Henry Niles, Baltimore Life chairman, war foe, was on Nixon's 'enemies list'

November 25, 1993|By Fred Rasmussen | Fred Rasmussen,Staff Writer

Henry E. Niles, retired chairman of the board of the Baltimore Life Insurance Co. whose strong criticism of the Vietnam War earned him a place on the Nixon White House "enemies list," died Nov. 5 of an upper respiratory infection at Broadmead, a Cockeysville retirement community. He was 93.

He retired in 1970 from the insurance company which he had joined in 1940 as superintendent of agencies.

He became president in 1957 and chairman of the board in 1965.

In 1967, he founded and was chairman of Business Executives Move for Peace in Vietnam, which had a membership of more than 300 executives.

"Businessmen have a moral responsibility to take a stand on issues, instead of just trying to make money," he said in a 1967 interview with The Sun.

A Quaker, he had been interested in world peace ever since he attended the first meeting of the League of Nations after the end of World War I.

In 1969 during the Vietnam War era, after attending a meeting with senior officials of the National Security Council, he said, "We came out feeling,'Well, it used to be LBJ's war, but now it's Nixon's.' We are unhappy that seven months after the start of the new administration, there seems to be no real progress toward peace -- plenty of words, but little action."

His criticism of the war acquired for the patrician businessman a place on President Nixon's 1972 White House enemies list.

"It was his crowning achievement," said Cushing N. Dolbeare, a daughter who lives in Washington. "He was most proud of that distinction."

Former U.S. Sen. Charles McC. Mathias said, "Henry Niles was a remarkable person. When I was in the Senate, the sort of thoughtful concerns that I received from him on matters of public concern were long reasoned arguments, not the usual yes or no responses from people.

"He had a very American outlook which was egalitarian. He wasn't a liberal in the sense of current convention but believed in the old American sense of concern for one's neighbors, community commitment and meeting the intellectual challenges of those issues," said the former Republican lawmaker.

"He was really a bedrock American."

Mr. Niles was reared in the Walbrook section of the city, one of four children of Judge Alfred S. Niles, who served on Baltimore's Supreme Bench for six years before resigning in 1911 to protest the poor salaries paid to judges.

He was a graduate of public schools and graduated cum laude from the Johns Hopkins University in 1920.

He did graduate work at the Hopkins before going abroad and studying economics and statistics at Cambridge University, the University of Padua and the London School of Economics.

During World War II, he was a management consultant and head of field organization for the Office of Price Administration.

Mr. Niles was active in many civil rights, civil liberties, peace and international organizations and a member of the Society of Friends and the board of the American Friends Service Committee.

He had been president of the Maryland Civil Liberties Union and on the board of Park School, Morgan State University, the Urban League and the Citizens Planning and Housing Association. He was also a member of the Cosmos Club, 14 West Hamilton Street Club and the Wednesday Club.

In the 1970s, he and his wife donated 800 acres of land in West Virginia that is now occupied by the Friends Wilderness Meditation Center, the Rolling Ridge-Study Retreat Center and a youth program operated by For Love of Children, a group based in Washington, D.C.

His wife, Mary-Cushing Howard of Cleveland whom he married in 1923, died in September.

A memorial service was set for 3 p.m. tomorrow at the Broadmead, 13801 York Road, Cockeysville, where he had lived since 1981.

He is survived by another daughter, Alice Lynd of Niles, Ohio; five grandchildren; and nine great-grandchildren.

Memorial donations may be made to the American Friends Service Committee, 1501 Cherry St., Philadelphia 19102.

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