Saturday, October 4, 1997 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Warren Littlejohn, 80, Teacher Who Instilled Love Of Language

Seattle Times Staff Reporter

Warren Littlejohn made a splash in 1953 when he became the first African-American high-school teacher in Seattle School District, guiding students through the intricacies of language arts at Lincoln High School.

Among his thousands of students was David Stern, who went into advertising and is credited with creating the "happy face" icon.

Another student was Seattle Times columnist Erik Lacitis.

"He was a teacher for whom you always had the highest respect," said Lacitis, a student of Mr. Littlejohn in 1965. "He was very mild-mannered when he came into class. He wore bow ties a lot. Lincoln High School was lower- and lower-middle-class students, and he would get this assortment of - well, we were punks. He would get us interested in English and literature by treating us respectfully."

Even after he retired in 1976, the erudite Mr. Littlejohn continued making positive ripples, playing bridge, helping retired people do taxes and teaching elders to line-dance at the Central Area Senior Center.

Mr. Littlejohn died of cancer Sunday (Sept. 28) at his Seattle home. He was 80.

Central Area Senior Center director Carol Allen recalled that Mr. Littlejohn had a saying "that is probably the biggest lesson I learned in my life: `Poor planning on your part does not create an emergency for me.' "

Born in Weleetka, Okla., Mr. Littlejohn grew up in Kansas City, Kan., and attended the University of Kansas, where he earned a

bachelor's degree in English in 1939 and a master's in journalism in 1942.

He served in the Army, then worked for newspapers in Guam, Kansas City and St. Louis before switching to teaching. He moved to Seattle in 1950.

While earning his teaching certificate at the University of Washington, he met Lincoln's principal, who was so impressed that he invited Mr. Littlejohn to teach at Lincoln when he finished at the UW.

Mr. Littlejohn joined Lincoln's faculty and came to head the school's language-arts department.

"He was a gentle person and very much a humanitarian," said his longtime friend Aubrey Brown. "After he retired he was in a tutoring program at a church . . . worked at Seattle Central Community College and also helped at Garfield Community Center.

"He was a very intelligent man, well-traveled, well-educated, and he knew young people are our future."

Mr. Littlejohn's survivors include his brother, Wadle Littlejohn of Oakland; his sister, Charlotte Bailey of Topeka, Kan.; and a niece, a cousin and nephews.

A life celebration has been held. Memorial donations may go to the Central Area Senior Center, 500 30th Ave. S., Seattle, WA 98144.

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

Copyright (c) 1997 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.


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