Community Relations Expert for Adventists Dies: W. Augustus Cheatham
From ANN, Jan/ 1, 2015: A government official in the administration of United States President Jimmy Carter and long-time vice president for Loma Linda University, W. Augustus Cheatham, known to friends as “Gus,” died recently after an eight-year battle with brain cancer. He was 72.
His brother, Pastor Charles L. Cheatham, retired president of the Adventist denomination’s Allegheny East Conference, announced his passing. “Memorial services will be planned and announced,” Cheatham said in a brief e-mail to friends. “Keep us in your prayers.”
Cheatham was a social worker by profession. He graduated from Washington Adventist University in 1965 and went on to earn a master’s degree in social work at Howard University in Washington D.C. He coordinated community services for the public schools in Prince George’s County, Maryland, from 1970 before entering 16 years of government service, including appointments as deputy assistant secretary in the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW) and deputy director of its Office for Civil Rights, a position for which he was recommended by HEW cabinet member Joseph Califano and approved by President Jimmy Carter.
“Having the oath of office administered by associate Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall was one of Mr. Cheatham’s most memorable experiences,” Loma Linda University said in a July 2007 statement. The university honored him at the time with its Distinguished University Service Award.
When he left government service in 1982, Cheatham became principal Pine Forge Academy, an Adventist high school in Pennsylvania, for three years. During that time, enrollment increased 170 percent, from 110 to 285 students; a new campus church was constructed; and funds were raised for a new gymnasium. In 1985 he was hired as vice president for communication and marketing at LLU where he served until his retirement.
“Though his illness slowed him down, we kept up our friendship, shared meals whenever we could, and had many opportunities to talk politics: national and church,” said Ray Tetz, a longtime friend and president of Mind Over Media, a strategic communications company in Silver Spring, Maryland.
“He cared deeply about what is happening in our nation and always wanted to know the latest in church politics as well,” Tetz said in a tribute on his Facebook page. “The last time I saw him earlier in the fall, his capacity for speech was nearly gone, but he still wanted to talk, and he was still filled with grace and gratitude.”
Cheatham “held many prestigious positions and has a long list of accomplishments and awards. Today we honor the husband, father, brother, uncle, cousin, friend, leader and man of God, ‘Gus,’ as he was affectionately called by all who knew and loved him,” said Sonya Sampson, president of the National Pine Forge Academy Alumni Association.