Norman Winfrey Wood, 91, worked as Baltimore County finance director

July 25, 2000|By Jacques Kelly and Gary Dorsey | Jacques Kelly and Gary Dorsey,SUN STAFF

Norman Winfrey Wood, the former Baltimore County finance director who battled political influence over the county's bank deposits, died July 18 of complications of cancer at Gilchrist Center for Hospice Care in Towson. He was 91.

In 1954, the Towson resident was named Baltimore County comptroller by County Executive Michael Birmingham. He resigned in 1969 after years of being pressured to deposit funds in banks favored by county officials, including former County Executive Spiro T. Agnew.

In a 1975 interview in The Sun, Mr. Wood said he had been forced - against his judgment - to place funds in Chesapeake National Bank shortly after it opened in Towson in 1964.

"I resisted it and resisted it until Agnew called me into his office and ordered me," Mr. Wood said. "I didn't want to put a lot of money there because it was a new bank and couldn't collateralize large balances."

"As an honest man, he was under tremendous pressure ... but he stayed through Agnew and [former County Executive] Dale Anderson, and he finally resigned. He was pretty discreet," said his son Robert Winfrey Wood of Hagerstown."

Mr. Wood retained vivid memories of his encounters with his superiors. He recalled Mr. Agnew as saying, "Norman, I'm sick of fooling around with you. If you don't have money in there [Chesapeake Bank] tomorrow, you and I are going to tangle."

Under pressure, Mr. Wood reluctantly capitulated.

Recalled as a man of strong ethical and spiritual convictions, he gave a speech in 1963 to members of the Towson Rotary Club in which he advocated a change of thinking about racial segregation and hiring practices that harmed minorities. The speech was not popular with the club's members.

Born in Portsmouth, Va., Mr. Wood graduated from Maury High School there in 1927 and from Bentley School of Accounting and Finance in Boston in 1929. He earned a bachelor of science degree from the Johns Hopkins University in 1941.

In 1930, he joined Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. and was senior accountant when he took the county job in 1954.

After leaving county government in 1969, Mr. Wood was financial officer at Baltimore City Hospitals, where he was credited with streamlining cost-control and accounting measures. He retired in the mid-1970s.

He was a former deacon at First and St. Stephen's United Church of Christ, where he initiated a Sunday school program for adolescents. The program attracted so many youths it required a large room normally assigned to adults.

In 1938, he married Elizabeth Channell. They were divorced. He then wed Ruth Keyser, who died in the 1980s. In 1986, he married Jean Adams Radebaugh, who survives him.

Funeral services were held Saturday at Towson Presbyterian Church.

In addition to his son, he is survived by another son, John Taylor Wood of Davenport, Iowa; a daughter, Mary-Beth Smith of Baltimore; a stepson, George Radebaugh III of Towson; eight grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.

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