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Lionel McMurren

Lionel McMurren was born in Harlem, New York, on October 21, 1925. At the age of two, his mother died and he was raised by two aunts in Elizabeth City, North Carolina, and also by a great aunt in New York. McMurren attended public school in New York and went on to attend Brooklyn College. Because he was drafted in 1944 and served in the Pacific Rim Theater, McMurren did not complete his A.B. from Brooklyn until 1949. A year later, he went on to earn an M.S. from City Colleges of New York. In 1968, he received a professional diploma in instructional administration and a Ph.D. in 1980, both from Fordham University.

McMurren began his professional career in 1951, working as a health education community center teacher. In 1954, at the Methodist Camp Service, McMurren provided summer camp opportunities for inner-city youth. He did this for twenty years, both full and part time, rising eventually to the position of executive director. Also in 1954, McMurren returned to the junior high school of his youth, Frederick Douglass Junior High School, where he showed a particular talent in working with youth. Over the next ten years, McMurren would rise to dean of students and acting assistant principal. In 1964, McMurren took another position as a guidance counselor at a junior high school in Manhattan, and in 1966 he became the assistant principal of P.S. 78 Elementary School. Returning to Frederick Douglass, McMurren assumed the position of principal in 1969, and remained there until 1982.

McMurren was promoted to deputy superintendent of schools of New York in 1982, and remained there until 1986. McMurren continued to work in education even after leaving his post, both as a consultant and as associate professor at City Colleges of New York. In 2005, McMurren completed on an autobiographical account of his experiences at Frederick Douglass, entitled Frederick Douglass P.S. 139: A Citadel of Inspiration--its Aura and Impact : a Story of a Harlem School.

Beyond his years as an educator, McMurren was active in social and civic organizations. He held numerous positions with St. Mark's Methodist Church after first becoming involved in 1940. He was a member of several fraternal organizations, and has been involved with the Minority Task Force on AIDS.

McMurren's former wife, Dorothy, died in 1987. He later remarried and moved, with his wife, Jean, to Sarasota, Florida.

Lionel McMurren passed away on January 22, 2012.

Accession Number

A2003.194

Sex

Male

Interview Date

8/15/2003

Last Name

McMurren

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Schools

Brooklyn College

City College of New York

Fordham University

P.S. 5 Alexander Webb School

P.S. 139 Frederick Douglass School

DeWitt Clinton High School

First Name

Lionel

Birth City, State, Country

New York

HM ID

MCM02

Favorite Season

Summer

State

New York

Favorite Vacation Destination

Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts

Favorite Quote

None

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Florida

Birth Date

10/21/1925

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Tallahassee

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Peanut Butter, Jelly, Franks, Beans

Death Date

1/22/2012

Short Description

Junior high school principal Lionel McMurren (1925 - 2012 ) is the former deputy superintendent of the New York Public Schools.

Employment

Frederick Douglass Jr. High School

Methodist Camp Service

Manhattan Jr. High School #45

PS 78 Elementary School

Community School District

City College of New York

Super Center Consortium

Favorite Color

Green

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Lionel McMurren's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Lionel McMurren lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Lionel McMurren talks about his mother

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Lionel McMurren talks about his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Lionel McMurren describes his father

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Lionel McMurren describes his earliest childhood memories

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Lionel McMurren describes his experiences living with his great-aunt Priscilla Manly in Harlem, New York, New York

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Lionel McMurren describes the sights, sounds and smells from his childhood in Harlem, New York, New York

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Lionel McMurren talks about going to live with his father

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Lionel McMurren remembers attending P.S. 5, Alexander Webb Elementary School, in Harlem, New York, New York

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Lionel McMurren describes his childhood personality

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Lionel McMurren talks about pursuing his dream of being a psychiatrist

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Lionel McMurren talks about his interest in psychology

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Lionel McMurren remembers Mr. Amatrano, his favorite teacher at P.S. 5, Alexander Webb School, in Harlem, New York, New York

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Lionel McMurren describes how schools in New York, New York tracked their students

