OBITUARY

Well-known Miami Beach educator Solomon Lichter dead at 92

 
 
Solomon Lichter, who was a Miami Beach educator for more than three decades, died Sunday. He was 92.
Solomon Lichter, who was a Miami Beach educator for more than three decades, died Sunday. He was 92.
Courtesy of the Lichter Family.

cteproff@MiamiHerald.com

For more than three decades, Solomon Lichter, a teacher turned principal, fought for the rights of children in Miami Beach.

He diversified the staff at Beach High, “before it became popular,” said his son David Lichter

“It didn’t matter what race, sex or sexual orientation,” his son said. “His goal was to have the best staff around.”

Lichter, whose education career began in 1951 in Miami Beach, died Sunday at 92 — only six months after his wife of 67 years died.

Lichter, who was a member at Temple Beth Sholom in Miami Beach for over 60 years, is also credited for starting a feeding program for the homeless with his wife.

“He believed very much in helping people,” said the temple’s Rabbi Gary Glickstein.

Miami Beach City Manager Jimmy Morales, a Beach High grad, agreed, adding: “To him being a principal of the school was being part of the community and he cared about every part of the community. He left his legacy on the school.” The school’s clinic carries his name.

Born May 6, 1921, in Brooklyn, Lichter enlisted in the United States Army Air Corps in 1942. He was a “bookworm,” said his son, and he studied for a test on radio repair, getting him the highest grade. He was then told to teach the class.

He was then transferred to London where his love story began.

Looking for something to do, Lichter went to a USO dance where he spotted Muriel Sircus from across the room. She was a war widow, who had lost her husband when the British tanker he was on sank, David Lichter said.

The pair danced and then dated for three months. Lichter waited as long as he could before going back to the United States, but proposed before he left. When he did, Muriel followed.

They stayed a few months in New York and got married, but Solomon wanted to go back to Miami Beach, where he was training. Like many other GIs, he thought Miami Becah was paradise, even though he said he slept in a tent in Flamingo Park while in training.

He returned to Miami Beach in 1946, he began work on his bachelor’s degree at University of Miami and followed it up with a master’s degree. Former Miami Beach Mayor and Miami-Dade Judge Seymour Gelber said that’s when he met Lichter -- the two would hitchhike to the university.

“He became a beloved figure on Miami Beach,” Gelber said.

Lichter began his teaching career at Nautilus Junior High in 1951. He then went to Ada Merritt Junior High in Miami and Ida M. Fisher Junior High in Miami Beach, where he pioneered the first community school program in Miami Beach. He believed all of a students’ needs should be met in one place.

From 1966 to 1977, Lichter was the principal of Miami Beach High. He led the school through desegregation, always keeping the students’ best interest in mind, his son said.

“It was a really tough time for him,” he said. “There were some rocky moments.”

Rabbi Glickstein said there was “tremendous conflict and a lot of tension,” during that time.

“Many parents saw this as cutting into the high quality of education,” he said. “He had to endure a lot of anger, but he did. He believed very strongly that all children had to have quality education.”

Under his leadership, students who graduated went on to be actors, politicians and successful business moguls.

Among the best-known graduates: Oscar-nominated actors Mickey Rourke and Andy Garcia, Class of 1974; Grammy-award winning songwriter Desmond Child, 1972; screenwriter Mitch Glazer, 1971; sports journalist Roy Firestone, 1971.

The school’s rock ensemble, which recently celebrated 40 years, began under his leadership. The drama department and the debate team were nationally recognized.

Politician Dan Gelber, who graduated from Beach High in 1978, said he remembers Lichter for his unwavering school spirit.

“It was infectious,” Gelber said. “He really tried to make Beach High the place you wanted to be.”

His school spirit, his friends and family said, is what earned him the nickname “Dr. Dynamite.” His catchphrase was “Beach is Dynamite” and “We’re From Beach And We Couldn’t Be Prouder.”

After he left Beach High in 1977, he returned to Nautilus Middle School as principal. He retired in 1982. His son said for the next 25 years, he stayed active with the school system and the temple.

His son said that his mother’s death five months ago took a toll on his father.

“They were married for 67 years,” David Lichter said. “She was the love of his life.”

In addition to his son, Lichter is survived by his daughter Pamela, five grandchildren and three great grandchildren.

Services will be at 12:30 p.m. Monday at Temple Beth Sholom, 4144 Chase Ave., Miami Beach. Internment will follow at Lakeside Memorial Park, 10301 NW 25th St.

Instead of flowers, the family requests donations be made to Temple Beth Sholom or the Miami Beach Senior High School Alumni Association.

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