Wayne Elliott Whigham, 63, a Montgomery County high school principal and school administrator, died March 14 at Holy Cross Hospital in Silver Spring. The cause was an embolism and complications following surgery to remove a colon polyp, said his wife, Mary Beth Waits. At his death, Mr. Whigham was director of the office of appeals and transfers for the Montgomery County Public Schools. He handled such matters as student expulsions and transfers and appeals of administrative decisions affecting students.
Before joining that office in 2003, Wayne was principal of Seneca Valley High School in Germantown, Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School in Bethesda and Martin Luther King Middle School in Germantown. A native Washingtonian, he was a 1968 graduate of Anacostia High School and a 1972 graduate of the University of Tennessee. In 1975, he received a master’s degree in special education from George Washington University.
Wayne Whigham was a sprinter on Tennessee track teams from 1969-72 and one of the first black athletes recruited at the University of Tennessee. He ran under coaches Chuck Rohe and Stan Huntsman during a time when the Vols won SEC titles in seven of eight years in indoor and outdoor track.
In 1975, he joined the Montgomery County Public Schools system at Ridgeview Middle School in Gaithersburg, where his work included crisis intervention and service as dean of students. He later was assistant principal at Magruder and then Quince Orchard high schools in Rockville and Gaithersburg, respectively.
He was a past president of the Montgomery County Association of Administrative and Supervisory Personnel and a member of Mount Calvary Baptist Church in Rockville. He was a Silver Spring resident.
Survivors include his wife, whom he married in 1980, Mary Beth Waits, and their son, Christopher J. Whigham, both of Silver Spring; his mother, Elaine Artis of Washington; and a grandson.
“He was charismatic, with a street-smart way about him,” teammate Audry Hardy (1969-71) said. “He could light up a room.”
“There was a time, maybe in his sophomore season, that he was injured and had a great deal of spare time on his hands and wasn’t working hard. His mother came to see him and said he’d better not come home. It was a private conversation, but she may have used some words we can’t repeat. Wayne got the idea he had to be serious.”
Mr. Whigham was on the 800-meter relay team (running third with Rick Bowers, Abe Henderson, and Darwin Bond) that set a varsity indoor record with a time of 1 minute, 30.1 seconds, according to Tennessee record books. His best marks were 9.5 seconds in the 100 and 21.5 in the 220.
He won the Will Pritchett Award in 1972 as the “Most Dedicated Senior.”
“He locked me in the bathroom of a Greyhound bus for about 30 minutes as our track team headed over the mountains for an indoor meet with Duke and North Carolina,” said teammate Denis Flood (1971). “I had to run against two great runners (Olympian Bob Wheeler and Tony Waldrup). He told me I wasn’t going to beat them anyway. So it really didn’t matter. And he was right.”
A native of Washington, D.C., Mr. Whigham served as director of the Appeals/Transfer team for the Montgomery County School System in Rockville, Md., working his way up the system ladder, starting as a teacher.
“He knew that getting a scholarship and being on the track team gave him an opportunity he might not otherwise have had,” said teammate Jeff Gabel (1966-70), an All-American triple jumper and Mr. Whigham’s first roommate at Tennessee. “He worked with troubled kids, keeping them on the straight and narrow.
“His wife, Mary Beth, was the ‘apple of his life.’ His son, Chris, was very important to him, too.”
He is survived by his wife, Mary Beth Waits, a son, Christopher Whigham, and was the adoptive father of Christian Childs and Jamison Macauley.