Raised in Statesville, N.C., he came to Philadelphia as a youngster and graduated from Overbrook High School. He received his bachelor of science degree from La Salle College, where he excelled in track and field. He received his master's degree from Temple University and did additional course work at the University of Pennsylvania.
Gillespie's first teaching assignment was at the Thomas FitzSimmons Junior High School. Shortly afterward he transferred to the new Strawberry Mansion school. He taught social studies and later headed the department. He was named vice principal in 1966 and principal two years later.
In 1970, the Board of Education, citing a funding shortage, curtailed a planned summer school program at Strawberry Mansion. Ed Gillespie was determined that the program would go forward with or without the school board.
Known affectionately as "Mr. G," he recruited volunteer teachers - more than 50 in all - to teach reading, mathematics, English, science, social studies and typing three mornings a week. He got janitorial work done by the Youth Corps.
At the end of the program he wrote in a letter to the Daily News that " . . . the success of this program . . . goes to show beyond a question of doubt that the vast majority of teachers and community people are sincerely interested in helping children."
A school spokesperson said that beginning with the Class of 1987, an annual Principal's Award will be presented to a Strawberry Mansion senior at graduation "who best exemplifies those qualities of leadership, strength of purpose, scholarship, and concern for others which were the guiding principles of Edward L.H. Gillespie."
He is survived by his wife, Jan, and a son, Edward Jr.
The memorial service will be at 1:30 p.m. tomorrow in the school auditorium, Ridge and Susquehanna avenues.