Share this article

print logo

Woodie Lee Durham, sheriff's deputy, foster parent; April 8, 1939 -- April 19, 2012

Woodie Lee Durham of Buffalo, a retired Erie County sheriff's deputy who attended the inauguration of President Obama, died Thursday in Veteran Affairs Medical Center. He was 73.

Born in Detroit, Mr. Durham moved to Buffalo as a child. He was an Army veteran of the Vietnam War and a graduate of Medaille College.

Mr. Durham worked 34 years for the Erie County Sheriff's Office; he spent 10 years on road patrol and 24 years working in the Erie County Holding Center. He retired in the late 1990s.

He and his wife, the former Dorothy J. Scott, had reared hundreds of foster children and were active in foster parent organizations. Mr. Durham was co-president of the Western New York Foster Parent Association from 1974 to 1997 and president of Families Helping Families/Foster Parent Network from 1993 to this year.

In 2003, the Durhams received the Rufus Frasier Human Relations Award during the NAACP's Medgar Evers Civil Rights Award Dinner in Buffalo. It was noted, at that time, that the couple raised more than 500 foster children, ages 12 to 18, during a 21-year period.

Mr. Durham also was active from 1980 to 1995 in Citizen Community Development Corp.'s food pantry. In the early 1970s, he had operated a youth center coffee house.

On Jan. 20, 2009, Mr. Durham attended the inauguration of Obama, sitting in a section designated for the disabled on the Mall in Washington. He was quoted in and photographed for a report that appeared on

His wife died in 2003.

Survivors include a son, Kevin; his mother, Marietta Monroe; three sisters, Emma Brinson, Rosia McClain and Yvonne Primm; and two brothers, Leon Harris and Don.

A Mass of Christian Burial will be offered at 10 a.m. Saturday in St. Martin de Porres Catholic Church, 555 Northampton St.