Eric El-Amin, 47, adviser to city health commissioner and community leader

April 14, 2002|By Jonathan Bor | Jonathan Bor,SUN STAFF

Eric El-Amin, a religious activist, community leader and former policy adviser in the Baltimore City Health Department, died Friday of a liver ailment at Johns Hopkins Hospital. The Woodlawn resident was 47

Mr. El-Amin was a devoted member of the Muslim American Society, and worked for many years on the public relations staff of Imam W. Deen Muhammed, leader of the religious group. In recent years, he traveled with Muslim-American delegations that met with Pope John Paul II, Patriarch Bartholomew I of the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Grand Mufti of Syria.

He was the recipient of many community and humanitarian awards and served for seven years as co-host on "Dialogue with the African-American Male," a program on WEAA-FM, the Morgan State University radio station. The show focused on such issues as fatherhood, education and community activism.

"He had a way about him," said his brother, Earl El-Amin. "He made everybody feel like they were his best friend. He never told them that. They just felt that way."

Jean Yahudah, a community activist in the Park Heights neighborhood, said Mr. El-Amin counseled troubled youths.

"He was always doing something positive," she said. "He'd be talking to the drug dealers on the street, asking them why they were there, talking to them about cleaning up their behavior."

Born Eric Conrad Couch, he was the son of Flan Couch Jr., a former city police officer who was public safety director and baseball coach at Morgan State University, and Ruby Couch, a neighborhood association leader. Both were graduates of Morgan State University and, said Earl El-Amin, were the moral forces that drove their sons to activism.

He on his father's Little League teams, one of which was the first African-American team to win a state title.

He was a 1972 graduate of Forest Park High School, where he starred in football, basketball and baseball. He received a scholarship to Virginia State University, where he lettered in football and baseball, and transferred to Morgan State University, where he played again for his father and was an All-American catcher.

While in college, he changed his name to El-Amin to reflect his conversion to the Muslim faith. After graduating from Morgan in 1978, he earned a master's degree in criminal justice from Coppin State College.

In 1979, he left Baltimore to work as a high school science teacher in Dallas. After returning to Baltimore in 1983, he worked as a family counselor, a community planner for Northwest Baltimore Corp. and as policy adviser to Baltimore's health commissioner, Dr. Peter L. Beilenson.

He was also a project manager for the Baltimore Urban League and consultant to many community programs, leading workshops on teen pregnancy, family life and public safety.

Services will be at 1:30 p.m. tomorrow at March Funeral Home, 4300 Wabash Ave., Baltimore.

Besides his brother, he is survived by his wife of 23 years, the former Hanan Bethea; a son, Ahmed El-Amin; and his mother, Ruby Couch, all of Baltimore.

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