James M. Barry, 92, member of Baltimore County Council

September 28, 2006|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,SUN REPORTER

James Michael Barry, a retired Baltimore County real estate tax assessments supervisor who represented Edgemere and Dundalk on the Baltimore County Council in the late 1950s, died of a heart attack Thursday at his Bel Air home. He was 92.

Born in Baltimore and raised on Curley Street, he was a graduate of St. Elizabeth of Hungary parochial school. As a youth, he delivered newspapers and was a messenger for an advertising agency, and during the Depression was an American Oil Co. truck driver and union organizer.

He moved to Edgemere in 1944, and owned and operated an Amoco filing station and adjacent pharmacy on North Point Road. He later owned Barry's Liquors on Wise Avenue.

Active in Democratic politics, he was named to the Baltimore County Liquor License Commission in 1950 and became its chairman two years later. Newspaper articles said he was a close associate of Michael "Iron Mike" Birmingham and H. Street Baldwin, county political leaders of the era.

In 1957, with the launch of home-rule government, he won election to the fledgling County Council by a margin of 30 votes.

He became chairman of the county's Democratic Central Committee in 1958 and worked that year in the J. Millard Tawes gubernatorial campaign and in 1960 for the presidential campaign of John F. Kennedy.

"My father was present with Mr. Kennedy when he dedicated Maryland's portion of what was called the Northeast Expressway," said a son, James C. Barry of Bel Air, of the ceremony days before the president was assassinated in Dallas.

The son added that his father toured Maryland with Kennedy and later was "friendly" with Spiro T. Agnew, the Republican who rose from county executive to governor and vice president before resigning in disgrace. "But he was a staunch Democrat."

In 1959, Governor Tawes named Mr. Barry chairman of the Board of Appeals of the Department of Employment Security. He resigned that post to become the county's supervisor of assessments of Baltimore County in 1966 and held the position until 1980.

Newspaper articles called the assessments position "one of the most politically powerful jobs in the county" because of the 33 assessors on staff who served at the pleasure of the supervisor.

Mr. Barry was a charter member of the Edgemere Moose Lodge and belonged to the Bethlehem Chapter of Knights of Columbus.

He loved fishing in the Chesapeake Bay and enjoyed socializing at political events.

His wife of 35 years, the former Edna D. Lund, died in 1970. In 1979, he married Patricia Etter. She died in 1997.

A Mass of Christian burial was offered Tuesday at St. Margaret Roman Catholic Church in Bel Air, where he had been a member since moving to Harford County 18 years ago.

In addition to his son, survivors include three stepchildren, Jennifer Lemmon of Pylesville, James Gambrell of Baltimore and Patricia Rogers of Joppa; a brother, Patrick Vincent Barry of Stewartstown, Pa.; a sister, Veronica Barry Snyder of Edgemere; two grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren. Another son, Michael Wayne Barry, died in 1998.

jacques.kelly@baltsun.com

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