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Lionel McMurren describes his class size and best subject at P.S. 5, Alexander Webb School in Harlem, New York, New York

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Lionel McMurren talks about Frederick Douglass Junior High School in New York, New York

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Lionel McMurren describes the history of Frederick Douglass Junior High School in New York, New York

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Lionel McMurren talks about his teachers at Frederick Douglass Junior High School in New York, New York

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Lionel McMurren talks about what he gained from attending Frederick Douglass Junior High School in New York, New York

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Lionel McMurren describes the camaraderie he felt while at DeWitt Clinton High School in the Bronx, New York, New York

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Lionel McMurren describes the demographics of DeWitt Clinton High School in the Bronx, New York, New York and wanting to become a teacher

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Lionel McMurren describes deciding to attend Brooklyn College in New York, New York

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Lionel McMurren talks about serving in the China Burma India Theater during World War II

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Lionel McMurren tells a story about segregation on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Lionel McMurren describes the distinction between the U.S. Army Air Force and the Air Corps

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Lionel McMurren talks about graduating from Brooklyn College in New York, New York in 1949 and wanting to be a psychiatrist

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Lionel McMurren describes how he became a teacher at Frederick Douglass Junior High School in New York, New York

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Lionel McMurren talks about being dean at Frederick Douglass Junior High School in New York, New York

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Lionel McMurren talks about the Instructional Administrator's Program at Fordham University in the Bronx, New York, New York and eventually becoming a principal

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Lionel McMurren talks about the advent of Frederick Douglass Intermediate School 10 in New York, New York, of which he was principal

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Lionel McMurren describes his time as principal at Frederick Douglass Intermediate School 10 in New York, New York

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Lionel McMurren talks about discrimination against minority teachers in New York City public schools

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Lionel McMurren describes building a team of administrators for Frederick Douglass Intermediate School 10 in New York, New York

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Lionel McMurren talks about his goals as principal of Frederick Douglass Intermediate School 10 in New York, New York

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Lionel McMurren sings Frederick Douglass Intermediate School 10's school song

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Lionel McMurren talks about having conferences with new teachers at Frederick Douglass Intermediate School 10, in New York, New York

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Lionel McMurren talks about connections he made as principal of Frederick Douglass Junior High School in New York, New York, pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Lionel McMurren talks about connections he made as principal of Frederick Douglass Junior High School in New York, New York, pt. 2

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Lionel McMurren talks about becoming deputy superintendent for schools of New York and campaigning to improve schools in central Harlem, New York

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Lionel McMurren describes training assistant principals and principals in his role as deputy superintendent of schools of New York, New York

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Lionel McMurren talks about the influence of HistoryMaker Eugene H. Webb on Frederick Douglass Intermediate School 10 in New York, New York

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Lionel McMurren talks about the legacy of Frederick Douglass Intermediate School 10 in New York, New York, today and how it's changed

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Lionel McMurren talks about his hope for Harlem, New York, New York

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Lionel McMurren talks about his decision to retire in 1986

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Lionel McMurren describes his involvement with civic organizations

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Lionel McMurren talks about what he'd like to do during retirement

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Lionel McMurren talks about Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity, the Boule

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Lionel McMurren talks about his love for Harlem, New York, New York and what it mean to be a good educator

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Lionel McMurren reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Lionel McMurren recites the poem, 'Invictus'

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Lionel McMurren narrates his photographs, pt. 1

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Lionel McMurren narrates his photographs, pt.2

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Lionel McMurren narrates his photographs, pt.3

