John Marbury Nelson III, 85, Md. National Corp. vice chairman

November 29, 2003|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

John Marbury Nelson III, former vice chairman of Maryland National Corp. and former president of the family-owned Nelson Co., died of respiratory failure Sunday at Broadmead Retirement Community in Cockeysville. He was 85.

Mr. Nelson, who was born in Newport, R.I., and raised on Beechdale Road in Roland Park, was a direct descendant of Gov. Thomas Nelson Jr., a signer of the Declaration of Independence from Virginia.

Mr. Nelson was a 1936 graduate of the Gilman School and earned a bachelor's degree in English literature in 1940 from Yale University.

He worked briefly at Fidelity Trust Co, and as a police reporter for The Sun before joining the Navy in late 1940. In the early days of World War II, he served aboard minesweepers stationed in Cuba.

From 1942 to 1945, he was assigned as a gunnery officer aboard the USS Savannah, a light cruiser that participated in the invasions of North Africa, Sicily and Italy. He ended his naval service with the rank of lieutenant commander and as a member of the command and staff class at the Naval War College in Newport, R.I.

After returning to Baltimore, he joined the Nelson Co. in Sparrows Point, which had been founded by his father, John Marbury Nelson Jr., in the early 1920s. The company, which is still operating, manufactures wooden pallets for Bethlehem Steel Corp.

He was the company's chairman of the board at the time of its sale in 1968 to Schenuit Industries. He continued working for the company until 1972, when he was named executive vice president and later president of Maryland National Corp., a one-bank holding company, which at the time had assets of more than $4 billion.

In 1976, he was promoted to vice chairman of Maryland National Corp. and simultaneously served as vice chairman of Maryland National Bank. He retired in 1983.

"He came out of private industry, and he was a wonderful addition to Maryland National," said Alan P. Hoblitzell Jr., former chairman of Maryland National Corp. "He was wise and mature and brought a different perspective to the bank. He also had terrific business acumen."

"I greatly admired John, who was an extremely kind, friendly and generous individual," Mr. Hoblitzell added. "He enjoyed working with people and was well-liked throughout the bank."

"One of his principles was never to give credit to himself but rather to others," said Robert D.H. Harvey, retired chairman of the board and chief executive officer of Maryland National Bank and Maryland National Corp.

During his professional life, Mr. Nelson had served as a director of American General Insurance Co., the Nelson Co., Fidelity and Deposit Co. of Maryland, Savings Bank of Baltimore, Maryland Realty Trust and the Baltimore Association of Commerce.

His service on charitable and educational boards included the Johns Hopkins University, Johns Hopkins Hospital, Union Memorial Hospital, Church Home and Hospital and the Robert Garrett Fund for Surgical Treatment of Children.

He also had been on the board of the Maryland Hospital Association, Maryland Children's Aid Society and Gilman School. He was a trustee and president from 1964 to 1969 of the Peabody Institute.

A communicant of St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Garrison Forest, Mr. Nelson was a former member of the executive council of the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland.

"He was always a good, solid trustee," said Edward K. Dunn Jr., former chairman of the board of trustees of the Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions.

Mr. Nelson's well-known amiability was a plus when it came to fund raising for the many organizations he served.

"Because John was such a nice man, it was difficult to ever turn him down," Mr. Hoblitzell said.

Mr. Nelson lived for many years in Stevenson before moving to Cross Keys. Since 1999, he had resided at Broadmead.

An accomplished yachtsman, Mr. Nelson enjoyed sailing aboard the Penrith, a 36-foot Grand Banks trawler. The vessel took its name from a town in northern England where his ancestors had lived before immigrating to Virginia in the early 1700s.

"When he was 78, he did a solo voyage from Oxford to Martha's Vineyard and back," said his daughter, Daisy Nelson White of Owings Mills. "He was sailing to the Vineyard for a niece's wedding but managed to get there three days after the wedding."

He was a member of the Maryland Club, Green Spring Valley Hunt Club and the Center Club.

Mr. Nelson was married in 1942 to the former Virginia Lovell, who died in 1994.

Services will be held at 11 a.m. today at St. Thomas Episcopal Church, 232 St. Thomas' Lane, Garrison Forest.

In addition to his daughter, Mr. Nelson is survived by three sons, Jerry Nelson of Boston, Page Nelson of Berkeley, Calif., and Douglas Nelson of Cockeysville; and 11 grandchildren.

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