Photo Credit: Olan Mills Studio
Alonzo H. Shockley Jr., an educator and civil rights advocate who became the first African-American elected to the North Babylon Board of Education, died Feb. 11 at his Port Jefferson Station home. He was 93.
"He was a mild, gentle kind of person who really looked out for other people," said his daughter Cheryl Durant of Port Jefferson. "If he was able to achieve certain goals, he wanted to bring other people along behind him, particularly educators."
The Delaware native joined the Army during World War II and served in Italy and North Africa, according to his wife, Kay.
After the war, he graduated from Delaware State College. He later became principal of Paul Lawrence Dunbar Elementary-Junior High School in Laurel, Del.
Shockley battled desegregation in Delaware, enrolling his oldest daughter in a whites-only high school in Laurel so she wouldn't have to travel a longer distance to a black school. That fight cost him his position as principal and led him to move to New York in 1960, the family said.
He was a sixth-grade teacher in the Plainview-Old Bethpage district before becoming an assistant elementary school principal in Wyandanch, Durant said.
Shockley developed Nassau's first Head Start program while serving as education coordinator of the county's Office of Economic Opportunity, a position he was appointed to in 1966, his family said.
Shockley jested that he was only "shifting gears" after he retired as state and federal programs director for Freeport Public Schools in 1985, Durant said.
Dubbing himself the "first urban cowboy," Shockley's favorite attire was cowboy boots, a black suit, white shirt and red bow tie, said his son, Alonzo H. Shockley III of Manhattan.
The family said Alonzo Shockley Jr. continued to break barriers, becoming the first African-American on the North Babylon school board in the 1970s.
A gifted tenor, he traveled the world with choirs, including United Methodist Church choirs in Babylon and Port Jefferson. He also once served as an international polling supervisor for general elections in Bosnia, the family said.
Other survivors include a sister, Elizabeth Shockley Palmer, of Westchester; his first wife and mother of his children, Novella L. Shockley, of North Babylon; three grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren.
Funeral services were held last month in Port Jefferson and Milford, Del.