Thomas W. Spalding, 78, archdiocese historian

January 31, 2003|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,SUN STAFF

Brother Thomas W. Spalding, author of a history of the Archdiocese of Baltimore and member of a Roman Catholic religious congregation, died of a heart attack Tuesday at his home in Louisville, Ky. He was 78.

His work, The Premier See: A History of the Archdiocese of Baltimore, 1789-1989, won the Maryland Historical Society History Book Prize in 1990.

Born in Bardstown, Ky., he was a distant relative of Martin John Spalding, a mid-19th- century Baltimore archbishop whose biography he also wrote.

He joined the Baltimore-based Congregation of the Brothers of St. Francis Xavier in 1942, and subsequently earned a bachelor of arts degree and a doctorate in history from Catholic University of America in Washington, as well as a master's degree from Fordham University.

"Baltimore was his second home," said Dr. Henry Spalding, a brother and former Bardstown mayor. "In his research, he dug out all the details. He was a great believer in the truth, whether it hurt or not."

He taught history and Spanish at Xaverian College in Silver Spring from the 1950s through 1970 and at Louisville's Spalding University from 1970 to 1997.

"He was hard-working and absolutely dedicated to the history and culture of the church in Baltimore," said Robert J. Brugger, the Johns Hopkins University Press history and regional books editor.

About 20 years ago, Cardinal Lawrence Shehan commissioned him to write the story of the Baltimore Archdiocese - the first in the nation, which for a time encompassed Virginia, the Carolinas, Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi.

"There was no contract," Brother Spalding wrote in his preface to the book, which he said took two years of full-time work and nearly a dozen Baltimore summers to complete. "I ... was given full freedom to tell the story of the archdiocese as I saw it."

"One of his heroes was [Archbishop] Michael J. Curley," said the Rev. Michael Roach, pastor of St. Bartholomew's Church in Manchester and faculty member at Mount St. Mary's College in Emmitsburg, noting that Brother Spalding had singled Curley out for speaking out for racial understanding and choosing to live in poverty.

In 1995, Brother Spalding co-wrote St. Vincent dePaul of Baltimore: The Story of a People and their Home, a history of the Front Street parish in downtown Baltimore. He also wrote numerous scholarly articles.

A Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 11 a.m. today at Bardstown's St. Joseph Cathedral.

He is also survived by another brother, Dr. Charles Spalding of Bardstown.

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