In today’s article, we catch up with former Tompkins High School basketball player Marion Devoe.
Devoe grew up in west Savannah on Millikan Street off of Louisville Road. “It was the neighborhood behind the old ice house and currently near St. Mark Baptist Church,” he says.
He was one of ten children born to the late Frank and Annie Mae Devoe.
Because his father never held steady employment, Devoe went to work at a young age. “I took a job at Carellas Brothers Grocery on the corner of East Broad and Gwinnett Street to help put food on the table for the family. I was 12 but because of my height, they thought I was 16 and gave me the job.”
He and his family grew up in the local Baptist Church. “My grandfather took us to St. Mark Baptist, but we eventually joined Bryant Baptist in Yamacraw Village,” stated Devoe.
Devoe said he developed a interest in basketball by the time he reached ninth grade. “I started out at Scott Junior High and went to Tompkins in the ninth grade. Where I lived, we a had dirt street and we played football daily, but there was a kid who lived behind the ice house who put up an old bicycle rim for a hoop and I love shooting the ball in the hoop. One day I walked in the gym and inquired about playing basketball with coach Jerome Jinks and he said if you can jump up and put my hat through the rim, then you can try out for the team and I did, but the cap got stuck in the basket. Coach Jinks said now get my cap and I leaped up and pulled it down.”
While at Tompkins, Devoe was a member of the Wolverines basketball team and was also a part of a history making moment. In December 1966 Tompkins played Benedictine at the BC Gymnasium in what would be the city’s first interracial high school basketball game. “We played just like any other game, however, we were held down by the referee’s whistles and at time intimidated, but we played on and still won,” he said.
When asked what he remembered most about attending Tompkins, Devoe said the teachers had a caring nature and interest in the students learning. He lists Jerome Jinks, the late Joseph Turner and the late Joseph Burroughs as some of his high school mentors. “Mr Burroughs taught me drafting, which is how I became the draftsman for the United States Postal Service.”
Devoe’s play on the basketball court drew interest from Kansas State but the 6-foot-8 center declined the Wildcats offer. “I really needed to stay in state to help my mother with the support for the other siblings,” stated the 2014 Woodville-Tompkins Athletic Hall of Fame inductee. He ended up signing a scholarship with Savannah State University who was coached by Leo Richardson in the June of 1969. Shortly after signing a letter of intent, Devoe received a Military Draft notice and a college deferment was denied. By November of 1969, Devoe found himself in Vietnam station on the DMZ overlooking North Vietnam in the mist of heavy combat and artillery and mortars attacks. His desires to play his favorite sport again is what keep him alive and going. After over a year in Vietnam, Devoe return home and enrolled at Savannah State and that fall joined the Tigers basketball team under coach Mike Backus. The passion he had for the game was no longer there and after one season he left the team. He graduated from Savannah State in 1974 earning a BS in Sociology and in 1998 earned an MBA from the University of Maryland.
During his time at Savannah State, Devoe became a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity and lists Annette K. Brock, Prince Jackson and Bernard Woodhouse among his favorite professors.
While still in college, Devoe started working at Savannah’s postal headquarters on Fahm Street in 1972. After earning his undergraduate degree, he continued to work at the post office as a postal clerk but proved to be a valuable employee, working his way from clerk to letter sorter machine operator and then a draftsman for city delivery maps. In 1987, Devoe was promoted to the USPS Headquarters in Washington, D.C. where he responsible for building new large postal facilities throughout the country. His facilities operations background led to a position as the first African American Chief Operations
Officer for The White House.
“This was the last part of Mr. Bush’s term in Office and prior to President Obama. Because of my work there each president has asked me to come back and help with the transfer of administration, but I always declined, because of the very long hours and weekends,” he noted.
After four years of running The White House Operations, he retired from the Federal Government and joined Xerox Corporation in 2006 and worked as their Chief Operation Officer until 2011 when he found his way into the education sector at Virginia Community College as Chief Operations Officer where he continues to use his operations background to manage a campus with over 6,000 students. Devoe is married to the former Ann O’Neal. They never dated as teenagers but knew each other from their days at Tompkins, although she was a grade ahead of him. They both attended Savannah State and began dating in 1971 after meeting at the college student center and got married three years later just a few days after Christmas.
The couple has three successful children: Marion Jr., a software engineer and owner of his own company in the Washington, DC Metro area; Jon, a software consultant who lives in Germany; and a daughter, Jordanne, a fashion model/ actress, who recently graduated from UCLA. Devoe also has four grandchildren.