Pierce J. Flanigan III

President of family heavy construction business was active in Democratic politics and advised governors and mayors.

October 11, 2008|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,jacques.kelly@baltsun.com

Pierce John Flanigan III, president of his family's transportation infrastructure business who advised governors and mayors, died Wednesday of a brain hemorrhage in Chicago while on a business trip. The Harbor East resident was 66.

Mr. Flanigan mixed a career in business with a lifelong interest in Democratic politics, while serving as a Catholic Charities board president.

"Pierce had an unrelenting optimism. He had a tremendous heart and sense of justice and fairness. He was also a pleasure to be around," Gov. Martin O'Malley said. "He embraced a policy of always seeing a better future for Baltimore and bringing its population back."

Friends recalled Mr. Flanigan's personality and manner of doing business.

"He was a sincere, solid, not flashy guy," said Kenneth A. Bourne, a longtime friend and PNC Bank executive vice president. "He was tough physically but a gentle man, a family man. He was also an excellent businessman whose company prospered where others had failed in a tough line of work."

Mr. Bourne recalled his friend as being a "concerned citizen" interested in the city.

"Pierce knew what was going on whether it related to the port of Baltimore or an important social issue. He knew it all," he said.

Stanley Heuisler, a friend and a former Columbus Center director, said that Mr. Flanigan "brought an understated competence to everything, and the only relentless things about him were his intellectual curiosity and his love for his wife and family."

He recalled that "Pierce was a lifelong progressive Democrat and very proud of the fact that in his class at Gilman, only he and one other student supported Adlai Stevenson in 1952."

Born in Baltimore and raised in Homeland, he attended the old Baltimore Academy of the Visitation and was a 1960 Gilman School graduate, where he played varsity football and lacrosse and wrestled. He earned a history degree at Yale University.

"I don't think he ever watched television," said his son, Pierce J. Flanigan IV.

"He sometimes had five books going simultaneously. He had stacks of poetry magazines. He had an incredible inner life. He loved classical music and jazz. He loved John Updike and James Joyce. Every night before he went to bed, he'd ask my mother to read him poetry."

As a young man, he joined his family's business, P. Flanigan & Sons, which had been founded by his great-grandfather in 1885. The Flanigans originally built sewers and roads.

"My father took a small, traditional family contracting company and made it a nationally recognized leader in the industry," his son said. "The most challenging projects were what he sought."

In his 43 years in the business, Mr. Flanigan, who liked to stay ahead of changes in his industry, worked to build taxiways, tarmac and approach roads at what is now Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport. He was also involved in the Seagirt Marine Terminal and the widening and maintenance of the Baltimore Beltway and Jones Falls Expressway.

He oversaw a modernization of his firm's Westport asphalt plants and purchased another in Sandtown. He also acquired John Deere franchises and became a seller of heavy equipment through his Standard Equipment Co.

Mr. Flanigan served on the boards of Catholic Charities, Bryn Mawr School and Union Memorial Hospital. He was a past chairman of the Gilman School Building Committee. He also served on advisory committees for Governors O'Malley and William Donald Schaefer.

"He had boundless energy and was the strongest Democrat I've ever met," said his attorney, Richard O. Berndt. "He was a tremendous, engaging leader to his employees and set a tone that they were all in it together. It was never all about Pierce."

He recalled that Mr. Flanigan enjoyed the challenge of sports - he would bike the Northern Central Railroad Trail up and back from Cockeysville to York, Pa. He was also an accomplished skier who made numerous trips to the Austrian Alps.

"As a skier, he was just fearless and had boundless energy," Mr. Berndt said. "He would look down steep, sheer chutes and then just do it."

Mr. Flanigan met his future wife, Susan Jane Wilson, at the old Bolton Hill Dinner Theater, when both were living in that neighborhood.

"Pierce's heart was always in the city," his wife said. "After we moved to the harbor, we'd walk along the promenade at night. We adored the view."

A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Oct. 18 at the Frederick Douglass-Isaac Myers Maritime Park, 1417 Thames St.

In addition to his wife of nearly 39 years, and son, survivors include another son, Thomas Wilson Flanigan; two daughters, Meghan Spencer Flanigan and Emily Flanigan Hiller; his mother, Mary Ann Spencer Flanigan; a brother, Dr. John S. Flanigan, all of Baltimore; two sisters, Kathleen Flanigan Asmuth of Mequon, Wis., and Anne Emmett of Bethesda; and two grandchildren.

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