Carr, 80, 'Godfather of Nightlife'Walter R. Carr...

W. R.

October 07, 1993|By Fred Rasmussen | Fred Rasmussen,Staff Writer

W. R. Carr, 80, 'Godfather of Nightlife'

Walter R. Carr, the founder of the Nitelifer magazine who was known as the "Godfather of Nightlife," died Sept. 22 of heart failure at Maryland General Hospital. He was 80.

In 1960, he founded the Nitelifer, a lively weekly guide to Baltimore's inner-city clubs and bars. He used the editorial space to comment on issues of importance to blacks.

"You can stick it in your hip pocket or in an inside jacket pocket," Mr. Carr said of the Nitelifer in a 1981 interview. "Women fold it and carry it in a pocketbook. They're looking for bargain nights. You know these clubs have these happy hours . . . to get the people on their way home. They know people won't go back out at night now that the hoodlums have taken over the streets."

His son, Walter Carr Jr., said, "He was ahead of his time, and his tabloid afforded him a platform . . . to discuss issues that affected the black community. He continually urged [blacks] to take control of their own lives and was deeply committed to improving the lot of all mankind -- black or white. He was a champion, a crusader."

Mr. Carr was born in West Baltimore. His maternal grandfather, Josia Diggs, built and owned the Dunbar Theater, the city's first black-owned theater, in the 600 block of N. Central Ave. He won letters in three sports at Douglass High School.

During World War II, he taught welding and briefly was a janitor for the old Bartlett and Hayward Co., an armaments business, but left because blacks were barred from the high-paying jobs. "While they were making guns, I was sweeping the gutters," he recalled in an interview.

He joined the Afro-American Newspapers in 1945 and was transferred to a sister paper, the Philadelphia Afro-American.

In Philadelphia, he also tended bar, sold cars, drove a cab and was a collector for a credit bureau. It was there that he had the idea of starting the Nitelifer. He returned to Baltimore in 1960 and did so.

Mr. Carr and his wife, the former Hanna Marie Thompson of Westmoreland County, Va., whom he married in 1932, participated in early civil rights struggles. In 1941, they were arrested in Baltimore for protesting police brutality against blacks.

In 1962, he organized a successful boycott through the Nitelifer of major liquor distributorships because they didn't employ black salesmen. He also enjoyed jazz.

The Nitelifer will continue publication under the direction of his other son, Darryl E. Carr.

He received awards from numerous groups, including the YMCA Century Club, Project Survival, the Left Bank Jazz Society and the Baltimore City Council for promoting jazz.

Services were held Sept. 27.

He also is survived by a daughter, Velma Phillips of Cleveland; two granddaughters; and three great-grandchildren.

The family suggested memorial contributions to the Bea Gaddy Foundation, 140 N. Collington Ave., Baltimore, Md. 21231; or 100 Black Men of Maryland, c/o Coppin State College, 2500 W. North Ave., Baltimore, Md. 21216. Ursula H. Fossett, a native of Baltimore who moved to Honey Brook, Pa., when she was married 20 years ago, died Sunday of heart disease at a hospital in West Chester, Pa.

Mrs. Fossett, 62, was known as Bobbie. The former Ursula H. Kerrigan had been a forewoman at the Eckels Ice Cream and Dairy Co., where she worked for 25 years before moving to Pennsylvania.

Her husband, John Fossett, retired as a welder from the Lukens Steel Co. plant in Coatesville, Pa.

Services were set for 10 a.m. today at the Labs Funeral Home in Honey Brook. In addition to her husband, she is survived by a brother, Joseph Kerrigan of Baltimore; and many nieces and nephews.

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