Elmer Braxton, 82, school building engineer

April 10, 2000|By Kate Shatzkin and Joel McCord | Kate Shatzkin and Joel McCord,SUN STAFF

Elmer Braxton was a likable umpire and referee who, for all his years of officiating in Baltimore, approached each game anxiously -- and alone.

He made a practice of arriving at the ball field or basketball court half an hour before games and hiding until game time so he could focus on the important task at hand.

"I'm nervous as a cat" before games, even those involving players 6 to 8 years old, he told The Sun in 1971. "I see someone coming that I know, and I duck away from 'em. I've got to be alone, got to lead up to this thing."

Mr. Braxton died Friday of congestive heart failure at St. Agnes HealthCare. The lifelong Baltimorean was 82.

He officiated at Little League and minor league baseball games, local recreation league basketball games and games at the Naval Academy in Annapolis for 23 years. He was a scout for the Cleveland Indians in the 1960s and early 1970s.

His skills as a baseball umpire and basketball referee were so well-respected that then-Mayor William Donald Schaefer named a playground on Denmore Avenue in Pimlico in his honor.

Mr. Braxton graduated from Frederick Douglass High School and worked in a tailor shop before he became a building engineer for the Baltimore public schools. He worked for the school system for 20 years, mostly at Federal Hill Elementary School.

In the days of coal furnaces, he went to the schools on winter Sundays to bank the fires to make sure the buildings were warm when children arrived on Mondays.

He was a member of the Maryland Association of Basketball Officials and the Maryland Association of Baseball Officials and a 33rd Degree Mason, belonging to Samuel J. Ennis Lodge 106 in Baltimore.

He came to officiating through a friend shortly after high school, said a daughter, Diane Braxton of Baltimore. It soon became the passion of his life. Phlebitis forced him to quit umpiring and refereeing in 1979.

"Baseball was his life, as well as the Masons," said another daughter, Cynthia Ligon of Baltimore. "My father had a knack that instead of people being against him, they were sort of drawn to him."

After he left officiating, Mr. Braxton poured his energy into the Masonic lodge, befriending newcomers like Deon Daniels of Baltimore.

"He was a very inspirational kind of guy," said Mr. Daniels, 34. "Even though our ages were a big difference, you could relate to him, and he could relate to you."

Mr. Braxton was a member of Trinity African Methodist Episcopal Church, 2410 E. Hoffman St., where fraternal services will be held at noon tomorrow, with funeral services afterward.

His wife, Dorothy Washington, died in 1981. Family members said they were married at least 44 years.

In addition to his daughters, he is survived by a brother, Donald Braxton, and a sister, Armenta Holmes, both of Baltimore; and two great-grandchildren.

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