Reflecting on the legacy of her late husband, Silas Craft, Dorothye shares a story that illustrates his character.
“Late one night, the phone rang. It was a man who had been stranded on the road, and he had been given Silas’ name as ‘someone to call’. It was nearly midnight, but Silas picked up this man, a stranger, and let him stay with us for the night,” she remembers. “That is just the type of person he was, and he was that way for his students too.”
An educator for 32 years, Silas Craft was the principal of the second high school for black students in Howard County, Harriet Tubman High School. At an NAACP event in 1993, he recalled the challenges of obtaining textbooks. Dorothye tells of his unwillingness to settle for the cast-off, lower quality teaching materials that were often provided, and his willingness to be outspoken as an advocate.
Mrs. Craft exclaims, “He spoke what he thought. He wanted those kids to have the best, and he never stopped demanding the best.”
In pursuit of his own education and career, Silas Craft faced challenges as a black man. “But those challenges only made him try harder and go further,” she recalls.
After high school, Silas Craft worked in the mines in West Virginia for a year to save money for college. In 1943, after serving in World War II as a Tuskegee Airman, he attended his Air Corps graduation. He invited Dorothye to join him, and proposed and married her the same weekend. In 1944, he was awarded a bachelor’s degree from Bluefield State Teachers College in West Virginia. Craft went on to earn his master’s degree from University of Pennsylvania in 1947, but was denied his doctorate from the University of Maryland because his thesis was about black students. He was awarded an honorary doctoral degree from Bluefield in 1978.
Craft came to Howard County in 1944 to become principal of Cooksville Junior-Senior High School, which was a segregated school for grades one through eleven. Craft helped to open the Harriet Tubman High School, and served as its first principal from 1949-1956. After schools were desegregated, Craft served in leadership roles at various high schools in Montgomery County, including Carver, Montgomery Blair, and Francis Scott Key Junior High School until his retirement in 1976.
Craft passed away in 1995 at the age of 76.
In 1999, Howard Community College launched the Silas Craft Collegians program in honor of his legacy. The program aims to maximize academic achievement through personalized attention, mentoring, and leadership development.
Mrs. Craft believes the program accurately reflects Craft’s educational philosophy – staying centered on the student, giving them the very best, and asking them to perform at their best.
“There are many people who have good minds, but need support in order to reach their potential. The Silas Craft Collegians learning community gives them the opportunity to become the type of people they need to be for the world,” Mrs. Craft says. “When you know you have someone ‘holding the ladder’, you are motivated to climb higher, to apply yourself.”
The Howard Community College Educational Foundation hosts an annual fundraising dinner for the Silas Craft Collegians program. Monies raised go to the program endowment as well as providing immediate operational funding. Mrs. Craft attends each year.
“I love seeing the students hustling at the event. I am so proud of them. It is wonderful to see them grow and mature through the program.” Mrs. Craft jokes that she often critiques their attire and gives them pointers on manners, as she would her own children.“I wish that Silas was here to see how the things that he started have grown. He would be so proud.”