William Coffield King Jr., 82, founder of Sea King Seafood


William Coffield King Jr., an entrepreneur who founded and built the Sea King Seafood carryout stores popular with many Baltimoreans, died of heart failure Nov. 6 after emergency stomach surgery at Howard County General Hospital. The Ellicott City resident was 82.

Mr. King got his start in the 1950s, at a time when the city's southwestern flank was heavily Catholic, said his son, William C. King 3rd, president of Sea King Inc.

"During those days, you had fish every Friday. Period," he said, making it a good place to be in the seafood business. "Between selling crabs and fish and oysters, it just grew and grew."

Mr. King was born in Columbia, S.C., and was a 4-year-old when his family moved to Burbank, Calif., where his mother worked as a horseback-riding stunt double for stars including Carole Lombard. In 1930, he and his brother appeared with their mother as child extras in The Big Trail, starring John Wayne.

After his graduation from high school, Mr. King joined the merchant marine. He served as an ensign and purser, and traveled extensively to ports in Europe and the Mediterranean.

On shore leave in New York City, he met Rolande Moree. They married in 1944. Mrs. King died in 2003.

Mr. King left the merchant marine in 1945 and worked in the kitchens of several Baltimore restaurants, learning the business at "the school of hard knocks," his son said.

He and his wife soon opened their first restaurant, called Tourist Lunch, where Pratt Street meets Frederick Avenue.

In 1951, he and his brother-in-law Lou Moree launched Bay Island Seafood, a restaurant and carryout that remains in business at the corner of Pratt and Monroe streets. Mr. King sold his share, however, and in 1963 opened his first Sea King Seafood Market in a remodeled gas station on U.S. 40 in Catonsville.

Success led to other Sea King stores in Glen Burnie (1964), Randallstown (1972) and Ellicott City (1975). He and his son opened the Crab Shanty restaurant in 1978 - the family's first sit-down establishment - and Il Giardino in 1990. Both are in Ellicott City.

The Glen Burnie Sea King store has since closed, and Il Giardino was sold last year. The family also operates Pig Pickers Bar-B-Que takeout stores at its Randallstown and Catonsville Sea King locations.

The younger King described his father as a "very, very tough" businessman. "He had a temper. He wanted it done his way, and right or wrong he was still the boss. But he was fair, and well-respected by everyone. He was always there to help, whether an employee or a friend."

Mr. King retired in 1990, the same year the Maryland Restaurant Association named him and his son Restaurateurs of the Year.

He supported and served on the board of Linwood Children's Center, a school in Ellicott City for autistic children. He also was a co-founder of the Howard County Tourism Council.

Mr. King and his son are to be honored in 2006 with the Good Scout Award for Howard County. It's given by the Boy Scouts of America to individuals who provide time and money to community charities.

An avid bow hunter, Mr. King and his son made numerous trips to Alaska, Canada and Maine to hunt caribou, moose, deer, wild sheep and goats. He and his wife enjoyed deep-sea fishing, and he frequently pursued rockfish on the Chesapeake.

Mr. King was an accomplished flyer, with multiengine and instrument ratings. He and a partner launched a short-lived venture called Shenandoah Airlines, with flights from Baltimore-Washington International Airport to Appalachian cities.

He also restored and raced automobiles, including Austin Healeys and Corvettes.

Services were held Friday.

In addition to his son, he is survived by a brother, Charles S. King of Sarasota, Fla.; two grandchildren; and a great-grandson.


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