Howard C. Corbin, much-decorated detective

December 11, 1993|By Fred Rasmussen | Fred Rasmussen,Staff Writer

Howard C. Corbin, a decorated Baltimore police detective who worked on all the major murder cases after joining the homicide unit in 1966, died Dec. 7 of a heart attack at Good Samaritan Hospital.

He was 68 and had been on medical leave after suffering a stroke in 1992.

During his years with the Baltimore Police Department, he received 21 commendations, four Bronze Stars, a Unit Citation and a Distinguished Service Award. He was the senior member of the department in years of service.

"He worked one way or the other on all the major homicide cases. . . ," said Col. George L. Christian, chief of the Criminal Investigation Division who knew Detective Corbin for more than 30 years. "He broke all of us in -- all new officers were assigned to Corbin for training purposes, and he was like a mother hen. . . ."

"A stickler for detail, he had a meticulous way of doing things and could look at a file that had been looked at by other detectives and find something that they had overlooked," Colonel Christian said. "He was simply amazing. As an investigator, he was one of the best. Everyone in the department knew him."

Mr. Corbin was born in Baltimore and was a 1944 graduate of Douglass High School. After graduation, he joined the Army and was discharged as a private in 1946.

He joined the Police Department in 1953 and was stationed as a patrolman in the Southwestern and Western districts before he joined the Criminal Investigation Division as a detective in 1966.

He was known for "Corbin's Book," a ledger that had NICKNAMES printed on the cover. It contained names he had picked up on the street and from other sources from the time he joined the force.

In the first column of the ledger was the nickname; the second column, the real name and age; the third column, the address; and in the fourth column the type of crime the person was most likely to commit and other notations such as glue-sniffer, junkie, shoplifter.

In a case he investigated, an insurance collector had been assaulted and robbed, and Mr. Corbin learned that the robber was nicknamed Country. His ledger contained the true identity of the suspect, who was then convicted.

In a case that took over a year to break, a woman nicknamed Applesauce had been near the scene of a beating death. Mr. Corbin's ledger revealed the witness' true identity, and her testimony led to the conviction of the murderer.

"Every time I see a large group of questionable people," he said in a 1965 Evening Sun interview, "I'll stop and try to get everyone's name, nickname -- if they have one -- and address and put it in my book for the future. I also put in the book everyone I have arrested."

Some of the thousands of nicknames in his book include Razor Blade, Stinky, Ditty, Box Head, Greasy, Teefoe and Peter Rabbit.

In 1958, Mr. Corbin arrested a friend he had not seen in eight years when the man asked him to help dispose of a stolen radio and stolen bottle of Scotch.

"I'm a cop," Mr. Corbin told the man as he arrested him.

"I wouldn't want him sicced on me," Colonel Christian said. "Once he was on your trail, he'd hound you. . . . Time meant nothing to him, and when he was on a case, he'd work day and night.

"He had a knack for approaching families and having them cooperate in an investigation, and, at the same time, he was deeply sensitive to the needs of the family of the deceased."

Mr. Corbin's first marriage ended in divorce. In 1974, he married the former Rosalie Crook of Baltimore.

Services were set for 7 p.m. tomorrow at the March Funeral Home, 1101 E. North Ave. Interment will be at 11:30 a.m. Monday at Garrison Forest Veterans Cemetery, 11501 Garrison Forest Road, Owings Mills.

In addition to his wife, he is survived by a son, Kimberly Corbin, and a daughter, Margaret Bates, both of Baltimore; and six stepchildren.

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