Herbert L. Fedder, an activist for the disabled who led what is now The Arc of Baltimore, died Thursday of kidney failure at the Gilchrist Center for Hospice Care in Towson. The Owings Mills resident was 83.
The executive director from 1967 to 1985 of what was then called the Baltimore Association for Retarded Citizens, he introduced the agency's first group home to a residential neighborhood.
Born in Baltimore and raised above his parents' West 23rd Street grocery store, he was a 1936 City College graduate. His studies at the University of Baltimore were interrupted by World War II and his service in the Army Air Forces.
After his return to Baltimore, he was a founding member of the local office of the American Veterans Committee, a national veterans organization dedicated to civil rights, a guaranteed minimum wage and the expansion of public works projects to aid the poor. He also was a former Maryland chairman of the Americans for Democratic Action and was the state campaign manager for Oregon Sen. Wayne Morse's unsuccessful bid in 1960 to win the Democratic presidential nomination.
Mr. Fedder opened an accounting office in downtown Baltimore in the 1950s. He was also treasurer of the N.H. Yates & Co. plumbing supply house on West Cold Spring Lane.
Family members said that he became involved in the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s. He joined African-Americans in restaurant and lunch counter sit-ins at the old Chesapeake Restaurant at Charles and Lanvale streets and Hutzler's department store on Howard Street.
"His passion for social justice led him to a new cause in 1967. He went looking for a different job and found it," said his son, Steven K. Fedder of Baltimore. "He was ready to follow up on his beliefs."
That year he became the executive director of the Baltimore Association for Retarded Citizens. At that time, BARC dealt with fewer than 300 people on a budget of less than $300,000 a year. By the time he retired in 1985, BARC served more than 1,400 people with developmental disabilities and had a $14 million budget.
Under his stewardship, BARC established what the agency said was Maryland's first group home for retarded persons on Ridgewood Road in Roland Park. It also founded janitorial and landscape maintenance companies to provide employment for the developmentally disabled and won commercial and governmental contracts. BARC also established more than 50 residences with varying degrees of supervision to allow clients to live fully independent lives.
"He was originally hired because of his background in accounting and business," said Stephen H. Morgan, current executive director of The Arc of Baltimore. "But in his heart, he was an ardent advocate. He saw the struggle for people with disabilities as the next civil rights movement."
Mr. Morgan said Mr. Fedder guided the organization from a small, financially struggling group and built it into a well-known, highly regarded agency.
"He took great pride in building the institution," his son said. "His greatest satisfaction came from the relationships he built with the people he served. His door was always open - to clients, parents and relatives."
He said that after his father's retirement, his BARC clients continued to call his father at home - to ask for help, to see how he was doing or just to say hello.
Services were held Friday.
In addition to his son, Mr. Fedder is survived by his wife of 30 years, the former Carol Parr; another son, Richard S. Fedder of Carbondale, Ill.; a daughter, Lisa K. Fedder of South Orange, N.J.; three stepsons, George F. Betz, and Robert T. Betz, both of Baltimore, and John Betz of Snowshoe, W.Va; two stepdaughters, Carol Jean Lidard and Cindi L. Trout, both of Baltimore; a brother, Dr. Donald O. Fedder of Baltimore; and nine grandchildren. A previous marriage to the former Elayne Gottesman ended in divorce.