Maurice A. Shannon, longtime teacher, former police officer, and community development advocate, has died at 82


Maurice A. Shannon, 82, of Philadelphia, longtime math teacher for the School District of Philadelphia, former city police officer, and community development advocate, died Saturday, Oct. 28, of complications from a stroke at his daughter’s home in Bowie, Md.

Mr. Shannon taught students at the Philadelphia Youth Study Center from 1961 to 1975 and then pupils at Daniel Boone, West Philadelphia, and Olney High Schools; John Paul Jones Junior High School; and other schools in Philadelphia from 1981 until his retirement in 2005. Naturally congenial and empathetic, he enjoyed interacting with young people, other teachers, school staff, and parents.

He also had a playful sense of humor, and his daughter Kellie said he would jokingly quiz her, his son Michael, and their young friends with math problems before letting them go outside to play. “So our friends stopped coming over,” she said with a laugh.

He took his students on field trips to museums and vocational schools, and pressed the point that planning for the future was as important as mastering their school lessons. He tutored students who needed extra help, wrote letters of recommendation for those seeking references, and gave good advice when asked.

“He believed in the power of education to transform lives and was a guiding light for his students,” his family said in a tribute. “He made even the most complex math subjects accessible and engaging.”

He became a Philadelphia police officer after high school and attended Cheyney State College, now Cheyney University, during the day while working night shifts with the Police Department from 1958 to 1961. He graduated from Cheyney with a bachelor’s degree in 1965, and later studied urban planning at the University of Pennsylvania.

Mr. Shannon also worked in the 1970s as assistant director of the Temple University community development program. In 1968, he and other members of the Liberty Place Citizens Association objected to a controversial housing plan developed by the city for their East Poplar neighborhood.

Using federal funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the city went on to build Fairmount Manor, a sprawling apartment complex for low-income renters, instead of the promised mix of single-family homes and apartments. Neighbors filed suit, Maurice Shannon, et al v. United States Department of Housing and Urban Development, in 1969, and they won the case on appeal in 1970.

“We had nothing against the people who live there,” Mr. Shannon told The Inquirer in 1975. “Fairmount Manor is just a cheap, cheesy, crappy job that looks like a project.” In 1977, as a result of the suit, 42 new single-family townhouses were built in East Poplar, and Mr. Shannon told The Inquirer at the ribbon cutting that July: “This should have been done years ago.”

Throughout the dispute, Mr. Shannon gave interviews on TV and elsewhere as a spokesman for community involvement. “It’s a good thing redevelopment happened,” he told The Inquirer in 1975. “But it will never be the community it could have been.”

Maurice Alan Shannon was born April 21, 1941, in Philadelphia. He grew up in South Philadelphia and West Philadelphia, and, ever the adventurer, is remembered by relatives for trying to launch a rocket off the roof of the family home.

He played football, ran track at the Penn Relays, and graduated from John Bartram High School in 1958. He worked for a time as an orderly at Philadelphia General Hospital and, after graduating from Cheyney, took classes in the master’s program for urban planning at Penn from 1969 to 1971.

He married Crystal Waters in 1962, and they raised daughter Kellie and son Michael. They divorced later, and he married Stella White in 1981. His former wife died earlier.

Mr. Shannon liked to work on cars and home projects, and he took his family on memorable trips in recreational vehicles. Neighbors called him the Mayor of Hoffman Place because he was so meticulous in keeping his community clean and safe.

He liked to read and often hummed his favorite tunes as he puttered around the house. “He was patient and a good listener,” his daughter said. “As a father, he was a dream.” His son said: “He loved being a father and raising children.”

His wife said: “He was a very good man. He always encouraged me. He spoiled me rotten.”

In addition to his wife and children, Mr. Shannon is survived by two sisters and other relatives. Two sisters and two brothers died earlier.

Services were held Nov. 8.

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