Harold J. Jennifer Jr.

Age 86 Army veteran was executive director of the Baltimore Civic Center and later worked as a real estate agent.

August 18, 2008|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,Sun Reporter

Harold Jones Jennifer Jr., former executive director of the Baltimore Civic Center, died Tuesday at Charlotte Hall Veterans Home in St. Mary's County of complications resulting from myelofibrosis. He was 86.

Mr. Jennifer ran the arena during a time some consider its heyday, from 1966 to 1976. Baltimore had a professional basketball team during many of those years, and the arena at that time was a hot spot for national recording acts.

It was Mr. Jennifer's job to promote the bookings.

"That was important, especially at the time when they weren't a lot of African-Americans getting appointed to those positions. It was a big deal," said Mr. Jennifer's son, Clinton Jennifer of Columbia.

Added Mr. Jennifer's sister, Jean Brooks of Washington, "He talked about the job. Harold has always liked people. And he was an extremely smart guy. He was the most wonderful brother in the world."

Mr. Jennifer was born in Washington and graduated from the District's Dunbar High School, where he lettered in football, basketball and baseball, in 1939. He enrolled at Springfield College in Massachusetts that fall and played basketball and baseball.

While on break from Springfield, Mr. Jennifer met Ruth Riley on the Howard University campus. The two married in 1944, a year after Mr. Jennifer was called to active duty in the Army.

Mr. Jennifer spent four years in the service, where he organized recreation programs at Fort McClellan, Ala., Fort Lewis, Wash., and other bases. He rose to the rank of second lieutenant.

After his military service, Mr. Jennifer returned to Springfield and graduated in 1947 with a physical education degree. A year later, Mr. Jennifer earned a master's degree in education from the school before moving to Baltimore with his wife.

Mr. Jennifer worked as the physical education director at the Druid Hill YMCA. He and his wife lived on Carlisle Avenue in Northwest Baltimore.

Athletics played a major role in the Jennifer home. Clinton Jennifer said he played basketball and tennis growing up, and that his father displayed plaques and awards he received from local track associations.

After 18 months at the YMCA, Mr. Jennifer worked 14 years for the Baltimore Bureau of Recreation, where he served primarily as district supervisor.

Clinton Jennifer said his father was passed up for a number of promotions, leading him to take on a new job as assistant director of the civic center in 1964. He stayed in that role for two years before taking over.

Mr. Jennifer and his wife divorced in 1974, and he left his job with what is now 1st Mariner Arena in 1976. A year later, Mr. Jennifer moved to Annapolis, where he became a real estate agent specializing in waterfront property, his son said. He maintained his real estate license until last year.

"He had the kind of personality where he was very successful" at selling real estate, Clinton Jennifer said. "It was a new challenge for him, too. Plus, he could be his own boss, and he enjoyed that aspect of it."

Mr. Jennifer was diagnosed with anemia eight years ago. Myelofibrosis is a rare form of the disease.

Mr. Jennifer was a member and past national president of the Guardsman Social Club. He served as president of the International Auditorium Managers Association, chairman of the Druid Hill YMCA board of directors, member of the Maryland Physical Fitness Commission, member of the Morgan State University Foundations Board and trustee emeritus at Springfield College. He also received the school's highest honor - the Tarbell medallion.

Services will be held at 3 p.m. Saturday at March West Funeral Home, 4300 Wabash Ave.

In addition to his son and sister, Mr. Jennifer is survived by six grandchildren. He was preceded in death by another son, Harold Jones Jennifer III.

brent.jones@baltsun.com

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