A former Akron dentist who also became known as a political activist, staunch civil-rights leader and chairman of the Akron NAACP’s civil-rights committee died Tuesday in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.
Dr. Eldridge T. Sharpp Jr. also was a business leader and chairman of Akron’s Model Cities Neighborhood Commission. He was 93.
Edwin L. Parms, recently retired Akron attorney and a former president of the Akron chapter of the NAACP, recalled with clarity riding the bus with Dr. Sharpp and others from Akron to the historic March on Washington, where they heard the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. deliver his I Have a Dream speech in 1963.
“He and I worked together closely in the Akron NAACP,” Parms said. “It was decided I would concentrate on the legal area and he on the civil-rights area. ... He was forthright in terms of everything he did. He didn’t back down on any position he felt he was right on, but he was not a hard head.
“He had the ability to see the best step to take. And as busy as he was, Dr. Sharpp was always available when he was needed. At the same time, he had family that he never overlooked,” Parms said.
A native of Cleveland who lived for a time in Chicago, Dr. Sharpp graduated from the historically black Fisk University and its associated Meharry Medical College in Nashville. Tenn. He practiced in Lima for two years before moving to Akron and setting up a dental practice in 1948.
Dr. Sharpp retired in 1989, when he and his wife, Laurita Collie Sharpp, moved to West Palm Beach.
“His dentistry was admired by patients as well as others in the practice of dentistry who didn’t even know him,” recalled his daughter Karen Sharpp Kaigler, who lives in Boston. “When I went away to school and had to have some dental work done, I would get inquiries about who did the work and how excellent it was.”
Not one to be satisfied with the status quo, Dr. Sharpp and two of his college classmates — Drs. Wilfred and Eleanor Bozeman — built their own medical-dental center: the Wooster-Mallison Medical Center, in 1963 at 762 Mallison Ave., just off Wooster Avenue.
Wilfred Bozeman was an obstetrician/gynecologist; his wife specialized in internal medicine.
Dr. Sharpp was active and effective in a number of arenas, including fair housing and the desegregation of Akron schools, according to Beacon Journal archives. He also was a leader in the YMCA and the Frontiers Club.
Of all the hats Dr. Sharpp wore in the Akron community, including that of grand polemarch of the graduate chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity, he was most fond of his role as family man.
“He loved his four children and always focused on our well-being,” said Sharpp Kaigler, a neighborhood business manager of a program with the city of Boston. “He always wanted the best for us, and he paid for our college educations with cash. We never had to take out any type of student loan.”
Sharpp Kaigler said exercise always played a key role in her father’s life.
“He swam at the local Y on his lunch hours,” she said. “When my brothers took martial arts, he took it with them. He golfed regularly until he developed back problems. And he biked at a minimum of 10 miles daily until his late 80s.
“We have pictures of him on his bike with his helmet on.”
A son, Kurt Sharpp, chief inspector of the public transportation system in Boston and a professional photographer, said his father was an extremely intelligent person and always a staunch defender of civil rights.
A second son, Warren Sharpp, is a certified public accountant in Miami. A third son, Eldridge Theodore “Pug” Sharpp III, died tragically when he was hit by a car in 1969.
In addition to his three children and wife, Dr. Sharpp is survived by six grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
Funeral arrangements are pending at Akron’s Stewart & Calhoun Funeral Home.