When celebrating the history of influential African American leaders of our time, names like Ruby Bridges and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. automatically come to mind, but we often forget the everyday leaders. These men and woman are neighbors who strive to impact and uplift their communities. They are so extraordinary that although not world renowned, they are living legends deserving of both gratitude and recognition.
“It never costs anything to be kind to people, people ought to keep God first and learn to walk around with an open fist instead of a closed one and God will always provide,” the words of one of those Baltimore legends, Mack B. Simpson Jr.
One of the results of that kindness is that family members and friends are gathering, July 26, to celebrate Simpson’s 90th birthday at Tiffany East Catering on E. Lombard Street in Baltimore.
Simpson is a respected and admired educator in the Baltimore Metropolitan area as well as a conference trustee of the Baltimore Annual Conference, inspired by his father, the late Rev. Mack B. Simpson Sr. and his mother, Elizabeth F. Simpson, who taught elementary school.
Simpson spent most of his childhood years moving from school to school, because of his father’s various assignments as an itinerant AME pastor. After graduating from Bates High School in Annapolis, Simpson went on to Bowie State College to further his education.
Initially, he wanted to attend the University of Maryland for graduate studies, however, during the late 1940’s African Americans were not accepted at UM so he moved to New York and studied at Columbia University. After earning a master’s in administration and supervision, he returned to Baltimore for further study at John Hopkins University, Loyola and the University of Maryland.
His first teaching job was in Randallstown at Old Court Junior High School.
“All the African American students and teachers had to undergo a great deal of screening. It was a brand new school at the time that had about 95 teachers on the staff and only five of them were African American, with only about 10 African-American students,” Simpson said.
Like his father, Simpson believes in being an active member of the church. For eight years he served as the president of the Baltimore Conference Lay Organization, and as a treasurer for the Second Episcopal District Lay Organization. He also served as a musician for the Gospel Choir of St. John AME church playing both the piano and the organ.
Simpson has lived through many monumental events in African-American history. When asked how he felt about President Obama, he said, “I was extremely happy to see a black man become the president of the United States of America, because I never thought I would have the opportunity to do so in my life time, but I must say that it saddens me to see how hard the Republican party has worked to see him fail, impeding him of the opportunity to do some of the great things that would aid in the development and furthering of our country.”
In 2013 Mr. Simpson received the NcouragED Legend in Education Award. He also received the Living Legacy Award from Second Episcopal District Church.
“I think one of the reasons my life has been long and fruitful is because I am a member of the church and a man of God who truly believes in helping others and doing all that I can to help others succeed,” Simpson said, adding, I believe the key to having a successful future is to use your talents to get you ahead.”
Continuing to use his talents, Simpson still plays the organ and conducts workshops in the Lay Organization once a month.
And he always gets his AFRO.
“I appreciate the fact that this is one of the only papers that keeps you abreast of all things occurring within the black community,” says Simpson, who’s been a subscriber for 40 years.