Allen Quille, 82, donor, parking lot owner, dies

Businessman raised funds for Democrats, educational causes

January 04, 2002|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,SUN STAFF

Allen J. Quille, the self-made parking lot magnate who raised millions of dollars for political campaigns and educational causes, died yesterday of pneumonia at Sinai Hospital. He was 82 and lived in the Bare Hills section of Baltimore County.

Although he left school at 16, Mr. Quille became ruler of an asphalt empire from Fells Point to Pikesville as president of Quille's Parking Co. and became one of the city's leading African-American businessmen.

As a fund-raiser and donor, he directed his skills -- and his wealth -- to Democratic politics at the city, state and national levels, and his political ties brought invitations to dinners at the White House during the Carter and Clinton administrations.

Mr. Quille was a cousin of former City Council member Victorine Quille Adams, who was a pioneer in minority politics in Baltimore in the 1940s.

He became the city campaign co-manager backing the 1982 election victory of Gov. Harry R. Hughes, managed the 1983 campaign of Baltimore Comptroller Hyman A. Pressman, and was a close ally of former Mayor and Gov. William Donald Schaefer and City Council President and Mayor Clarence Du Burns.

Mr. Quille managed the 1991 campaign of Mr. Burns, who became Baltimore's first black mayor after Mr. Schaefer's election as governor and was trying unsuccessfully to unseat the man who had ousted him at City Hall in 1987 -- Kurt L. Schmoke.

"He was a particular hero to an older generation of African-American community leaders who watched him blend business acumen with political skill and become one of the leaders of our city," Mr. Schmoke said yesterday of Mr. Quille. "I admired him a great deal."

"In politics, you could always depend on Allen Quille," Mr. Schaefer, now state comptroller, said last night. "And he loved his charities, too. I can see him with the nuns at St. Frances in East Baltimore. He would bring a dozen eggs and a pound of bacon [for breakfast there], and he'd show me how he wanted to rebuild the school and give an education to those kids."

"He was unassuming and appreciative of everything good that came his way," said friend and caterer Martin Resnick. "He never forgot the people who helped him climb a ladder of success. He was generous with his time and money. He was always helping people raise money for their causes.

"He was a great ticket-seller for his fund-raisers and charities," Mr. Resnick said. "And he never forgot an old friend. He was a kind, kind gentleman."

Born in Baltimore and raised on a Calvert County farm, he attended schools in both jurisdictions but quit at age 16 to wash cars and sell bananas. During World War II, he served with the 218th Army Band in France and played trumpet and bass tuba.

In newspaper interviews, Mr. Quille said he never forgot when his family was treated with patience by a Jewish grocery store owner who tided them over when money was tight.

And Mr. Quille credited a Jewish businessman, Charlie Malpas, with helping him get a start in the parking business in the late 1930s and backing him in a five-lot partnership. In his early career, Mr. Quille was also associated with Al Haar and Samuel Winik of Haar-Win Parking.

He discovered that business success was not automatic. When he returned from military service in the 1940s, he found that gas rationing had cut into revenues.

That situation changed as the downtown parking business boomed in the 1950s. By then, Mr. Quille owned or managed as many as 25 garages and lots.

"The problem is that everyone wants to park under their desks and many are willing to pay a premium to do so," he said in a 1983 Evening Sun interview. "Usually, the farther commuters are willing to walk, the cheaper the monthly parking becomes."

As the Inner Harbor was redeveloped, Mr. Quille formed an alliance with contractor Victor Frenkil to build a garage at Pratt and Gay streets -- a structure the city later bought.

In a 1984 Sun interview, he spoke of his feelings on doing a good deed, and the responsibility of black people who attain success to help others: "I think we are our brother's keeper. Just because a few of us have made it, the majority of us are still out there struggling. ... We are our own worst enemies. We fought long and hard for equal opportunity, and we forgot the most important thing -- equal responsibility.

"There are those who made it and some of us who won't stoop to help. We have not learned to give," he said.

"He was quiet, bright and competent," said Clarisse B. Mechanic, owner of the Mechanic Theatre at Hopkins Plaza and a former business associate of Mr. Quille, who managed the parking garage under the Hopkins Plaza playhouse and a garage she formerly owned in Charles Village. "He was a wonderful man who did so much good for so many people. You might not hear about the works he did, but I know he was a very charitable giver."

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