest person I know, and he has had his own businesses and lots of good jobs. I'm sure his life would have been very different if Dr. Reddick had not helped him at a key time in our lives.  (I'm not saying his name--I have three brothers!)

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