Richard L. Fairley, 73, a deputy assistant secretary at the Education Department, died July 24 at Anne Arundel Medical Center after a heart attack. He lived in Annapolis. He worked for the federal Education Department almost 30 years. As regional director of its civil rights division, he negotiated the integration of the University of Alabama's football team and helped develop desegregation plans for Mississippi schools and set the timetable for desegregation in 17 Southern states.
For more than a decade, Dr. Fairley directed the Title I program of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the largest compensatory education program in the nation, designed to narrow the performance gap between middle-class and poor students. He started requirements for parental involvement, introduced the concept of performance and accountability standards, and laid the foundation for school-based management, which gives the principal more control of education. He also created and raised money for thousands of homework kits, which were given to poor, urban children who needed encouragement to do their homework.
Dr. Fairley became associate commissioner of education, directing the agency's $3.5 billion effort to aid disadvantaged students, then was appointed deputy assistant secretary of education and director of higher education. In 1990, he was sent, on loan, to the University of the District of Columbia to be its executive vice president after the school's trustees fired the president. He spent his last year before his retirement from the federal government as executive director of the Agency for International Development's University Center, developing relationships between U.S. colleges and those in developing nations. He retired in 1992. He then formed an educational consulting firm, CRF Associates.
Dr. Fairley was a native Washingtonian. He graduated from Dartmouth University in 1955 and taught in the District's public schools for the next two years before attending graduate school at the University of Minnesota. He eventually received a master's degree in education in 1969 from Stanford University and a doctorate in education in 1974 from the University of Massachusetts. In 1961, he was a lecturer at the Defense Department Staff College in Brooklyn, N.Y., and three years later, he joined the Education Department in Washington. He received numerous awards from government, educational and philanthropic institutions, including the Education Department's Outstanding Service Award. He was a member of several boards, including the Maryland Advisory Council for the U.S. Civil Rights Commission.…
Survivors include his wife of 17 years, Charlestine Fairley of Annapolis; two daughters from his first marriage, Ricki Fairley-Brown of Alpharetta, Ga., and Sharon Fairley Rogers of Chicago; three stepchildren, Nina Hickson of Atlanta, Frank Hickson of Lynchburg, Va., and Neal Hickson of Bowie; a brother, Paul Fairley of Washington; and nine grandchildren.