Douglas S. Tawney, 80, recreation and parks director for Baltimore

August 27, 2002|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Douglas S. Tawney, retired director of the city's Department of Recreation and Parks who had been Memorial Stadium's first full-time manager, died of renal failure Friday at Stella Maris Hospice in Timonium. He was 80 and lived in Towson.

Mr. Tawney, whose city career spanned more than 40 years, was born and raised in Overlea. After graduating in 1939 from City College, he went to work as a clerk for the Park Police Division of the Department of Recreation and Parks.

He was attending the Johns Hopkins University when he enlisted in the Army in 1942. He fought with the 9th Army at the Battle of the Bulge and was discharged in 1945.

He returned to work with the Recreation and Parks Department, holding a variety of administrative assignments while attending the University of Maryland Law School at night. He earned his degree in 1952 and became a member of the Maryland Bar Association but never practiced law.

Mr. Tawney was 32 when he was named the first manager of the recently completed Memorial Stadium in 1955.

He brought patience and a sense of determination to the job, especially when dealing with the delicate balancing act of negotiations with the Orioles and Colts and fulfilling the needs of any other organization that used the 33rd Street stadium.

"`Put it up, tear it down, put it up again,'" might well be the rhythm of life for Douglas S. Tawney, the man responsible for seeing that the show -- football, baseball, concert or ice extravaganza -- has a place to go on," said The Sun in a 1956 profile.

"Looking about him, the slight, bespectacled Stadium manager scrubbed his perspiring face with a handkerchief and said, `It's a tough job, but we ought to see daylight by nightfall,'" according to the profile.

Mr. Tawney remained stadium manager until 1962, when he was named the city's assistant superintendent of recreation and parks.

In 1963, he was promoted to assistant director, then director, of the Civic Center.

He was brought back by the Parks Board in 1966 to head recreation and parks. During his tenure as director, he was responsible for the expansion of parks and recreational facilities, including recreation centers, pools, zoo exhibits, baseball fields and tennis courts.

"I always prided myself on high-level maintenance of such facilities and of never having exceeded my annual budget. I spent city funds as carefully as I would have spent my own," Mr. Tawney wrote in an autobiographical sketch.

As a member of Mayor William Donald Schaefer's Cabinet, he undertook many projects, including the acquisition of the Babe Ruth House and the location and construction of a permanent home on Falls Road for the Baltimore Streetcar Museum. He also was a design consultant for the city's first Convention Center and took over operation and maintenance of the vessels that made up the Maritime Museum in the Inner Harbor.

"He was the best director of recreation and parks that I ever knew. He was a lawyer, engineer and an administrator, and could do anything. He was a very competent guy that you liked to be around," said Mr. Schaefer. "He was innovative, a good maintenance man, and having the parks look good was always a major priority with Doug."

Christopher C. Hartman, a public relations consultant and chairman of the first three City Fairs, recalled Mr. Tawney's adeptness with budget cuts. "He was a dynamic leader, and when everyone was told to cut budgets, he could cut and cut and still deliver services. He realized the importance of parks to the residents of the city," he said.

"He was a delight to work with and he never saw an impediment that he couldn't defeat. He was extremely positive and focused. He could look at a contract, cut through the gibberish and get right to the point. With Doug, the city always came first."

Before retiring in 1982, Mr. Tawney was given the additional assignment of straightening out the tangled financial affairs of the Baltimore Convention Center. He also established an independent Baltimore Convention Bureau.

In retirement, he served on the board of the Maryland Science Center and as a volunteer with Baltimore County public schools, teaching reading and math.

Services will be held at 10 a.m. today at Ruck Towson Funeral Home, 1050 York Road.

Mr. Tawney is survived by a nephew, Donald B. Tawney Jr. of Elberton, Ga.

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