Wednesday, January 30, 2013
OF ATLANTA MOURNS THE LOSS OF John Oscar Boone, Sr., nATIVE ATLANTAN AND state
of Massachusetts’ first Black Commissioner of CorrectionS
ATLANTA – He was the first African American appointed to head a major state prison system in the United States.
He was credited for transforming the Massachusetts Prison System by pushing feverishly to ensure humane conditions for inmates and the availability of rehabilitation programs to keep the incarcerated of all races out of the system once they were released back into society.
John Oscar Boone, Sr., a pioneer in the American Correctional System and the brother of the late civil rights pioneer Joseph E. Boone, died late Friday in Atlanta surrounded by family and friends. He was 93.
Funeral services are scheduled for Saturday, December 8 at noon at Friendship Baptist Church, located at 437 Mitchell Street, S.W. in Atlanta.
After graduating from Booker T. Washington High School in Atlanta, Mr. Boone joined the United States Army Air Force during World War II. After the war, he returned to Atlanta and earned his bachelor’s degree from Atlanta’s Morehouse College in 1951 and later earned a master's degree in social work from Atlanta University.
During his early career he served as Superintendent for the Lorton Federal Corrections Complex, Community Relations Officer of Corrections for Massachusetts, and Chief of the Classification and Parole Division for the U.S. Federal Penitentiary in Terre Haute, Indiana. Mr. Boone was instrumental in the implementation of the Federal Rehabilitation Act of 1965 and represented the United States in Vietnam as a member of the International Prison Evaluation Team.
In the 1970s he was appointed the state of Massachusetts’ commissioner of corrections, during which time he helped craft national legislation aimed at providing resources for reform (LEAA) and implemented a number of successful reforms, including work release programs for inmates. His leadership and guidance brought forth many innovative and progressive programs that are still in use today.
Devoted to educating others about the prison systems of this nation, Mr. Boone also served as Director for Crime and Corrections Research at the Southern Regional Council and served on the faculties of Atlanta University, Boston University, Clark University, and Northeastern University.
“I was deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Mr. Boone. He had a lifetime of dedicated service to the American correctional system and his impact will be forever felt,” said Council President Ceasar Mitchell. “My thoughts and prayers go out to his family during this difficult time.”
Atlanta City Councilman C.T. Martin remembers Boone as a guiding force in his life and in the lives of others.
“After God, my father, and my grandfather, John was one of the most important people in my life,” Martin said. “He was responsible for 80 percent of my achievements in activism. He was an inspiration and a mentor. He demanded that I become a certified social worker. He demanded that I become an activist in the community.”
“He was my counselor and whenever I needed courage, I sought him out. The people of Atlanta never knew all of the great contributions that John O. Boone made to our nation and to the world.”
“In all of his endeavors he set the highest standard possible. He strove to be creative and efficient in carrying out logistical operations for community-based activities. He was an unsung hero who will be truly missed,” Martin said.
Councilman Michael Julian Bond, Chair of the Committee on Public Safety and Legal Administration reflected on Boone’s life saying, “John Boone was a monumental man who stood out in each endeavor that he pursued. He possessed high morals, solid values, and strong character. A dedicated public servant in the truest sense of the word, his concern was always for his fellow man and the least of these. He lived every day of his life perfecting his service to others.”
Mr. Boone's commitment and dedication have been recognized
with over 200 awards and citations, including Man of the Year and Newsmaker of
the Year by the Boston Globe.
John O. Boone, Sr. is survived by his devoted wife Alvia Alexander Boone, five children, sixteen grandchildren; his sister Lois Montgomery (Otis); sister-in-law Alethea W. Boone; and brother-in-law Cowan Brooks.