Dr. Melvin R. Todd

Retired Vice Chancellor of State Regents Dead After Battling Covid-19

Dr. Melvin R. Todd, the retired vice chancellor of the Oklahoma Board of Regents of Higher Education, who used that position to foster racial desegregation, died on Dec. 2 after battling the coronavirus.

He was 87.

Memorial services were held by the local chapter of the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity on Dec. 10 at Temple & Sons Funeral Directors.

Funeral services were held on Dec. 11 at the Fairview Baptist Church.

Interment was held at Trice Hill Cemetery.

He was born on April 24, 1933, in Oklahoma City to Melvin C. and Elmyra Todd.

Dr. Todd’s education career included a stint as principal of Northeast High School, among other major high-points.

His career spanned more than four decades, and, with his being named vice chancellor of the state’s higher education regents, saw him rise to the highest education level to be achieved by any Black at the time.

As principal of Northeast High, he led that school through much of the desegregation era.

He was principal of Northeast from 1969 through 1971.

It was said that he set an example for integration work, later teaching courses on the subject at the University of Oklahoma to future teachers.

Dr. Todd’s former student Jo McDermott graduated from Northeast in 1970. 

Through her research to write a book about Dr. Todd’s life, she found a common thread among his students and peers.

“They felt like he saw them in ways that they didn’t even see themselves and he facilitated them becoming who they were,” she said. 

“I know that he did that for me.”

Todd became a top administrator for the Oklahoma City Public School District before moving on in 1975 to the Oklahoma Regents of Higher Education. 

By 1980, Dr. Todd rose to vice chancellor of academic affairs, then the highest-ranking educational office held by a Black Oklahoman.

He served as a trustee of the American College Testing Program and became vice chairman of the program’s national board of directors.

Dr. Todd started his teaching career in 1957 at Douglass High School in Lawton after serving in the U.S. Army during the Korean Conflict. 

The Oklahoma City school district later hired him as a school administrator and counselor.

He was chosen to help lead Northeast through a period of integration. 

The high school was the center of the U.S. Supreme Court case Dowell vs. Oklahoma City, which forced the district to desegregate.

Bruce Fisher was among the first Black students to integrate at Northeast, a school almost exclusively white in the 1960’s. Mr. Fisher’s mother, Ada Lois Sipuel Fisher, was the first Black to attend the law school at the University of Oklahoma after a Supreme Court case confirmed her right to enroll.

Dr. Todd was an “absolute giant” in education, said Mr. Fisher, a retired curator of the Oklahoma Historical Society.  His arrival in 1967 marked the first time, he said, he was ever treated fairly as a Black student at Northeast.

Menzola Todd, Dr. Todd’s wife, died some time ago.

He is survived by two daughters:  Sharon L. Todd and Myra Todd Hill.

In addition, he is survived by a son, David R. Todd.

Four grandchildren are survivors, too.

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