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$5

DAStory

7$9

DATitle
Lionel McMurren describes the history of Frederick Douglass Junior High School in New York, New York
Lionel McMurren talks about his hope for Harlem, New York, New York
Transcript
So we're talking about the history of [Frederick] Douglass [Junior High School, New York, New York].$$Yes, yes, the history of Douglass. This is Robert S. Dixon who gathered the students and staff members of the first school, the first class of Douglass; they marched from what was a night club on the hill--it was a hill on 140th Street and Seventh Avenue [New York, New York]. Now, it's called Adam Clayton Powell Boulevard, but it was Seventh Avenue, and he marched to the school, which was located on 140th Street between Lennox and Seventh Avenues, and that was the beginning of Douglass. And so (simultaneous)--$$What year was that? (Simultaneous).$$Nineteen twenty-four [1924].$$Oh, yeah, you just said that.$$And so that school began. And the school apparently attracted so many noteworthy persons who became noteworthy at any rate; Countee Cullen was one, and he was a great person--poet--known, well-known, as a poet, and he taught French in his--he had years in France, et cetera. Mr. Harcore Tynes [ph.], whom, on one of the articles I have here on my becoming a principal and saying that I was--I could relate to Harlem [New York, New York] and the students and all as principal, I was so blessed to be in that position. And I said because I had such wonderful teachers at the school where I did attend, and one which was Harcore Tynes who was, and I quote, "Teaching Negro history before it was popular." He was teaching us Negro history then.$$Now, how--but what--it was part of the public school system but--I'm just trying to understand it; I understand there was a march, but what--how did it come about--into being? You know, how within (simultaneous)--$$Board of Education decided they would have a school in Harlem--$$Okay.$$--and it should be; however, it came, and fortunately, the name Frederick Douglass. And they assembled a staff from the Board of Education, and the students, apparently, you know, were invited from those who lived in the neighborhood.$$But boys.$$All boys. They had an all-boys' school at that time, and they started--it may have been simultaneously--had to be because they had to have some provision for the girls. A boys' school--this girls' school was Harriet Beecher Stowe [Intermediate School, New York, New York], and that was for all girls--a junior high school. Although when we began celebrating Douglass and Douglass gentlemen and Douglass alumni, before we had the point when I became principal of the new school, that was the first time girls were allowed to come in or were not--I shouldn't say allowed to, but were also part of the school. And we were talking about history of Douglass, et cetera and all of the Douglass alumni. So we had one teacher there who said, "I'm an alumnus of Douglass." I said, "What do you mean you're alumnus of Douglass?" She knows--now we know how old she is. "How could you be an alumnus of Douglass?" She says, "Well, as it turns out, when Douglass first started in 1924, they had a kindergarten that was housed in that school." And she was in the kindergarten 'til the third grade; her name was Catherine Wilson [ph.]. And so she says, "And so I, too, am an alumnus of Douglass." (Laughter), so we had to permit that--with great pleasure.$Do you think with the re-development of, of Harlem [New York, New York], that there's a chance for that? It would take some time, you're saying.$$Well, I'm like [HM Reverend] Jesse [L.] Jackson, I keep hope--keep hope alive (laughter). I feel that--I've heard so many good things about things happening in Harlem; I'm wondering what's happening with regard to the children. And whether or not they're children as well, moving there. I don't think--I haven't addressed that with anyone else who has talked about it. Some--a number of people are very knowledgeable. I wanna find out if these people--if they're just older people that are moving in, which I maybe get the--I get the thought; maybe I don't have any basis for it; I think they're older people whose children are grown, or who are moving in buyin' all of these places in Harlem now, like a--my church used to own a parsonage over on 139th Street [New York, New York] that probably was about $27,000, and now it can sell for $300,000, you know? But I'm wondering if the children are moving in, too; I don't think so--maybe they are, and if so, where are they going to school? If they can move in there and go to school down--up someplace else private, wherever--anyplace but the neighborhood school; and that would be my thought--that's what they would probably do. And I guess maybe you cannot much blame them; they say, "I'm gonna live here now, but I want my kid or grand kid--some of the people have their grandchildren and they're takin' care of them now, but for whatever reason, they don't want their grandchildren going there, see? So, if you can make a transformation of the schools there, at the same time that neighborhood's transforming, then there's hope for it and, and, and that will improve the schools because the people in the houses, the parents and community people, will demand, and they have to put the pressure on the people to make sure that things change. If you don't have anybody--where, where there's no protest, there's no progress.