Schmoke's half brother eulogized as generous young man

April 13, 1994|By Michael A. Fletcher | Michael A. Fletcher,Sun Staff Writer

Hundreds of mourners packed Baltimore's Douglas Memorial Community Church yesterday to bid a solemn farewell to Murray Alexander Schmoke Jr., the mayor's half brother who was killed last week in a traffic accident in South Africa.

In a memorial service that was warm and dignified and even funny at times, Mr. Schmoke, 25, was remembered as a generous young man who exuded an infectious love of life.

"He had a way of walking into life and saying, 'What's up?' " said the Rev. Marion C. Bascom.

"Today, we are sending Alex heavenward," he continued. "Where else would the little rascal go? Who else would want him but God?"

Mr. Schmoke died April 4 when the minivan in which he was traveling blew a tire, veered out of control and rolled over, throwing him from a side door. The crash occurred along a highway between Pretoria and Pietersburg, the rural town where Mr. Schmoke was a volunteer English teacher.

"I keep seeing this image of the motor vehicle, the van," said Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke from the pulpit, his voice cracking with emotion. "I see it turning over. And I see this image of the hand of God reaching in, whisking Alex away."

The service was briefly interrupted when a man calling himself King Jesus marched to the front of the sanctuary as Mr. Bascom was acknowledging the tide of condolences conveyed to the Schmoke family in the wake of Alexander Schmoke's death.

"Hold up, Rev. Hold up," the man yelled, as he paraded to the front of the church, where he was confronted by one of Mayor Schmoke's bodyguards. The man violently pulled away from the guard, causing some in the church to gasp, and prompting a group of police officers to surge forward.

Mayor Schmoke stood up and offered to meet with the man. Accompanied by about half a dozen police officers, the mayor led the man to a room off the sanctuary where they talked for a few minutes before the mayor rejoined the service.

Police Maj. Charles Dickens said the man, who was not arrested, claimed to have a letter from Jesus. Police said he was taken to Mercy Medical Center for psychiatric observation.

Alex Schmoke, as he was known, attended Friends School before transferring to City College in the ninth grade. He graduated from City in 1987 -- 20 years after his half brother, the mayor.

Alex went to his father's alma mater, Morehouse College, a prominent, historically black school in Atlanta, where he was a member of the Glee Club. The Morehouse College Quartet sang at the service.

After graduating from college with a history degree, Alex Schmoke returned to Baltimore, where he worked at T. Rowe Price for a year. He then went to work in Washington for a group that raises money to bring black South African medical students to the United States.

He later took a job at Friends School, where he had several responsibilities, including working in the after-school program. While working at Friends, he was accepted into the volunteer teaching program that took him to Pax College, a Catholic mission school in South Africa.

Noting his brother's successes and gift for teaching, Mayor Schmoke, 44, recalled that he called Alex "the toy human" when he was a toddler.

"Well, the toy grew up," the mayor said, pausing to regain his composure. "He grew up to be a fine young man."

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