Levin Gale Shreve, 88, former CIA official, Tilghman biographer

May 06, 1998|By Fred Rasmussen | Fred Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Levin Gale Shreve, a former career CIA officer and author of a critically acclaimed biography of Revolutionary War patriot Tench Tilghman, died Sunday of heart failure at Brightwood Retirement Community in Lutherville. He was 88.

Mr. Shreve -- the great-great-great-grandson of the lieutenant colonel whose famous ride brought news of Cornwallis' surrender at Yorktown in 1781 to the Continental Congress meeting in Philadelphia -- explained in a 1981 interview in The Evening Sun his reasons for writing the book.

"All the aide-de-camps had been given short shrift by the biographers. I felt that the guy had been neglected; after all, he was by Washington's side from 1776 to 1783, when he [Tilghman] died," said Mr. Shreve.

After eight years of researching and writing the biography of Tilghman, which was published in 1983 by Tidewater Press, Mr. Shreve said, "What do I think of Tench Tilghman now? I'm crazy about him. He was a wit, a lovely fellow."

Mr. Shreve also wrote two spy novels, "The Tides of Sligo" and "The Phoenix With Oily Feathers."

"His books were well-researched, and the Tilghman book wasn't the least bit dry," said Eleanor Merryman Roszel Rogers, a former literary agent. "He was quite a good writer and was gifted with a vivid imagination and the ability to create interesting dialogue."

"He was a beautiful writer," said longtime friend Charles B. Reeves Jr., a Baltimore attorney who described him as "a perfect gentleman who was the epitome of old Maryland stock, and one of his salient characteristics was his integrity."

Despite being known as a man of reserved demeanor, he was a gifted conversationalist and storyteller. "He had the most lovely, quiet sense of humor that could deflate pomposity very easily," Mr. Reeves said, laughing.

A former Homeland resident, Mr. Shreve -- known as Bill -- was born and raised in Bolton Hill. A 1928 graduate of Episcopal High School in Alexandria, Va., he earned his bachelor's degree from the Johns Hopkins University in 1932.

During World War II, Mr. Shreve served with the Army in the Pacific Theater of Operations, where he was publisher of the South Pacific Daily News and editor of Stars and Stripes in China.

He also served on the staffs of Gen. Albert C. Wedemeyer and Adm. William F. "Bull" Halsey. At the end of the war, he was assigned to Gen. Chiang Kai-shek's staff in China.

He was discharged in 1946 with the rank of colonel and remained active in the Army Reserve. His decorations included two Bronze Stars, an Air Medal and two Army Commendation Ribbons.

In 1946, he joined the CIA, where he became known as a brilliant strategist and analyst. He served as CIA station manager in Baltimore and Honolulu, and held posts in the Middle East and Washington before retiring in 1971.

He was a former president of the Maryland Club and secretary of the Howard County Hunt. He was also a member of the Metropolitan Club of Washington and the Elkridge Club. He was a communicant of Emmanuel Episcopal Church, Cathedral and Read streets, where a memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. May 14.

He is survived by his wife of 63 years, the former Barbara Harris; four nephews, W. D. Waxter III of Baltimore, Arthur L. S. Waxter of Easton, E. Roane Wilcox of Norfolk, Va., and Douglas McC. Shreve of Stevensville; and a niece, Harriet Gale Gearhart of Centreville.

Pub Date: 5/06/98

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