York Town Square

Part of the USAToday Network

Doc Holliday did not take own life, fellow York City educator says

David Rusk was not the only provocative speaker at the York City Human Relations Commission’s 25th Annual Frederick D. Holliday banquet this week.
Retired York City Schools administrator Julia Hines-Harris stated point blank that Holliday, former city schools superintendent, did not commit suicide inside a Cleveland school in 1985.
After his seven-year stint in York, Doc Holliday, respected by many in York, left Pennsylvania to head schools in Plainfield, N.J., and then Cleveland.
Harris provided several arguments to support her view, including:

— Holliday, who loved students and was a regular in York city classrooms, would not have killed himself in a location where he could have potentially been found by students.
— A suicide note contained grammatical errors, and the educator would not have misused the language to that degree.
— Holliday, an accomplished pilot, was also financially astute and would have taken his own life by crashing his plane in a remote area to permit his beneficiaries to collect insurance money.

At one, point Harris commented that “They got him,” but did not elaborate on who “they” was. Press accounts from the time do not reflect doubts about the coroner’s suicide ruling.
Harris was lavish in her praise on York’s first black superintendent, stating that he always prodded for more from his teachers, principals and staff.
He wasn’t a politician but an educator, she said, and that view cost him points in his bid for superintendent of Chicago’s schools.
In a suicide note released by authorities, he wrote that he was sickened by fighting among school board members and the impact petty politics was having on the educational system.
“Use this event to rid yourself of petty politics, racial politics, greed hate (sic) and corruption,” the note stated. “This city deserves better. The children deserve better. Cleveland deserves better.”
At the time of Holliday’s death, other York countians who knew “Doc” Holliday were ready with their praise:

Helen Rohrbaugh, school board president: “His main concern was the welfare of children. But he wanted children not only to learn reading, writing and arithmetic, but to learn to be responsible and have respect for themselves and others.”
Wm. Lee Smallwood, community leader: “He took the kids’ minds off of racial differences and started them thinking about getting an education, going on and being something.”
Doris Sweeney, school board member: “Dr. Holliday tried to make sure that every child in the district had the opportunity to learn at their own level.”
Bobby Simpson, Holliday’s protégé, wrote a letter to Doc, upon his death: “Doc, after I learned of your passing, I was hurt and angered. Angry at you because you could have come back home where you were wanted.”
“But after awhile, I began to smile. I smiled because I was happy. Happy in the fact that I took the time to know and talk with you. Happy for I had the opportunity (as did many others) to work with a genius.”

See Holliday’s impact on Crispus Attucks Community Center at several posts on a York Daily Record/Sunday News series on CA: http://www.ydr.com/blackhistory.