James B. Hattman, 75, executive at W.R. Grace and Co., avid gardener

February 24, 2002|By Tanika White | Tanika White,SUN STAFF

James B. Hattman, who worked his way up during 39 years in the oil industry to become chief operating officer and executive vice president of the Petroleum Chemicals Department of the Davison Chemical Division of W.R. Grace and Co., died Tuesday of a blood infection at St. Joseph Medical Center in Towson. The Parkton resident was 75.

As a young man, Mr. Hattman studied chemistry and engineering, subjects that enabled him to travel the world, and earn a reputation as a salesman and successful oil executive, and help W. R. Grace to become one of the leading suppliers in the world of a catalyst that increases the recovery of lighter fuels from crude oil.

Mr. Hattman was born in Emsworth, Pa., graduated with honors from La Salle University in Philadelphia and began his career in petroleum in 1948. As a chemist at Houdry Process Corp., he was involved with early research on the catalytic cracking process.

In 1957, he took a catalyst sales post with Davison Chemical Co. in Tulsa, Okla. He worked there until he was transferred to Baltimore in 1962, and moved with his wife, Teresa, to Riderwood.

Ted Barnhart of Phoenix, Md., a friend and co-worker, said Mr. Hattman helped establish record sales for the company while in Tulsa.

"He had a number of friends in the industry," said Mr. Barnhart. "He was well known and well respected."

While a salesman, Mr. Hattman had the distinction of being elected to the petroleum industry's Twenty-Five Year Club, an association of oil company owners and executives. He was a member of the National Petroleum Refiners Association for 18 years.

Mr. Barnhart said Mr. Hattman was known for his engaging personality.

"He was a great joke teller," Mr. Barnhart said. "He could tell them over and over again, and they were still funny. He could walk into a group of guys, and their faces would just light up. He had that kind of personality."

Mr. Hattman retired from the industry in 1988. At home, family members said, Mr. Hattman was an amateur electrician, plumber and carpenter who loved to renovate homes with his wife, and sing vaudeville songs. But his true love was planting rare and unusual trees and plants on their property in Parkton, where they had lived since 1983.

"He was always outside planting trees and bushes and vegetable gardens," said daughter Barbara Crawford, of Guangzhou, China. "My father gave back to the Earth. He even tried to plant a eucalyptus tree outside."

Mr. Hattman was a charter member of the Center Club, and a past member of the Baltimore Country Club and the Union League in Philadelphia.

As a teen-ager, Mr. Hattman, whose father had moved the family to Honolulu in 1940, witnessed the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. He often told his seven children the Japanese planes had flown so low that he could see some pilots' faces.

"He brought it up quite a bit," Mrs. Crawford said. "It totally changed his life. It was pivotal. It was a world-changing moment. He was always keenly aware of that piece of history."

A Mass was offered yesterday at the Catholic Community at St. Francis Xavier Church in Hunt Valley.

In addition to his wife of 53 years and his daughter, he is survived by a son, James Hattman Jr. of Parkton; five other daughters, Susan Hattman of Yardley, Pa., Teresa Swensied of Yorba Linda, Calif., Kathy Sharp of Parkton, Elizabeth Howard of Charleston, S.C., and Patsy Bell of Erdenheim, Pa.; nine grandchildren; one great-grandchild; a brother, Charles Hattman of Glenside, Pa.; and a sister, Dorothy McMurray of Pittsburgh.

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