A memorial service for Yazoo native Henry Mitchell Brickell, a noted education researcher and reformer, will be held in Yazoo City next week.
Brickell, only a few days shy of his 93rd birthday, died on Oct. 25, 2019. His memorial service will be held on Nov. 22 at 1 p.m. at the First Presbyterian Church with his burial following in Glenwood Cemetery.
Brickell was born in Yazoo City on Nov. 3, 1926, to Missye King (Gibson) and Carey Manuel Brickell, Sr.; their ancestors reached the South in colonial times, Mississippi in the 1770s, and Yazoo City in the 1830s. He spent his youth in Yazoo City, New Orleans, and Jacksonville, and then left home to earn a B.A. from Ohio State University, an M.A. from the University of Chicago, and a second M.A. and an Ed.D. from Columbia University Teachers College in 1953.
His work is commemorated in a plaque in the Yazoo Memorial Literary Walkway, which is named for his uncle, the editor and critic Henry Herschel Brickell. He is a childhood friend of Samuel B. Olden, playmate and cousin of the late Virginia Brickell, and cousin of Marsha Williams of Yazoo City.
He set an extremely high bar for himself and others and made short work of his first teaching job when, as advisor to the school newspaper, and frustrated by student reporters missing deadlines, he published an issue of the paper with blank spaces featuring bylines such as, “This space was supposed to have been filled by John Smith.”
A few years and a few jobs later, he created a unique system for organizing the policies, regulations, and bylaws of local school systems. This innovation was published as the Davies-Brickell System and is the basis for the policy systems that are used today in most school districts across the country.
After receiving his doctorate, Dr. Brickell was recruited by the public-school system in Manhasset, New York, which was benefitting from post-war growth on the North Shore of Long Island. By 1966 he had risen to become the assistant superintendent of schools. When New York’s Governor Nelson Rockefeller sought improvements in education in the state, Dr. Brickell was appointed by Commissioner James E. Allen to write a seminal study, published by the New York State Education Department in 1961 under the title Organizing New York State for Educational Change. Implemented in succeeding years, it helped to establish New York’s leading place in elementary and secondary education.
As he developed a national reputation, Dr. Brickell was asked by colleges and universities to educate the educators. He taught at Stanford University and New York University and was brought to Indiana University’s flagship campus in Bloomington from 1966 to 1969, where he served as the associate dean of the School of Education. He strongly believed that principals should spend time in classrooms observing teaching practices for, as he said, “supervision is the over-the-shoulder prevention of mistakes.”
Returning in 1969 to Manhasset with his wife and four children, Dr. Brickell established in 1973 his own nonprofit organization, Policy Studies in Education, with offices in New York City. Conducting more than 500 projects in the ensuing 45 years, that nonprofit consultancy worked with hundreds of school districts in most states to improve K-12 education and conducted studies for more than 200 colleges. Dr. Brickell also directed studies for state education departments, state legislatures, foundations, and national professional associations. He wrote numerous books and articles and was a prominent national speaker on topics including educational evaluation and school governance.
Dr. Brickell was named to the panel that chose the original sites for federally funded research and development laboratories and centers. He also served as a long-term advisor to the Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory, the National Center for Research in Vocational Education, Research for Better Schools, and the Council of Educational Development and Research.
A firm yet loving parent, ever in teaching mode and usually traveling, he was willing on weekends to help one of his children review key concepts or edit an essay, but he preferred to enlist all of them in much-needed home maintenance projects such as yard work, repairs, or painting. He will be remembered by his children and grandchildren for coining phrases like, “The moving van is at the door” (used to convey urgency) and, “Things don’t break; people break things” (used to place responsibility).
He is mourned by his wife of 68 years, Mary (Daly) Brickell; his children Mark, Julia, Sally, and Todd Brickell and their spouses; 11 grandchildren with three spouses; four great grandchildren; members of the Brickell, Breazeale, and Marks families who descend from his brothers, Carey and Herschel; descendants of his mother’s second husband, the late Harold D. Miller of Jackson, and many other family members and friends.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the non-profit Yazoo Historical Society or the Manhasset Student Aid Association (co-founded by Mary Brickell), which provides financial assistance to help students achieve the goal of a college education.