Leon D. Horowitz, 84, athletic director, coach of high school and college teams

November 25, 2001|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,STAFF WRITER

Leon D. Horowitz, an athletic director and principal who coached high school and college teams, died Tuesday of complications from cancer at Sinai Hospital. He was 84 and lived in Brooklandville.

During a lengthy career in local athletics, he was associated with programs at Southern High School and the Johns Hopkins University. He retired in 1978 from the city's Department of Education as director of interscholastic athletics.

"What made him a legend was that he was down at little Southern High School, and he made them a power," said his friend Judge Robert I.H. Hammerman, former chief judge of the Baltimore Circuit Court. "The players responded to him. He was never harsh, and he had a deep personal interest in their lives. He was also a brilliant sports strategist, a master psychologist, an original thinker."

"He was a mentor to many high school coaches who would go to him for advice. He was my personal mentor for my lacrosse teams," said Bob Scott, a retired Johns Hopkins lacrosse coach and director of athletics. "His players greatly respected his wisdom, tact and judgment."

Born in Baltimore and raised on East Baltimore Street, he won local sports attention as a City College student who played on the YMCA, Knights of Columbus and the Jewish Educational Alliance's basketball teams in the old Baltimore Basketball League at the 14 Holy Martyrs' gymnasium in West Baltimore.

He was captain of Washington College's basketball team, where he earned a degree in 1938. He earned a master's degree from the University of Maryland in 1957.

"He wasn't tall, but he was accurate with his jump shot," said son-in-law Patrick Shepherd of Sparks. "He was a kind man who had an amazing ability to work with children."

He joined the city school system in 1938 and became an assistant baseball and basketball coach for the Southern High School Bulldogs in 1940. Named Southern's athletic director in 1947, a post he held until 1956, he won two Public School League basketball titles and the Maryland Scholastic Association Championship for the 1955-1956 season.

Newspaper stories praised his overall basketball record at Southern, where his basketball teams won 135 games and lost only 27. Among his students were Al Kaline, later a Detroit Tigers Hall of Famer, and Orioles outfielder Barry Shetrone.

He was named a special assistant to the principal at Pimlico Junior High School in 1956 and subsequently served as Clifton Park Junior High School's vice principal and principal. In 1974 he was named public schools' director of interscholastic athletics.

In the fall of 1956 he became an assistant football coach at Johns Hopkins, where he held posts until 1994. His final job was to supply sports information to the media.

For 54 years, until his death, he also was an owner and director of Camp Skylemar in Naples, Maine, a summer camp for boys.

During World War II, he served in the Army and was stationed at the Oak Ridge, Tenn., nuclear weapons research project. There he coached football for the children of the atomic scientists.

Services will be held at 11 a.m. today at Sol Levinson & Brothers, 8900 Reisterstown Road.

He is survived by his wife of 54 years, the former Shirley Lerner; a son, Charles Horowitz of Oakland, Calif.; daughters Linda Horowitz of Raymond, Maine, Jan Berkowitz of Orange, Calif., and Arleen Shepherd of Sparks; a brother, Robert Horowitz of Washington; and five grandchildren.

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