Raft Hollingsworth Helped Change Face Of City's Schools

Raft Hollingsworth had a great curiosity backed up with intellect.

He utilized his gifts by teaching high-school math more than 20 years and by inventing things, such as a mirrored golf-putter.

He never got a patent on his inventions, although he "spent enough on (patent) attorneys," says his wife of 50 years, Dorothy Hollingsworth, former Seattle School Board member.

But Mr. Hollingsworth made his mark as one of Seattle Public Schools' early African-American teachers. From the mid-1950s to 1974, when he retired, he taught at Queen Anne and Garfield high schools and Boren Middle School. He also coached the Queen Anne High chess and golf teams.

He invented math and language games to make learning fun, and wore his authority with grace, says a former pupil.

"He was one of those really kind gentlemen, and got me through geometry when I had to repeat it," said Pam Lucarelli of Queen Anne's class of 1961. "He was very soft-spoken and kind to me, very Southern in manner and speech.

"There are some teachers who are glamorous. But others you remember for some special kindness. He was that kind of teacher."

Mr. Hollingsworth died Wednesday (Aug. 19) of Alzheimer's disease. He was 90.

Born to store owners in Drumright, Okla., he finished high school in Kansas City, Kan. He earned a bachelor's degree in mathematics in 1933 at Langston University, where he also played football and basketball.

He taught in Oklahoma and Arizona, then served in the Army and taught in Coos Bay, Ore., before landing a job as a substitute teacher at Queen Anne High. He also served as recreation director on playgrounds at Garfield High School and what is now Meany Middle School.

He became a full-time teacher at Queen Anne in 1957, worked at Boren Middle School from 1968 to 1971, then taught math and industrial arts at Garfield.

"During the `hot' 1960s when they were trying to get African-American teachers into classrooms in the Central Area, it was pretty rough for him," said his daughter, Jacqueline Roberts of Mercer Island. "He had worked mainly in an all-white environment at Queen Anne."

Mr. Hollingsworth traveled, helped at his church and at Central Area Senior Center, and played a little tennis. Then there were his inventions.

"But about the funniest thing he ever came up with," said his daughter, "was resoling our shoes with cork linoleum when we were kids. We slipped and slid all over the place. He also put it on our mother's good snakeskin shoes. There was quite a conversation about that, into the night. He took it off."

Other survivors include his son, Raft Hollingsworth Jr. of Seattle, and four grandchildren.

Services are at 11 a.m. tomorrow at First African Methodist Episcopal Church, 1522 14th Ave., Seattle. Remembrances may go to the scholarship fund at First A.M.E. Church. (The ZIP code is 98122.)

Carole Beers' phone message number is 206-464-2391. Her e-mail address is: cbeers@seattletimes.com