Leroy E. Taylor Sr., 91, activist and bail bondsman in Dundalk

July 07, 2002|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Leroy Edward Taylor Sr., a former Dundalk bail bondsman and rental agent who favored fancy Stetsons, highly polished leather boots and El Producto coronas, died Monday of complications from a stroke at Franklin Square Hospital Center. He was 91.

A resident of Beach Drive in Dundalk for 62 years, Mr. Taylor was born in Topeka, Miss. In the 1920s, he enlisted in the Navy.

"He served aboard submarines until being discharged on a medical disability because of seasickness," said his daughter, Elizabeth Lookingland of Dundalk.

Mr. Taylor moved to Baltimore in 1930 and went to work as an orderly at the Henry Phipps Psychiatric Clinic of the Johns Hopkins Hospital.

It was while working there that he met Hazel Staucliff, who worked as a waitress in the clinic's dining room. After a nine-week whirlwind courtship, the couple married in 1930. She died in 1993.

In 1936, Mr. Taylor joined Bethlehem Steel Corp's Sparrows Point plant, where he worked as a tram rail operator until 1955, when he quit to establish a bail-bond business that bore his name in the Dunkirk Building on German Hill Road. He later added a property rental agency and car wash to his business portfolio. He retired in 1983.

"He was quite an entrepreneur," said his daughter.

For years, Mr. Taylor had been active in Democratic politics, working in campaigns for Baltimore County executives Michael J. "Iron Mike" Birmingham and Christian Kahl, and for state Sen. Roy N. Staten, the former Dundalk political boss and state Senate majority leader.

During the 1940s and 1950s, Mr. Taylor served as a clerk of the court, deputy sheriff and constable in Dundalk.

Known in eastern Baltimore County for being a stylish dresser, Mr. Taylor was easily recognizable by his ever-present Stetsons, Western-style dress, starched shirts and ties, and highly buffed leather boots. He was seldom without an El Producto corona, his favorite cigar, which he smoked until the end of his life.

"It was Mike Birmingham who gave him his first cowboy Stetson, and he was wearing boots before anyone else. Today, they're common, but not back in the 1950s," said a son, Leroy E. Taylor Jr. of Dundalk.

"Roy was always a perfect gentleman. He was a very quiet and easy-going guy who cared a lot for his community and dressed better than most of the Dundalk lawyers," said Del. John S. Arnick with a laugh.

"He'd bail out kids on his own and then would try and help them. He didn't just take the money and run, he'd work with these kids," said Mr. Arnick.

He also recalled his gentle mentoring.

"When I was a young lawyer, he'd give me tips. `Don't do this, do that.' `Try this and forget that,' " he said.

"He was always very understanding and had an answer for everything, but only if you asked," said his daughter.

When it came to managing his tenants, he'd sometimes pay the rent rather than force them out onto the streets. "He was very giving and just didn't like putting people out," said his son.

"I've known him since the 1960s, and he was always a very, very kind person. He had a good heart and was good to so many people," said state Sen. Norman R. Stone Jr., a Dundalk Democrat.

During World War II, he was an air-raid warden, and after the war ended, he was one of the founders of the Wise Avenue Volunteer Fire Department.

Mr. Taylor was a member of the First Lutheran Church of Gray Manor in Dundalk.

Services were Friday.

In addition to his son and daughter, Mr. Taylor is survived by another son, Edward Leroy Taylor of Cocoa Beach, Fla.; a sister, Ellen McDonald of Huntsville, Ala.; 12 grandchildren; 21 great-grandchildren; and seven great-great-grandchildren.

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