Paul T. O'Malley, 88, lumber merchant, political club member

January 01, 2003|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,SUN STAFF

Paul T. O'Malley, an industrial lumber merchant who was active in a Northeast Baltimore Democratic political club, died Saturday of respiratory failure at Blakehurst Retirement Community in Towson, where he had lived for the past 18 months. The former Homeland resident was 88.

Mr. O'Malley was a leader in the Coggins-O'Malley political club, an organization long active in the greater Hamilton and Gardenville neighborhoods. He was also former president of P.T. O'Malley Lumber Co.

The Baltimore native was raised on East 22nd Street and graduated from the old Leonard Hall School in Leonardtown.

Family members said Mr. O'Malley began harvesting lumber more than 60 years ago when he started felling trees on a rural Virginia farm inherited by his wife of 64 years, the former Elsie Farinholt, who survives him. His crews cut down pine trees by ax and used mules to haul them to a sawmill in Gloucester County, Va.

Mr. O'Malley had a business and a lumber yard, originally named O'Malley and Garrity, on the site of what is now the Living Classrooms Foundation on Fells Point's Caroline Street. In the late 1930s and 1940s, his lumber arrived in the Baltimore harbor by four-masted sailing schooners.

In 1946, he purchased a Virginia timbering property named Warner Hall, where ancestors of President George Washington are buried. He often took family members to stay at the Colonial home, now a bed-and-breakfast.

During World War II, he manufactured ammunition boxes on Caroline Street. He later supplied heavy-grade planking used for construction of the Bay Bridge, the Baltimore Harbor Tunnel and the refurbishment of the Constellation. He regularly supplied heavy timbers to the old Pennsylvania Railroad, the city of Baltimore and Bethlehem Steel.

In 1957, his business became P.T. O'Malley Lumber Co. and remains in operation on North Point Road. He retired about 25 years ago.

Mr. O'Malley's father, Patrick O'Malley, had been active in Northeast Baltimore Democratic politics since 1900. His son continued the family tradition and was a member of the Coggins-O'Malley organization, a political club that was often at odds with a rival organization run by members of the Curran family, another Northeast Baltimore political clan.

In 1966, under the heading of "New O'Malley Debuts in Politics," The Sun reported that Mr. O'Malley decided to run for state Senate. In that year's primary, he was defeated by J. Joseph Curran and Joseph Manning.

"He knew every policeman in town. When he drove to the old Memorial Stadium, he was escorted into a parking spot right in front, next to the emergency ambulance," said his daughter, Sheila Bertoldi, who lives in Cockeysville. "He grew up in the rough and tumble of old-time ward politics. Along with political chief Jack Pollock, the O'Malleys controlled many jobs."

Mr. O'Malley was an ardent Orioles fan. On Opening Day, April 15, 1954, when the major league Orioles arrived in Baltimore, he had a box adjacent to third base, seats he retained for many years. Mr. O'Malley was a close friend of former Orioles manager Paul Richards.

"He was a great Orioles fan, and I think he had more friends than anyone in Baltimore City," said major league baseball announcer Ernie Harwell.

"He was long a force in the 3rd District," said former state Sen. John A. Pica Jr. "And whenever anyone needed wood for a political lawn sign, we knew where to go."

Mr. O'Malley was former board chairman of the Injured Workers' Insurance Fund. He also was chairman of the agency's building committee and oversaw construction of its Loch Raven Boulevard headquarters.

A Mass of Christian burial was offered yesterday at the Roman Catholic Church of the Nativity in Timonium.

In addition to his wife and daughter, Mr. O'Malley's survivors include two sons, Patrick P. O'Malley of Ruxton and Michael J. O'Malley of Glyndon; three other daughters, Mary Virginia Murphy of Lutherville, Stephanie Biddison of Baltimore and Sherry Dennis of Charleston, S.C.; and 17 grandchildren.

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