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Noted Compton educator Lawrence Freeman dead at 92

Funeral services for noted educator Lawrence C. Freeman were held Thursday morning at Holman United Methodist Church, where Compton residents gathered to celebrate the life of the city’s second icon to die within three weeks.

Freeman, whom everyone called “Doc,” died June 23 at age 92.

Stunned upon learning of Freeman’s death, Jonathan Taylor, community activist and a Compton teacher himself, called Freeman “the classic educator,” and added: “He was the reason our community respected teachers. He embodied that, for he realized that parents were the assets to students’ success. He set the standards for teachers and I am honored to trail behind him. He’ll be a model after whom new teachers can pattern themselves for decades to come.”

Freeman was born May 11,1922 in Memphis, Tenn., grew up in Sioux City, Iowa, and migrated to California with his wife and three daughters in 1960, whereupon the couple began their careers with the Compton Unified School District. Freeman was a teacher at Centennial High School from 1960 to 1972, then became principal at Ralph Bunche Junior High School, where he curtailed the school’s plunging attendance rate. He subsequently became principal of Willowbrook Junior High School, where he again faced the problem of a declining student attendance rate. He solved that problem, too.

“He was all about literacy and school and personal pride,” said former Compton Mayor Omar Bradley. “He started out teaching black soldiers how to read during World War II.

“And after the wars [he served in both World War II and the Korean War], Doc virtually molded kids with his own hands at Centennial High, where — after five days of teaching kids in school — he held Saturday reading classes for them in his home,” Bradley said. “Dr. Freeman organized the Arrows Club in which he prepared college-bound students to pass the college entrance exams, and he supervised all the school’s sporting events.

“From the bad boys to the nerds — everybody loved Dr. Freeman,” the former mayor added.

Freeman was the principal of Inglewood High School from1984 to 1989, where he continued his personal, hands-on mentoring ways and waging his war against illiteracy and complacency and stressing the basic fundamentals of a good education that students, parents and his colleagues came to appreciate. He spent his later years in association with the Green Dot public charter schools.

Freeman came by his “Doc” honorific due to his own personal pursuit of excellence. He earned a Ph.D. in psychology in 1978, after obtaining his masters degree in education at the State University of South Dakota and his bachelor of science degree at Morningside College in Sioux City. After that, he launched and managed a campaign to have his wife, Evelyn Walker Freeman, become the first black woman to teach in Sioux City.

In addition to his wife, Freeman is survived by his daughters, Rochelle, Vikki and Cheryl; four grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

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