By Sean Yoes
AFRO Baltimore Editor
syoes@afro.com

Dr. Anne O. Emery  embraced thousands of former Baltimore City Public School students that she referred to as “my children” during a storied career as an educator. The woman many of those students referred to as “the queen mother” passed away earlier this month.

Emery died the morning of Aug. 19, at Gilchrist Center Hospice Care in Towson of multiple myeloma. She was 93.

Anne Osborn was born into a legacy of public school education May 15, 1927, in Thomasville, Alabama. She was the only child of Ullman Carl Osborn, a principal and Lura Charlotte Huntington Osborn, a teacher and musician.

She graduated high school in the 10th grade before she received her bachelor’s degree at Tuskegee University in Alabama.

Dr. Anne O. Emery, one of the most influential Baltimore educators over the last 50 years died earlier this month. She was 93. (Courtesy Photo)

After a successful stint teaching in Louisiana, Anne Osborn Emery moved to Baltimore with her late husband Vallen L. Emery Sr., and their three sons. In Baltimore, Emery earned a master’s degree in education at what was then Morgan State College and later a doctorate in education from Temple University. And she began an odyssey in public school education and public service that inspired myriad Baltimoreans for decades; first, as a vice principal at Lemmel Junior High School and later as the first principal of Walbrook High School in 1971.

“Dr. Emery spent her life thinking of creative ways to help her students succeed in education, in careers and in their lives long after graduation from Walbrook,” said Frank Crosby, president of Walbrook Alumni and a graduate of the Class of 1982.

“She understood the urban dynamic of her students at Walbrook and she hired teachers and staff that understood that as well. Everything she did at Walbrook was designed to create an environment of excellence, learning, growth, respect and love.”

Emery left Walbrook in 1980, to become an assistant schools superintendent, a position she retired from in 1989. Yet, her influence as an educator and community leader seemed to grow in retirement.

“When I started the Larry Young Morning Show, she volunteered to be my education advisor,” said Larry Young, former state senator and host of the Larry Young Morning Show on WOLB. “She loved her profession and her students. She loved Baltimore and became one of the most influential leaders in our state.”

Emery was chartering president of the Baltimore Chapter of 100 Black Women, an organization that celebrated her life and legacy during a gala at the Forum Caterers in Northwest Baltimore in 2018, and brought together a who’s who of Baltimore politics and education. She was also a member of the Baltimore City Commission for Women. Emery also was a co-founder and chaired the board of directors of the Bluford Drew Jemison STEM Academy in East Baltimore and was appointed to the Maryland Higher Education Commission by Gov. Bob Ehrlich.

“Anne Emery was like that favorite aunt or former teacher who inspires you to be productive,” said Larry S. Gibson, professor of law at the University of Maryland and a legendary political strategist. “When Dr. Emery saw you and asked ‘How are you doing?,’ one took that to mean ‘What are you doing?’ ‘What are you doing to improve yourself and the community? One always wanted to have a good answer, Gibson added.  It seems like Dr. Anne Emery is still looking over our shoulders and motivating us to keep working to improve the human condition.”

David Miller, Walbrook Class of 1986, is an author and an internationally recognized educator who specializes in mentoring and educating young Black males. Although Emery left Walbrook as principal in 1980 before Miller arrived at the West Baltimore high school, he recalled his first encounter with the legendary educator when he and some fellow classmates had skipped out of the school she once led.

“I bumped into Dr. Emery while cutting school with a few other wayward young males,” said Miller, who in later years would teach in Baltimore City Public Schools and become a colleague of Emery.

“As we scurried down North Avenue…Dr. Emery pulled over and inquired about why we were out of school. Instead of lying, which was always a safe bet in those days, it was something about Dr. Emery’s stern but loving voice and motherly disposition, that we told her we were cutting school,” remembered Miller.

“To our dismay, she unlocked the car doors and made us get in to travel the four or five blocks back to (Walbrook). Along the way, she shared the power of education in transforming our lives and the seriousness needed by young Black males to rebuild our communities. Dr. Emery’s advice and counsel left an indelible mark on my psyche. When we reached the  school we were a bundle of nerves. Dr. Emery politely ordered us out of the car and suggested we figure out a way to get back in the building. We each said, ‘Yes ma’am,’ and exited the vehicle,” Miller added.

“Dr. Emery’s name should be forever mentioned with great Black educators like Fanny Jackson Coppin, Nannie Helen Burroughs, Mary McLeod Bethune, Septima Poinsette Clark, and Dorothy Height.”

Dr. Emery leaves to celebrate her life: one son, Dr. Vallen L. Emery Jr. of Baltimore, a daughter-in-law Michele McNeill-Emery; six grandchildren, three great-grandsons and two other daughters-in-law. Her sons Travis and Gregory Emery died in 2016 and 2000, respectively.

Funeral arrangements had not been announced at AFRO press time.

In addition to her daughter-in-law, survivors include one son, Dr. Vallen L. Emery Jr. of Baltimore, six grandchildren, three great-grandsons and two other daughters-in-law. In addition to her son, Travis Emery, who died in 2016, another son, Gregory Emery, died in 2000.

Sean Yoes

AFRO Baltimore Editor