Volunteering for service
Managing people by walking around was ingrained in Humphries as a safety patrol captain and is a well-known business management practice today. When Humphries was the head usher at the Washington National Cathedral, he continued to use what he learned with the AAA School Safety Patrol.
“Without realizing what I was doing, I put into practice my walking to every point where we had ushers—outside the cathedral and inside,” he says. “Again, I wanted to leave nobody behind.”
Especially not the U.S. president.
The cathedral is home to many religious services involving the president of the United States. In 1981, Humphries, the first African American head usher, was asked by John Thomas Walker, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, to welcome the president at the cathedral doors, an honor usually reserved for the bishop.
That initiated the practice of the head usher welcoming world leaders to Washington National Cathedral. In this capacity, Humphries met five sitting presidents: Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton (himself a former safety patroller), George W. Bush and Barack Obama, as well as former Presidents Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter and future President Joe Biden. He also met such dignitaries as Queen Elizabeth, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Princess Diana, Prince Charles and Archbishop of Canterbury Robert Runcie. More recently, beginning in 2015 Humphries has had the honor of assisting the Most Rev. Michael Bruce Curry, the presiding bishop and primate of the Episcopal Church.
“It has been an incredible experience,” Humphries says. One of Humphries’ favorite quotes is, “Teamwork makes the dream work.” He can also often be heard saying, “The cathedral ushers are the best usher team, no doubt about it.”