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Weldon Jonathon Irvine Jr. (posthumously)


Weldon was born in Hampton, Virginia, on October 27, 1943 to Weldon Irvine Sr. and Virginia Brown Irvine. Raised by his grandparents Major and Mrs. Walter R. Brown on the campus of Hampton Institute in the house known as "The Lodge". While his grandmother played standup bass in a series of regional classical ensembles, her husband served as dean of the men's college at Hampton Institute. While attending Phenix High School, young Weldon developed a penchant for writing. He graduated from George P. Phenix High School in 1961. Irvine began playing piano as a teen, and while he later majored in literature at Hampton, music remained his first love, especially after discovering jazz. Keyboardist Weldon Irvine looms large in the pantheon of jazz-funk, profoundly influencing the subsequent generations of hip-hop artists for whom he served as collaborator and mentor. Upon settling in New York City in 1965, he signed on with Nina Simone as the legendary singer's organist, bandleader, arranger, and road manager. After seeing a performance of playwright Lorraine Hansberry's To Be Young, Gifted and Black, Simone instructed Irvine to compose lyrics for a song of the same title. The finished song would later merit cover versions by performers including Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, and Donny Hathaway on its way to becoming the best known of his approximately 500 published compositions. "To Be Young, Gifted, and Black", performed live for the first time by Simone on the album Black Gold (1970). It has been dubbed the "official" Civil Rights anthem.

After splitting from Simone, Irvine formed his own 17-piece group that at different times included the likes of Billy Cobham, Randy Brecker, Bennie Maupin, and Don Blackman.

April 9, 2002 Weldon Irvine, Jr. said farewell to the world, leaving behind a son Weldon Irvine III.

Quentin J. Smith, Jr.


A native of Newport News, Va., Quentin graduated from Phenix High School in 1963. Smith was awarded a B.S. degree in Mechanical Engineering from North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University, Greensboro, N.C. in 1968.  He spent the next four years with the U.S. Navy Department as a Mechanical Engineer and on active duty with the Air Force. After completing his active military duty, Smith worked from 1972 to 1980 in a variety of engineering positions with U.S. Navy Department.  Leaving the Navy Department in the summer of 1980, Smith began his career with the Federal Aviation Administration as an Aviation Safety Inspector, Washington Flight Standards District Office, Washington, D. C. In February 1988, he was named Manager of the Washington Flight Standards District Office.  While at the FAA, Smith served in a variety of aviation safety inspector roles, including Assistant Division Manager and Division Manager.  Smith retired from the FAA in June 2004 as a Senior Executive. Smith is former Air Force Command Pilot with more than 8000 hours in C-47, C-141 and C-5 aircraft.  Duty assignments included Aircraft Commander for Air Mobility Command global airlift missions;  Commander, C-5 Squadron, Dover AFB, DE; Operations Directorate (J-3), Joint Operations Center Senior Battle Staff Officer, United States Atlantic Command, Norfolk, VA and Senior Air Force Liaison Officer for the Partnership for Peace Initiative, Dept of the Air Force, the Pentagon, Washington, DC. Smith retired from the Air Force Reserves in June 1998 at the rank of Colonel.

Smith currently serves as an Executive Consultant for Science Applications International Corporation where he is an expert in the areas of Federal Aviation Administration regulatory issues concerning air carrier in-flight operations and maintenance programs.  Identifies potential conflicts and problems and formulates plans to implement solutions.  Provides recommendations to resolve issues and expedite coordination and implementation of the most promising solutions.  Advises on the effectiveness of programs based on sufficiency of data, acceptability, and impact upon current and proposed operations.  

John W. Downing, Jr., M.D., FAAP, FACC

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Dr. John W. Downing, Jr., Phenix Class of 1953 was the recipient of a four-year Ford Foundation College Scholarship, is a 1957 honors graduate of Morehouse College with a B.S. degree in Chemistry. He earned his Doctor of Medicine degree from Meharry Medical College in 1981, finishing in the top third of his class.  Following a medical internship at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Washington, D.C., he completed his pediatric residency at Freedmen’s Hospital (Howard University). After serving as a pediatrician at the U.S. Army Hospital, Frankfurt, Germany from 1964-67, he completed a three-year fellowship in Pediatric Cardiology at the Children’s Hospital Medical Center of the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine. In 1970, he was recruited to the faculty at Howard University College of Medicine as an Assistant Professor. By 1980, he had achieved the rank of tenured Full Professor. During his time there, he served as Director of Pediatric Clerkship, Director of Pediatric Residency Program and from 1986-1994, he was Professor & Chairman of the Department of Pediatrics and Child Health and Chairman of the Department of Pediatric at Howard University Hospital.. He retired in 2001.

Dr. Downing is board certified by the American Board of Pediatrics and is a fellow of the American College of Cardiology. He is a member of the of the American Academy of Pediatrics and was elected to Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society, Sigma Xi Research. He was the lead author on the book “Pediatric Cardiology Case Studies” that was used by several pediatric training programs. In the community, Dr. Downing has served as chair of the High School Heart Research Committee and the Professional Education Committee of the American Heart Association/Nations Capital Affiliate. He is an active member of the Gideons International, having served as president of the Washington, D.C. Camp. Married to Bessie M. Downing, FBA, MARS, they are the parents of two grown children.     

Copyright 2016, George P. Phenix High School.