James E. Grant, recreation chief

February 28, 1994|By Fred Rasmussen | Fred Rasmussen,Sun Staff Writer

James E. Grant, who started at the bottom rung of the city recreation and parks department as a recreation leader and worked his way up to retire as superintendent, died Feb. 18 of heart disease at Johns Hopkins Hospital. The West Baltimore resident was 66.

Marlyn Perritt, director of the Baltimore Department of Recreation and Parks, described Mr. Grant as a "highly energetic visionary who was a great public servant who never ceased in his efforts to help people. He contributed greatly to the prominence and success of the department in Baltimore.

"He was a very kind, gentle and Christian man who made recreation part of his extended family," she added.

Former Park Board member Dr. Uthman Ray Jr. said, "He was a very fine fellow who came up through the ranks. He always had innovative ideas and was a tremendous force for recreation in the inner city."

Vida Tucker, who knew Mr. Grant for more than eight years and worked as his secretary, said, "He was a fantastic person who helped me achieve my current position as office supervisor.

"If he saw goodness in you he worked to bring that out, and if you had good ideas he'd let you go ahead and try them. He was a real inspiration to people here."

Mr. Grant joined the recreation department in 1955 as a recreation leader at the Lions Club Recreation Center on Washington Boulevard.

He said in a 1976 interview in The Sun, "The work in a recreation center extends farther than the teacher-student roles. You're a parent to a child today and a policeman tomorrow. It's a gratifying feeling to know that you have influenced them for the better."

He also worked as a center leader, district supervisor and director of personnel before retiring as superintendent in 1991.

Born in Dillon, S.C., Mr. Grant was a 1945 graduate of the Dillon Colored High School. He began his college career at Vorhees College in Denmark, S.C., before transferring to Morgan State University, where he played football and in 1949 earned his bachelor's degree in physical education.

After graduating, he returned to Lakeview, S.C., where he taught and coached for a year.

In 1950, he enlisted in the Army and served in Korea before being discharged in 1952 with the rank of sergeant. He returned to Baltimore and, after working for the National Gypsum Co., went to work for the recreation department.

He was a member of the Maryland Recreation and Parks Association and the Roundtable Association. He was a 45-year member of Omega Psi Phi fraternity. He was also active in the No Name Club and was a founder of the Dillonites, an organization of former residents of his hometown.

He was an active member of Union Memorial United Methodist Church where he sang in the men's choir and was a member of the usher board.

He and his wife, the former Kathryn C. Sullivan of Greenville, S.C., whom he married in 1953, enjoyed traveling, cruising and visiting friends and family in South Carolina.

In addition to his wife, he is survived by a son, Reginald L. Grant of Baltimore; a daughter, Sharon Grant-Best of Baltimore; a brother, Leno Grant of Baltimore; two sisters, Rosa McRae of Dillon and Elizabeth Bethea of Baltimore; and two grandchildren.

The family suggested memorial donations could be made to the Dillonites, P.O. Box 6943, 21216-0943, or the Union Memorial United Church Remodeling Fund, 2500 Harlem Ave., 21216.

Services were held Wednesday.

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