Edward Ailor Jr., 98, veteran, jewelry salesman, chauffeur


Edward Ailor Jr., a retired jewelry salesman and chauffeur for city officials, died of cancer Sunday at Stella Maris Hospice in Timonium. He was 98 and lived for many years on Payson Street.

Born in Baltimore and raised in Sandtown-Winchester, he was among the first students to transfer from the old Colored High School to Frederick Douglass High School, which opened in 1924. While in school, he played football, baseball and basketball.

"Cab Calloway was one of his classmates," said his son, Edward Ailor III. "He believed it was an honor for black people to get a high school of their own."

As a young man, Mr. Ailor was a waiter and table captain. He worked at the Suburban Club in Pikesville and also the Maryland racing circuit in the Pimlico, Laurel and Bowie clubhouses for the New York-based sports caterer Harry M. Stevens.

At the beginning of the Social Security Administration in the mid-1930s, he became a clerk at the Candler Building on Pratt Street in downtown Baltimore.

During World War II, he served in the Army in England in a transportation unit known as the Red Ball Express, which kept troops supplied with gasoline, food and ammunition.

"My father was then 37 years old and they called him Pops," his son said yesterday. "He was befriended by a family in Wales and they corresponded."

The story of his letter-writing to the family, the Bowen-Braverys, was detailed in a 1986 Evening Sun article, "Friends -- across a wide sea, across 41 years."

After the war, Mr. Ailor learned to drive and became a route salesman for the old Leon Levi jewelers at Lexington and Eutaw streets.

"He was the first black route salesman they had," his son said. "He had customers all over the city. His customers bought jewelry, irons and home appliances on time, and he collected payments weekly."

Mr. Ailor also worked as a waiter at the Center Club in downtown Baltimore in the 1960s.

"He was an affable man, full of personality," said Frank M. Conaway, clerk of the Circuit Court for Baltimore City. "He was always nattily dressed and was the epitome of sartorial splendor."

In his later years, Mr. Ailor became a chauffeur for city solicitors George Russell and Benjamin Brown.

Throughout his life, Mr. Ailor was a sports fan. He avidly followed the Orioles and Colts and, while in his 90s, attended Ravens games. He also never gave up his affection for thoroughbred racing -- he attended the Kentucky Derby while on assignment in the Army during World War II when he was stationed in the U.S.

In later years, he took bus trips to the Belmont Stakes in New York and was a regular at Maryland's tracks.

"He wasn't a big gambler and never bet the house," his son said. "He just enjoyed the game."

Mr. Ailor was a longtime member of Metropolitan United Methodist Church. He was also an honorary member of a social club, the Esquires.

His wife of 52 years, the former Corrie Carter, died in 1985.

Plans for a memorial service were incomplete yesterday.

In addition to his son, survivors include another son, Cordell Ailor of Baltimore; a sister, Hilda A. Carter, also of Baltimore; two grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren.


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