William Herman Sweet, a retired influential legacy Memphis City Schools administrator, died March 28 after a brief illness. He would have celebrated his 94th birthday April 13.
He was a beloved mentor for the development of numerous African-American educators and administrators.
“Dr. Sweet was very instrumental to my development as a school principal in Memphis City Schools,” said Dr. Willie Herenton, Memphis’ first elected African-American mayor and former MCS superintendent of schools.
“I was later privileged to call him a dear friend. He was a highly respected educator, and a caring husband and father. I knew he loved his family very much. Dr. Sweet leaves behind a wonderful legacy.”
Additional highlights of his MCS career included sitting on the planning committee for integrating the schools and initiating the South Area Honors Award for Memphis City Schools. This medal for academic excellence was renamed the W.H. Sweet Honors Program upon his retirement in 1986, and is awarded at this time throughout the current Shelby County Schools system.
He also was a member of the Commission on Secondary Schools for Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, and the National Alliance of Black School Educators.
Dr. Sweet was the youngest of five children born to Chester and Stella Sweet.
He graduated from Booker T. Washington High School in 1944 and earned his bachelors and masters from Tennessee A&I, (now Tennessee State University).
He earned his doctorate in education from the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, in 1972.
After completing college, he joined the Memphis City Schools as a teacher and football coach at Melrose High School in 1949. Over his 37-year career with MCS, he rose through the ranks as principal at several schools and became the South Area Superintendent before retiring in 1986.
Dr. Sweet was a member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. and was a communicant of St. Augustine Catholic Church.
Some of his fondest memories were from when he worked as a Pullman porter on the Canadian Railroad while on summer break at TSU.
He enlisted in the U.S. Navy and the Army, both from which he was honorably discharged.
His post-retirement positions included executive director of Jobs for Tennessee Graduates, program director of the Southeast Mental Health Center, director of a rehabilitation center for alcohol and drug addiction, principal at Father Bertrand Elementary School and adjunct professorships at LeMoyne-Owen College, Shelby State Community College and the University of Memphis.
Other organizations he served in included the Memphis Urban League, NAACP, Delta Boule’ of Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity, Inc., Knights of Columbus Catholic Fraternity, the Memphis Chapter of the TSU Big Blue Club and Boy Scouts of America-Shelby County district.
He was preceded in death by his parents, two brothers, Timothy Sweet and Fred Sweet and two sisters, Christine Sweet Robinson and Cordia Sweet Strong.
He leaves his wife, Lockey Mae Jenkins, whom he met while they attended TSU and married in 1955; three daughters, Karen Sweet of Florissant, Mo. and V. Chrisdia Sweet and Dr. Stephanie Sweet, both of Memphis, and a son, retired Memphis Police Lt. W. Chester Sweet, (Laritha) of Cordova.
N. J. Ford and Sons Funeral home has charge of arrangements.