James Gutman, 81, chairman of water quality commission

June 20, 1999|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

James Edwin Gutman, a former department store executive whose concern for the Chesapeake Bay led him to chair the Maryland Water Quality Advisory Commission, died Wednesday from complications of Parkinson's disease at Holy Cross Rehabilitation Center in Burtonsville. He was 81.

A longtime Mount Washington resident, Mr. Gutman and his wife of 48 years, the former Ruth Binswanger, moved to the banks of Cypress Creek in Severna Park in 1971. Since the late 1930s, he had worked for Julius Gutman and Co., the family department store that became Brager-Gutman.

It was the natural beauty visible from his front yard that turned the former merchant into a committed and outspoken environmentalist.

"Before I came to Anne Arundel County, I really didn't give a dang about the environment," he said in a 1983 interview. "I'd like to think that, by the time I die, I've done something that has been of benefit to someone else."

Mr. Gutman was chairman of the Maryland Water Quality Advisory Commission from 1980 until 1995, when he stepped down because of Parkinson's disease. The commission, composed of citizens, public officials and industry representatives, advises state officials.

He was also a member of the Patuxent River Commission, Coastal Zone Management Program, West Chesapeake Basin Water Quality Management Public Advisory and the Citizen's Program for the Chesapeake Bay Steering Committee.

"He was a fairly quiet but tenacious and forceful leader who provided good leadership," said Ajax Eastman, an environmental activist.

Ruth Mathes, retired from the state Department of Natural Resources, said, "He understood the bay and was able to convince state officials to take the Clean Water Act and concerned citizens seriously."

In recognition of Mr. Gutman's work, Gov. Parris N. Glendening presented him with the Admiral of the Chesapeake Bay Award in 1995.

Born and raised on Naylors Lane in Pikesville, Mr. Gutman was a 1936 graduate of the Park School and attended the Johns Hopkins University. During World War II, he enlisted in the Army but was ineligible for combat because of poor eyesight. Instead, he assembled aircraft at Chance Vought Aircraft Co. in Stratford, Conn., before being honorably discharged in 1943.

He was a member of Oheb Shalom Congregation. Services were held Friday.

In addition to his wife, Mr. Gutman is survived by two daughters, Lois G. Brown of Columbia and Martha G. Kolodkin of Baltimore; and a granddaughter.

Pub Date: 6/20/99

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