Allen Baxter Jr., 90, of Philadelphia, a St. Paul’s Baptist Church deacon and retired administrator in the Philadelphia School District, died Saturday, Oct. 7, of heart disease at Edgehill Nursing & Rehabilitation Center in Glenside.
Known as “Bus,” he was the brother of “Gus,” or Augustus Baxter, an activist and city planner who served on the Philadelphia Board of Education. Augustus Baxter died in January at age 88.
Mr. Baxter came from a family that valued education to get ahead. He took that principle to heart, and it motivated him to pursue college and an advanced degree. He parlayed the degree into a position as assistant director of pupil personnel, supervising all the truant officers in the School District of Philadelphia.
“Education was extremely important to Allen,” his family said. “He always encouraged family members to further pursue their education.”
Faith was another pillar of Mr. Baxter’s existence. At St. Paul’s in Philadelphia, he blossomed under the guidance of his mentor, the Rev. E. Luther Cunningham. A longtime member of the church, Mr. Baxter served as a Sunday school teacher, trustee, treasurer, and deacon.
Born in Philadelphia to Allen Baxter Sr. and Lillian Olivia Baxter, Mr. Baxter was reared in Northern Liberties. He graduated from Benjamin Franklin High School and then was accepted at Brown University.
But a high-school school counselor discouraged him from taking the offer, saying Brown’s engineering program, in which Mr. Baxter was interested, was not likely to result in a job, his family recalled.
Mr. Baxter enrolled instead at Howard University, but his studies were interrupted when he was drafted into the Navy during World War II. Upon returning home from Guam, where he had served, Mr. Baxter earned a bachelor of science degree in psychology in 1951 from Lincoln University.
He completed a master of arts degree at Villanova University in 1975. He also attended St. Joseph’s University, receiving certification to be a school principal.
Mr. Baxter absorbed from his parents the importance of fair business ethics and hard work. Mr. Baxter’s father owned and operated an ice house whose customers were homeowners and businesses. His father also founded A. Baxter Moving & Storage Co. and ran it for 50 years. The younger Mr. Baxter was at his side, learning astute business practices for part of that time.
Mr. Baxter juggled jobs as a substitute teacher in the Philadelphia public schools by day and a mail sorter for the U.S. Postal Service by night. Once he had worked his way up to assistant director of pupil personnel, he developed the “Back to School Patrol,” a project that used paraprofessionals and federal funds to get truants back into the classroom.
“Allen had such a strong work ethic, he also continued to work with his father on the moving truck as well as at various other employment pursuits,” his family said. He retired from the School District in 1982 after 30 years of service.
As diligent a worker as he was, he found the time to be a dedicated family man. He married Marie Daniels, and in 1958, the couple had a son, Allen III. They divorced, and she died in 2011. In 1969, he married Bernice Harris.
“Together they laughed, traveled, and built a life that was a testament to God’s love,” the family said.
Mr. Baxter enjoyed fishing with his son and nephews. He was a member of Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity. He loved Peanuts cartoons and collected stuffed animals in the form of Snoopy and the gang, which he placed on his bed for visitors to admire.
“He called family members and close friends every day. Allen had a deep love for all the children; even when he was very ill, he asked about the children,” his family said.
In addition to his wife, the Rev. Bernice H. Baxter, and son, he is survived by three granddaughters; two sisters; three great-grandchildren; and many nieces and nephews.
A viewing starting at 9 a.m. will be followed by a 10:30 a.m. homegoing service and life celebration Friday, Oct. 13, at St. Paul’s Baptist Church, 1000 Wallace St. Interment is in Washington Crossing National Cemetery in Bucks County.