Jeff Mullin / columnist

It was the longest funeral I have ever attended, but it was over before you knew it.

At just five minutes short of two hours, Friday's services for Dorice Allen could have lasted twice as long and still not contained all the accolades those who packed the sanctuary at First Missionary Baptist Church wanted to heap upon her.

I couldn't help but think all the fuss would have made Dorice rather uncomfortable.

She never sought the limelight, after all, preferring to deflect attention to others.

For Dorice Allen, all the work she did in the Enid community and its school system for so many years, was never about her.

It was about those students she mentored during her years as a teacher and librarian, and all those teachers and administrators with whom she worked.

In 1978, Dorice Allen was named Enid's Teacher of the Year. In recognition of the honor, Dorice received a pin.

"I wore the pin," she said then, "but as I looked around at the many other teachers who have been teaching longer than I, and who have so many more awards and are so good, I just had to take it off."

That was Dorice Allen.

She would have been thrilled to see the pews filled with her family and friends, she would have reveled in the preaching and the soul-stirring music, but she would have squirmed a bit in her seat to hear all the praise heaped upon her.

Not that she didn't deserve it, mind you.

Former Enid Mayor Doug Frantz said he hopes his life is never measured against that of Dorice Allen, lest he be found wanting.

Longtime friend Bettye Wedgeworth reminisced about her college days with Dorice at Langston University. The older Dorice attempted to keep the younger Bettye in line when Bettye tried to make wine in her dorm room from grapes she had brought from home.

Wedgeworth also reminded us all of the stain of racism. At an Oklahoma Education Association convention in Oklahoma City a number of years ago, Wedgeworth made reservations to take her friend Dorice to a fancy restaurant for lunch, along with some of her colleagues from Enid. The restaurant refused to serve any but the white teachers. All, of course, left.

Dorice Allen didn't see color. She saw people. She was acutely aware of her race, but her giving heart transcended color, age or gender.

Vicki Baldwin, who taught at Emerson Junior High with Dorice for many years before retiring last spring, said Dorice helped her grow up.

"I thought I was grown up," Baldwin said, "but she showed me what grown up was."

Dorice would have been proudest of the young people who have grown up under her tutelage and become successful adults.

Clifford Porter, director of the Booker T. Washington Center Dorice helped found, is one of those young people. Before Dorice would let him speak in public, he said, she made him reign in his temper, which got him in hot water more than once during his basketball career, and to dress properly.

He credits Dorice Allen with making him the man he is today.

Enid school Superintendent Kem Keithly spoke of "the look," that all teachers use to try and control unruly students. He said he saw her use that look in board meetings at the BTW center when she had a point to make.

"I don't take any sass," she was quoted as saying in a 1991 Enid News -- Eagle story about the BTW summer program. She was talking about children, but she didn't take any guff off adults, either.

Leona Mitchell, who has gone on to become an international opera star, said Dorice had a firm hand in her early development.

"She would say, "Leona, we're not going to act that way,'" said Mitchell.

Mitchell then thrilled the congregation with a song, the title of which seems to sum up the life of Dorice Allen, "If I can help somebody."

The newspaper's file on Dorice Allen contains a number of photos, but few of her. Most of the photos are of children -- smiling, eating, playing, swimming, working and mugging for the photographer.

For Dorice Allen it was never about her, it was always about the children.

If you knew her, you were lucky. If you didn't, you'll never know what you missed.

Mullin is senior writer of the News -- Eagle.

React to this story:


Trending Video

Recommended for you