Daniel W. Spaulding, 89, real estate broker cracked color barrier

July 22, 1999|By Gary Dorsey | Gary Dorsey,SUN STAFF


An obituary published July 22, describing the efforts of Daniel W. Spaulding to break down racial segregation in housing, stated that he entered white-only neighborhoods "surreptitiously." Some readers felt the article implied that he was acting improperly.

The Sun did not intend to suggest any impropriety, and regrets any distress the article may have caused the Spaulding family and other readers.

Daniel W. Spaulding, an African-American real estate broker who cracked the color barrier in Baltimore's segregated neighborhoods in 1945, died of complications from a heart attack Monday at Bon Secours Hospital. He was 89.

Mr. Spaulding came to Baltimore in 1943 after selling life insurance in Philadelphia and took a job as a waiter at the Belvedere Hotel downtown to support his family, while devoting spare time to learning the real estate business.

Because his ancestors shared a Scottish heritage, according to his son-in-law, Joseph Jefferson of Columbia, Mr. Spaulding was a light-skinned man, and particularly among whites, he was not immediately recognized as African-American. He managed to take advantage of that ambiguity to slip into segregated classrooms at the University of Maryland and steep himself in real estate courses.

"We were poor in those days," recalled his wife, the former Hazel Washington, whom he married in 1940. "When we were married in Ellicott City, he didn't even have a ring to put on my finger. He had to borrow his sister's ring for the ceremony. But after that, it was always busy, busy, busy ."

In fact, an entrepreneurial spirit enlivened other parts of the Spaulding family. A cousin, C. C. Spaulding of Durham, N.C., had founded one of the country's most successful black-owned businesses, North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Co., a connection that later proved critical when Baltimore's African-Americans needed financing to purchase homes.

"He saw housing as a justice issue, which is why he was attracted to real estate," Mr. Jefferson said. "At the time, black people were confined to specific neighborhoods, and `Pops' thought he could do something to change that."

The struggle to penetrate segregated neighborhoods required extraordinary efforts. Because white real estate brokers in Baltimore refused to permit African-Americans to join their professional associations, brokers like Mr. Spaulding had no access to comprehensive listings of available homes for sale in many city areas.

Surreptitiously, Mr. Spaulding would slip into white-only neighborhoods during the early evenings so he wouldn't be readily detected and take note of what houses were for sale. "It was the only way he could do it," Mrs. Spaulding said.

In 1945, Mr. Spaulding identified a home for sale on Bentalou Street in a white-only district in West Baltimore and managed to secure financing for an African-American family by calling on his own family connections at North Carolina Mutual. The transaction is remembered as the first time an African-American acquired a house in an all-white neighborhood in the city.

"He was quite a man," said Bernie Jackson, who purchased Spaulding Realty Co. in October when Mr. Spaulding retired because of blindness and declining health. "He was a very articulate person and one of the few people who you always saw in a suit and tie. For many years, he was the backbone of our [real estate] organization."

Born in Whitesboro, N.J., a town founded by his father, Mr. Spaulding graduated from Lincoln (Pa.) University in 1932 and devoted much of his life to fair housing for minorities.

During the 1960s, he lobbied state and federal legislators for laws that would end discriminatory practices in housing and from 1972 to 1975 he served as president of the National Association of Real Estate Brokers. He also was chairman of the board of directors of Federal Savings and Loan Association in Baltimore.

He was a member of Omega Psi Phi, a 33rd-degree Mason and lifetime member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

In 1983, he was appointed to the Maryland Real Estate Commission and in 1984 he received a citation from the Baltimore City Council in recognition of his efforts on behalf of fair housing.

In addition to his wife, he is survived by a daughter, Donna Jefferson of Columbia; two sisters, Odessa Spaulding of Philadelphia and Annabelle Hendricks of Cleveland; and a brother-in-law, Julius Taylor of Baltimore.

A memorial service will be scheduled.

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