W. Wallace Lanahan Jr., 89, banker active in community


W. Wallace Lanahan Jr., a retired investment banker and civic leader who headed the Johns Hopkins Hospital board and led an unsuccessful effort in the late 1970s to retain local ownership of the Baltimore Orioles, died of complications from Parkinson's disease yesterday at the Gilchrist Center for Hospice Care. The Ruxton resident was 89.

Chairman of the Greater Baltimore Committee from 1977 to 1979, he led the United Way of Central Maryland and the Roman Catholic Cardinal's Campaign during his decades of community service.

"He was a wise, thoughtful man who always had a slight smile on his face," said Dr. Richard S. Ross, former dean of the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. "He was a great supporter of and help to Hopkins."

Born in Baltimore, he was a graduate of St. Paul's School in Concord, N.H. and earned a bachelor's degree at Princeton University.

Mr. Lanahan worked as a shipping clerk for a steamship firm, the Grace Line in Santiago, Chile, before enlisting in the Army and serving as a paratrooper during World War II in Italy, southern France, the Ardennes, Rhineland and Central Europe. Injured in Italy, he received the Purple Heart and left military service as a captain.

After the war he joined the State Department and was vice consul in Bahia, Brazil. While on a social visit to Santiago, Chile, he met his future wife, Betty Lake, while playing tennis. They remained married for 57 years until her 1999 death.

"My father was a man of few words and had a sweet nature about him," said his son, W. Wallace Lanahan III of Ruxton. "He was interested in the future and was forward-thinking. He was not afraid to change."

He returned to Baltimore in 1948 and worked initially at Merrill Lynch as an account executive. In 1953 he became a partner in Stein Brothers & Boyce, an investment banking firm on Calvert Street in downtown Baltimore. He served as the firm's president from 1965 to 1970 and retired in 1972 as senior vice president of its successor, Bache & Co.

His friends said Mr. Lanahan was one of Baltimore's most active public citizens and volunteered his time on numerous boards.

"He was a such a kind and modest person, you could scarcely believe he was a banker," said civic leader and former department store executive Walter Sondheim. "He was a very thoughtful man."

Mr. Lanahan was a past general chairman and president of the United Way of Central Maryland and was a commissioner of the Maryland Port Authority. He was also a past chairman of what is now the Mount Washington Pediatric Hospital.

He also sat on the board of Goucher College and was a past chairman of the Hopkins Hospital board, as well as a trustee of the Johns Hopkins University and Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center.

He sat on the boards of the Goldseker Foundation, the W. Alton Jones Cell Science Center at Lake Placid, N.Y., and the Baltimore Orioles.

In 1979, Mr. Lanahan headed a local effort, known as the Mayor's Committee to Save the Orioles for Baltimore, to keep the sports franchise in local ownership after its owner, Jerold C. Hoffberger, put the team up for sale. News articles reported that Mr. Lanahan and his group were, at times, close to raising the needed capital, but the team was eventually sold to Washington attorney Edward Bennett Williams.

Mr. Lanahan was also an enthusiastic steeplechase horse owner.

"He had great beginner's luck by winning the Virginia Gold Cup in 1976 with Semington and winning it again in 1979 with Sam Son of a Gun," his son said. "He loved the camaraderie of fellow owners, trainers and riders."

Sam Son of a Gun won the My Lady's Manor point-to-point race in four consecutive years beginning in 1981, the year he was named Timber Horse of the Year by the National Steeplechase Association. At one time Mr. Lanahan owned Sugar Bee, a horse that went on to win the Maryland Hunt Cup under other ownership.

A Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 11 a.m. Tuesday at the Shrine of the Sacred Heart, Smith and Greely avenues, Mount Washington.

In addition to his son, survivors include another son, Michael B. Lanahan of Dallas; a daughter, Barbara L. Mauro of Washington, D.C.; and six grandchildren.


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