Edit Current Bio
UCB is written collaboratively by you and our community of volunteers. Please edit and add contents by clicking on the add and edit links to the right of the content

James R. Heck III

Born on 5-11-1931. He was born in Lynchburg, Virginia. He was accomplished in the area of Education. He later died on 12-9-2020.
  • Basic Info
  • Attachments
  • Relations
  • Organizations
  • Accomplishments
  • Schools
  • Employers
James R. Heck III

James R. Heck III was born in Lynchburg, Virginia, the youngest of four children of a Baptist minister and an elementary school teacher. His parents, Rev. Rhomie L. Heck, Sr. and Nellie Shelton Heck were graduates of Virginia Theological College & Seminary in Lynchburg, Virginia, a major accomplishment as Heck, Sr. was born in 1889 and Mrs. Heck was born in 1898. James Heck notes that not many African Americans born in that era even finished grade school or high school.

Heck spent the first eleven years of his life in Suffolk, Virginia where he attended elementary school until the family moved to Carlisle, Pennsylvania. He was one of a few African American students who attended and graduated from Carlisle High School. He entered West Virginia State University in 1951 and graduated in 1955 with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration. Shortly after graduation Heck was commissioned second lieutenant in the United States Army. He served two years on active duty at Fort Benning, Georgia with the 39th Field Artillery Battalion. He earned his Master's of Science degree in education from Buffalo State College in 1963. He also did post graduate study at Buffalo State College and the University at Buffalo.

In 1956 James married Shirley Johnson and that union produced one child, James R. Heck, IV, who is an architect with the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Upon arriving in Buffalo, New York in November 1957, Heck and his wife Shirley opened a Superette on East Delavan Avenue. He also sold real estate and became the office manager for the Wilson Real Estate Company located on East Ferry Street in Buffalo.

Heck started his teaching career in 1959 at School #8. He took a leave of absence from the public school system in 1966 to accept the position of Director of Education for project JET (Jobs, Education and Training), a federal program designed to provide jobs, training and education for local citizens who were unemployed and reading below the fifth grade level.

Upon his return to the school system in 1968, he was promoted to Supervisor of School Community Relations. As Supervisor, he worked the media, the community and the school staff. He quickly became known in the school system as the person most capable of resolving conflicts between students of different racial and ethnic backgrounds. He successfully led such campaigns at Grover Cleveland, Bennett and Riverside High Schools.

In 1972, Heck was promoted again to the position of Director of School Integration reporting directly to the Superintendent of Schools. This department was created as a result of an order from the New York State Commissioner of Education to desegregate the Buffalo Public Schools. This program began in 1967 with the transfer of 825 minority students from inner city schools to public schools in other parts of the city. The program grew to 3,700 minority students attending some 38 receiving schools in 1972.
In 1982 this department was expanded to include Minority Business Utilization (MBU) and additional staff members were hired. The responsibility of this branch of the department was to ensure that 20% of each contract let by the Buffalo Board of Education, in excess of $10,000.00, be awarded to a minority business.

On February 25, 1971 the Board of Education directed the Superintendent of Schools to have the staff prepare a study of some of the implications of problems and possibilities of a cross-bussing program in Buffalo, New York. A study was conducted by the Director of School Integration, Donald Lang and staff, but no action was taken by the Superintendent of School, Dr. Joseph Manch, who stated publicly that he never received that report from the director. This claim was made by Superintendent Manch on local television despite the fact that certain agencies and local television stations did receive the Lang Study.
In January 24, 1972, New York State Commissioner of Education, Ewuald B. Nyquist's recent order was made public. In a letter to the Buffalo Board of Education president, Arnold B. Gardner, the commissioner asked: that the Buffalo Board of Education submit a desegregation plan for the schools in the Buffalo system under which every school would substantially reflect the racial composition of the entire district.

A committee, chaired by Heck, was organized which consisted of school staff, community representatives, SUNY law professors, the Great City School Research Council, the Urban League and the city's Human Relations Commissioner. The Study of Desegregation was completed and presented to the Buffalo Board of Education and the State Commissioner of Education, Euald B. Nyquist, on February 21, 1972, just six months after Heck was promoted to Director of Integration.

On August 26, 1986, after ten years of court ordered desegregation, Superintendent Eugene T. Reville became concerned about the disproportionate number of African American males who were formally suspended from Buffalo Public Schools. While African American students made up only 49% of the total school populations, 75% of the formal suspensions came from this group. Mr. Reville appointed a task force composed of parents, staff and members of the community to investigate the problem and suggest improvements. James R. Heck, III was appointed by the superintendent to be his liaison to the Task Force.


One of the outcomes of the Task Force on Suspensions was the need for African and African American History to be an integral part of the curriculum. Dr. Asa G. Hilliard of Georgia State University was recommended by Heck to the Superintendent and the Board of Education as chief consultant for the infusion of African and African American History in the curriculum of the Buffalo Public Schools.
- Named 1975 Educator of the Year " School Integration Advisory Committee
- President's Award for Excellence in Education 1985-1986 by the Black Educator's Association of Western New York
- Education Award 2004 " SCLC, Erie County Chapter
- Life member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity
- Silver Life Member of the NAACP
- First elected President of the Young Men's Democratic Club of Masten and Ellicott District 1960
- Co-founder and President of the Civic Betterment League of Buffalo 1962
- Founder and president of the Landon-Humboldt Block Club
- Treasurer of the Buffalo Negro Scholarship Foundation 1960-1990
- President: Rho Lambda Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity
- Buffalo Teachers Federation Representative School #8
- Co-chair African American Study Committee Lincoln Memorial Methodist Church
- School Patrol Chair School #8
- Member Amherst Diversity Coalition
- Black History Resource Person for Buffalo Public Schools 1968-1974

- First Lieutenant United States Army
- Real Estate Sales Manager, Wilson Real Estate company
- Teacher Buffalo Public Schools
- Director of Education " Project Jobs, Educational and Training (JET) Federal Program 1965-1968
- Director of School Community Relations Buffalo Public Schools 1968-1972
- Director of School Integration and Minority Business Utilization 1968-1991
- Technical Assistant University of Buffalo Special Project