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Former Selma teacher/scholar dead at 63

The Selma times-journal

Willie Jack Taggart was born on Sept. 10, 1941 in a small rental house on LeGrand Avenue.

The third of the five children of Blanche Theresa Taggart, he was raised in a loving home by his mother and his grandmother Mattie Bell Taggart.

Baptized at an early age in Ebenezer Baptist Church, he later converted to Catholicism.

Thanks to Roman Catholic priest Father Ziter and the generosity of the Catholic Church he was able to attend college, graduating from Alabama A&M University with a Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry in 1963.

A proud and active member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, he was well known and popular on campus, due to his charismatic personality and his willingness to help other students.

Several months after becoming the first in his family to earn a college degree, he married Dorothy Kennedy.

Between 1963 and 1968 Taggart taught chemistry and physics in the Selma City School System, the first African American to teach in an all white school in the city’s segregated school system.

Due to the controversy evolving around the Voting Rights Movement in Selma he was escorted to work daily by a member of the Army National Guard.

Taggart took an active role in the Civil Rights Movement. One of the major organizers of the Voters Registration Drive, he was recruited to be a tester as well as tutor for others to be tested. He took part in lunch counter sit-ins, marches and demonstrations.

From 1967 to 1968 he attended the University of Michigan, earning his master’s degree in physics. His master’s of science in chemistry was earned at the University of Wisconsin in 1970. He then moved to Cincinnati where he was employed as a mathematician at Proctor and Gamble, later becoming a statistical consultant teaching Design of Experiment courses to exempt employees.

From 1984 to 1990 Taggart was employed by General Electric Corporation as an engineer to develop and produce mathematical models to describe jet engines. He also owned a number of rental properties and enjoyed running as a hobby, participating in the inaugural running of the Cincinnati Heart Marathon.

At the age of 49 he suffered a sudden stroke, followed in later years by at least eight others. He lived alone, caring for himself and seldom allowing his family to know of his frail health.

On May 27, 2005, Taggart died at a nursing home in Sycamore Township. Services were held at 11 a.m. June 2, 2005 in Forest Park, Ohio. Interment was at Crown Hill Memorial Cemetery.

He leaves to mourn his daughters Jackie Taggart-Boyd and Cheryl Taggart-Wilson; his brothers Ernest “Bill” Taggart and Albert Taggart; his sister Mattie Lee Taggart; an uncle, Allen Taggart; a granddaughter Camille Wilson and a grandson, Spencer Boyd II.

A number of nieces, nephews, cousins and other family members also survive, including many friends in Selma with whom he kept in touch.