William L. Wilkerson, 84, veteran and Beth Steel electrical engineer

December 16, 2004|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,SUN STAFF

William Luther Wilkerson, a retired electrical engineer and sports fan who taught Sunday school for four decades, died of complications from a stroke Friday at his home in Pinehurst. He was 84.

Born at the old Doctors Hospital in the 2700 block of N. Charles St. and raised on Guilford Avenue, Mr. Wilkerson lived a block from old Oriole Park. He developed a lifelong passion for baseball and attended International League and American League games, as well as the 1958 and 1993 All-Star games. A former Northwood Little League coach, he was also a regular at Colts games.

In 1971, he traveled to Miami for Super Bowl V, in which the Colts defeated the Dallas Cowboys, 16-13. After the game, he had his home carpeted in Colts blue.

A 1938 graduate of Polytechnic Institute, Mr. Wilkerson earned an electrical engineering degree from the Johns Hopkins University and immediately joined Bethlehem Steel Corp.'s ship-repair division on Key Highway, in today's Inner Harbor, where his father had been an accounting supervisor. He later earned a law degree from the University of Baltimore.

Mr. Wilkerson was commissioned an Army lieutenant in 1942 and fought in New Guinea and the Philippines. He was awarded the Bronze Star and other decorations. He achieved the rank of major.

After the war, he returned to his job and rose to the post of sales engineer. He retired with 43 years of service shortly after the yard closed and the site became the HarborView residential community.

Mr. Wilkerson had been a member since baptism of the old Waverly Methodist Church on 33rd Street. He taught the men's Bible class for more than 40 years and was a lay leader. When his church closed, he joined Grace United Methodist congregation in Homeland.

"He had a booming voice," said his senior pastor, the Rev. Emora T. Brannan. "But there was nothing pretentious about Bill. If you were walking north on Charles Street, you could hear him if he were walking on a side street."

For the past decade Mr. Wilkerson used a wheelchair because of a stroke, but he made it to services weekly at the church, which created a space for his chair.

"He was a devoted attender," Dr. Brannan said. "He loved music, and one of his last times here he attended a performance of the Verdi Requiem."

A Mason, Mr. Wilkerson belonged to the Grand Lodge, the Boumi Temple and the Scottish Rite.

Active in commercial nautical circles, he was president of the Maritime Square Club in 1975 and belonged to the Baltimore Propeller Club. He was also a member of the Eastern Shore Society of Baltimore City and the Johns Hopkins Club.

Services will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday at Grace United, 5407 N. Charles St.

Survivors include his wife of 54 years, the former Evelyn Sue Lankford; a son, William Lankford Wilkerson of Timonium; a daughter, Sue Wilkerson Kueser of Charlotte, N.C.; and four grandchildren.

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