Charles Fisher, 76, military history professor

January 29, 2004|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Charles Robert Fisher, a retired professor of military history whose colorful lectures brought to life for generations of University of Baltimore students not only the diplomatic and political events that lead to wars but also the traits of those who fought them, died Monday of complications from a stroke at a hospital in Mechanicsburg, Pa. The Taneytown resident was 76.

"He was a great influence on his students and not only a credit to the military but to his profession. He brought a unique approach to history, and his lectures were always excellent," said H. Mebane Turner, former president of the university.

"He gave his courses the personal touch. He knew all the anecdotes and stories of the generals, armies, as well as the noncombatants," said Fred W. Hopkins, a retired colleague and former professor of Colonial history.

"He had a devoted following of students who appreciated his expertise. He became a UB legend, and if you came here, you had to take a course with Bob Fisher," said Thomas M. Jacklin, who teaches American history.

Mr. Fisher, who was known as Bob, was born in Detroit and raised in Washington, where he graduated from high school. He was drafted in 1946 and served a year in the Army Air Forces. Then he studied at the Marion Military Institute in Marion, Ala., and graduated in 1951 from The Citadel in Charleston, S.C.

Commissioned as a second lieutenant in 1951, he served for two years with the Army's 24th Infantry Division in Korea, and subsequently served for 37 years in the Pennsylvania and Maryland National Guard.

After studying in Munich, Germany, for a year, he was hired in 1957 on a temporary basis at the University of Baltimore. "That temporary job turned into one that lasted for 30 years," said his wife, the former Patricia E. Crowe.

Mr. Fisher -- who also earned a master's degree in history in 1978 from the University of Maryland, College Park -- seemed to revel in historical minutiae, which he happily incorporated into his courses on the Civil War, Reconstruction, World Wars I and II, and Nazi Germany.

"He was always able to provide the social and political upheaval preceding a war and then focus on the military campaign and weaponry," said Alfred H. Guy, a professor of philosophy at UB. "He was a remarkably kind and self-effacing gentleman of the old school."

With his ruddy complexion, carefully combed-back gray hair and tweedy jackets, Mr. Fisher was the epitome of the college professor.

"He reigned and held court for many a year," Mr. Jacklin said, describing the book-filled office in the Academic Center Building that Mr. Fisher transformed into a mini-museum with wartime artifacts that included cannonballs, swords, shells for weapons, and even a spiked Prussian World War I helmet.

He especially enjoyed taking his students on field trips to Fort Meade, where they observed weapons being used in re-enactments, as well as to the battlefields at Antietam and Gettysburg.

"He had an interesting teaching method. He didn't sit behind a desk and act like he was much better than the students. He loved making history human for students," Dr. Hopkins said.

Mr. Fisher had also owned and operated a general store in Harney that sold gas and groceries from 1974 to 1984.

He and his wife lived at Selldon Farm, which dates to the 1820s and overlooks the Monocacy River.

In the 1980s, when the Army Corps of Engineers planned to dam the river, Mr. Fisher organized the Save the Monocacy Association and later was a member of the Monocacy River Advisory Board.

Mr. Fisher was a member of Taneytown Baptist Church, 4150 Sells Mill Road, where services will be held at 11 a.m. tomorrow.

In addition to his wife of 47 years, he is survived by two sons, Frederick W. Fisher of Frederick and Thomas G. Fisher of Marshall, Va.; a daughter, Alice M. Zent of Leesburg, Va.; and four grandchildren.

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