George Jude, 95, first black member of planning board

March 12, 2006|By JILL ROSEN | JILL ROSEN,SUN REPORTER

George L. Jude, a retired advertising executive and political and community activist who became the first African-American to serve on the city's planning commission, died of heart failure Monday at Keswick Multi-Care Center. The West Baltimore resident was 95.

Mr. Jude was born in Richmond, Va., to a baker and a home laundress. His grandmother was a freed slave. He enjoyed pointing out that his earliest business venture was at age 9, delivering in a wagon clothing that his mother had laundered.

At 18, Mr. Jude moved to New York City to become a railway porter at Grand Central Terminal, rooming with the chief "redcap" at a brownstone in Harlem and learning about work ethics and etiquette.

He eventually became an insurance salesman with the African-American-owned North Carolina Mutual Insurance Co., and moved to Baltimore, where he married the former Vashti Josephine Minor, a teacher and administrator.

For 10 years, Mr. Jude managed Charm Centre, a Pennsylvania Avenue women's boutique owned by Victorine Q. Adams, a former City Council member.

In 1959, he became an advertising executive for the Baltimore Afro-American, where he worked until he retired in the late 1970s.

Though Mr. Jude made strides in his career, his community activism was, in a way, his true life's work, his family said.

In the 1950s and '60s, he worked with the Metro Democrats to challenge segregated political machines and supported black candidates for local offices - including Mrs. Adams, the first African-American woman elected to the Baltimore City Council.

He picketed and arranged sit-ins at segregated city restaurants.

"That really was the ushering in of public accommodation for African-Americans in Baltimore City," said his daughter, Elise Jude Mason of Baltimore. "He and those who were with him did make a difference in the city."

In 1968, Mayor Thomas J. D'Alesandro III appointed Mr. Jude to the Planning Commission; he was the first African-American to serve on the board. Mayor William Donald Schaefer chose Mr. Jude to lead the commission in 1976, at a time when he was able to preside over such city redevelopment projects as the building of Charles Center and Harbor Place.

"It was a great opportunity for an African-American in Baltimore City to be involved in extremely important projects that would change the city remarkably forever," Mrs. Mason said.

After racial unrest in the 1960s, Mr. Jude established a dialogue between two Episcopal churches in the city, the predominantly black St. James and the predominantly white Church of the Redeemer, figuring that if the people got to know one another, they would realize they weren't so different after all. Soon families from both churches were inviting families from the other to their homes for dinner.

"To actually go to someone else's home, sit at their dining room table and eat a meal - it literally broke down barriers," said Mrs. Mason.

Because her father was a great believer in the old saying, "An idle mind is the devil's workshop," Mrs. Mason said, he worked hard to develop healthy activities for young people.

On the board of the Druid Hill YMCA and as a founder of the Greater Mondawin Coordinating Council, Mr. Jude organized youth swimming and recreational programs.

"He believed when you have nothing constructive to do, the lure of negative activities and behavior takes over your life," said Mrs. Mason.

In an opinion article for The Evening Sun in 1989, Mr. Jude lamented the region's "alarming deterioration in human values and the increase in major crime," writing that these conditions were "more threatening to the future progress" of Baltimore than the city's physical deterioration, which had partly been addressed with the revitalization of Charles Center and the Inner Harbor.

He called for the "next phase of the Baltimore Renaissance ... a human renaissance."

"I am extremely concerned that rather than finding constructive solutions to these conditions, we are passing them on to our children and grandchildren," he wrote.

A Mass of Resurrection will be offered at noon Tuesday at St. James Episcopal Church, 829 N. Arlington Ave.

In addition to his wife of 65 years and daughter, survivors include another daughter, Laura Jude Gardner of Baltimore; and a grandson.

jill.rosen@baltsun.com

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