William Rumsey Obituary, Death Cause – William H. Rumsey Sr., 78, passed away on November 9 at Holy Cross Hospital. He was an educator in the state of Washington for more than 40 years and served as head of the District of Columbia Recreation Department from 1976 until 1983. He also suffered from Parkinson’s disease and pneumonia.
In 1939, Dr. Rumsey began his professional life working as a recreation assistant at the old Dunbar High School pool, where he was responsible for the upkeep of the showers. In the 1960s, he was a prominent educator who led a night-school credential program for students who had dropped out of high school. He also served as the principal of McKinley Technical High School and as the main education consultant to the mayor of the city at the time, Walter E. Washington, before joining the Recreation Department in 1974 as the deputy director.
In his capacity as director, he oversaw the organization of the city’s first marathon in 1981. According to his son, William H. Rumsey Jr., who is the chief of staff to D.C. Council Chairman Linda W. Cropp (D), the initiative died out in the late 1980s but will be resurrected in the spring of next year. Dr. Rumsey also suggested instituting a charge system for the use of leisure facilities, which infuriated a large number of locals as well as certain federal legislators who compared it to a second layer of taxes. In subsequent years, the agency began collecting various fees.
At a time when the city was on the verge of having a deficit of $60 million, he imposed a mayoral mandate to lay off hundreds of employees of the leisure Department, which prompted protests from those employees. He also shuttered numerous leisure facilities in an effort to save expenses. His efforts to reopen the historic black monument known as the Anthony Bowen YMCA, which is located in the Shaw area, are among his most well-known contributions.
Officials from the YMCA said that maintaining Bowen would be prohibitively expensive and that it would violate both safety and fire rules. The decision made by the YMCA was criticized by Dr. Rumsey, who was also the head of the management committee at the Bowen Y. “This closing means that these kids, these short-leggers, and these babies do not have a facility in that area to go to,” he added.