George Baumann, 74, anchorman, reporter

April 09, 2003|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

George Baumann, who became one of Maryland's best-known broadcast journalists during a 38-year career at WJZ-TV, collapsed at his Timonium home from a heart attack Monday night and was pronounced dead at St. Joseph Medical Center. He was 74.

Mr. Baumann had been a news reporter, co-anchor and host of the interview program Eyewitness Newsmakers, and for nearly a decade before his 1998 retirement had entertained and informed viewers with his popular "Maryland by George" features on subjects that took him across the state.

"George was the consummate professional in every regard. He was meticulous, respected and revered," said station colleague Richard Sher. "And he covered everything from [Spiro] Agnew to the zoo, and everything in between."

FOR THE RECORD - The obituary of George Baumann in yesterday's editions of The Sun misstated the name of one university he attended. It was West Virginia University.
The Sun regrets the error.

Born E. George Baumann in Baltimore, he was raised on 38th Street in Waverly and attended City College.

He left high school at age 17 to serve in the Marine Corps at the end of World War II, then returned home and earned his high school equivalency certificate. He later attended the University of West Virginia and University of Maryland.

As a youth, he had worked as a soda jerk in a York Road drugstore with boyhood friend Vince Bagli, who later became a respected WBAL-TV sportscaster.

"In those days in the early 1950s, I was working at WBMD-AM Radio at Eager and North Charles streets, and he used to come in and hang around," Mr. Bagli said yesterday. "He was fascinated by what was going on. George was a nice, polite fellow and soon got a job as a disc jockey and general staff announcer."

Mr. Baumann was hired in 1955 by WFBR-AM, where he was host of Moonlight in Maryland, an evening show, and the station's news director. He remained until 1960, when he took the job of reporter and co-anchor of the noon news at WJZ (Channel 13).

"The reason he went into television was because there was more money there than in radio," said his wife of 50 years, the former Barbara Longest.

Mr. Baumann was the embodiment of the erudite anchorman. He became known for his unflappable manner and avuncular style.

Marty Bass, a WJZ-TV personality and colleague for many years, said, "With that buttoned-down look, perfect voice, and his skill as a journalist, he was the total package."

"He was a man of uncommon decency and grace, and that's what he brought to this business. He always knew when to ask the right question," said Ron Matz, another station colleague. "Thirty-eight years at one station speaks volumes about the man and his career. He really became part of the fabric of the community."

Mr. Baumann was also respected for his preparation for assignments as well as his fairness in reporting.

"Of all the reporters who covered City Hall, none was more well-versed in the budget than George. He made it his business to get a copy and then attend all the hearings," said former Baltimore Mayor Thomas J. D'Alesandro III. "When he came in to ask me questions about it, he was prepared. He was like an additional councilman."

He also relied at times on Mr. Baumann's recollection for figures to help answer questions.

"We'd be in some neighborhood talking about a project, and I'd ask, `Hey George, what are the figures for this?'" Mr. D'Alesandro said. "His death is a great loss. He was a great ambassador of the journalistic community."

"He always reported it straight and never let his personal feelings intervene into his work," said former Gov. Marvin Mandel. "I always felt free to talk to him, because I knew what he reported was what I had said. He didn't try to make the news, he just reported it."

Mr. Baumann was also understanding if a guest made a flub during a taping.

"He asked me to recite the Pledge of Allegiance, and when we were done, he said, `Hey Don, you missed a line.' He could have put me on the air and embarrassed me, but he didn't," said Maryland Comptroller William Donald Schaefer, former Baltimore mayor and governor. "He's a man TV is going to miss."

Mr. Baumann seemed to hit his mark when he wandered the back roads in search of historical sites and wayside characters for his feature "Maryland by George." It had its birth in 1991 as "Annapolis by George," and expanded its horizons under the subsequent name.

"He was a poor man's version of Charles Kuralt," said Mrs. Baumann, referring to the CBS correspondent who wandered the United States in a recreational vehicle in search of off-beat stories.

"He really was a very private and introverted person in his private life. He didn't believe in self-promotion," his wife said.

Mr. Baumann was a communicant of Trinity Episcopal Church in Towson.

Services are private.

Mr. Baumann also is survived by three daughters, Lisa E. Baumann of Timonium, Laura J. Carrell of White Hall and Georgianna V. Santucci of Sparks; a brother, Paul A. Baumann of Rosedale; and three sisters, Doris Bodecker of Orlando, Fla., and Betty Bonnett and Jean McKelvey, both of Baltimore. Another daughter, Jennifer M. Baumann, died in January.

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