Edward Braxton, principal at N. Phila. elementary schools, dies at 91

EDWARD ROBERT Braxton, one of the first African-American school principals in Philadelphia, a decorated Army veteran of World War II and a compassionate man who helped rescue many men and women from the scourge of alcoholism, died Sept. 22. He was 91.

Ed, as he liked to be called, served as principal of four elementary schools in North Philadelphia in a 26-year career in education.

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Braxton

He was born in North Philadelphia to Edward Blaine Braxton and Helen Moore, and raised in West Philadelphia. He graduated from Overbrook High School and went on to the old Philadelphia Normal School.

He was drafted into the Army and, after officer training school, was shipped to the Italian front, where he received a Bronze Star for valor. He became a first lieutenant.

He married his first wife, Lucille, while in the Army. After the war, he married his second wife, Irene Castleberry.

Ed enrolled at Temple University and received a degree in elementary education and administration. Working as a letter carrier to pay his bills and going to classes at night, Ed earned a master's degree in education from Temple.

He served as principal of Dunbar, Kearny, Stanton and Steel elementary schools in North Philadelphia in the '50s and '60s.

He lived in Olney for a time, then moved to Mount Airy, where he was a neighbor and friend of writer, producer and actor Matt Robinson - who played Gordon on "Sesame Street" - and his daughter, Holly Robinson Peete, the actress and singer.

In 1955, Ed married his third wife, Frances M. Braxton.

In 1970, the family moved to Kent, Ohio, a month after Ohio National Guard troops killed four Kent State students and wounded nine on May 4. The students were protesting the American invasion of Cambodia.

Ed earned a doctorate at Kent State and founded a project to work with disadvantaged schoolchildren. He trained teachers at Kent State and in Akron and Cleveland on how to relate to, understand and educate disadvantaged young people.

He returned to Philadelphia in 1975 and became principal again of Steel Elementary. He helped obtain funding for the school's audio/visual department, which was named for him.

He retired in 1979, but continued to work with and mentor teachers and others in Philadelphia and surrounding areas with his experience in education.

A tall man with a solid frame, Ed suffered a massive heart attack in 1975 and underwent triple-bypass surgery. Although he continued to smoke cigarettes, he changed his diet and achieved a slimmer, more athletic frame, giving him many more years of a life of achievement and service to suffering alcoholics.

After an early drinking problem, Ed quit and had 65 years of sobriety. He worked with alcoholics and helped start Alcoholics Anonymous chapters in Parkside and West Philadelphia.

Besides his wife, he is survived by a son, Eugene, and a grandson, Edward R. Braxton III. He was predeceased by another son, Eric.

Services: A private memorial service will be held later.