Robert Hiram Harris, a Baltimore recreation official known for his caring ways with youth, died Wednesday of complications from pancreatitis at Liberty Medical Center. He was 68 and lived in Forest Park.
Mr. Harris retired in 1986 as director of Cecil Kirk Recreation Center, ending a 32-year career at the Baltimore Department of Recreation and Parks.
"He knew the pulse of the community and tried to give the people what they needed in their young lives," said Jean Powell, a retired assistant recreation supervisor in the agency. "He was never one to come to work in sweat clothes. He always wore a coat and tie."
Mr. Harris was known throughout East Baltimore as "Doc" because his father, the late Dr. Bernard Harris Sr., was physician who practiced on Caroline Street.
Dr. Bernard Harris Sr. Elementary School, 1400 N. Caroline St., is named in honor of his father.
Mr. Harris, a Baltimore native, excelled at sports at Paul Laurence Dunbar High School, from which he graduated in 1948. He lettered in basketball, football, baseball and boxing.
In 1952, he graduated from what now is Morgan State University with a degree in physical education. At Morgan, he became a member of the Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity and the ROTC.
After graduation, he joined the Army as a second lieutenant and served in Korea. He was discharged with the rank of first lieutenant in 1954.
That year, he joined the city Bureau of Recreation and served at centers throughout the city. He was named director of Lafayette Courts Recreation Center at Fayette and Aisquith streets, where he supervised activities for children and young adults who lived in the nearby public housing projects.
He often organized snowball-making games in the winter, and in the summer had children defrost the snowballs they had made over the winter.
He was a member of the Baltimore alumni chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi, the Improved Benevolent and Protective Order of the Elks of the World and the No Name Club.
Mr. Harris had a lifelong affiliation with St. Francis Xavier Roman Catholic Church, Caroline and Oliver streets, where he was first an altar boy and then a longtime member of its Holy Name Society. For the past decade, he volunteered once a week at Our Daily Bread soup kitchen on Franklin Street.
Funeral services will be held at noon tomorrow at St. Francis Xavier Church.
His wife, the former Essie Savage, died in 1996.
He is survived by two sisters, Elise Harris Clarke and Anita Harris Watson; a brother, James R. "Dickie" Harris, all of Baltimore; another brother, Berkley White of Detroit; and a stepson, Berkley Savage of Baltimore.