Elmer Rathbun Haile Jr.

Design engineer for the federal government who built roads in national parks was also a historian of Long Green Valley.

November 09, 2008|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,jacques.kelly@baltsun.com

Elmer Rathbun Haile Jr., a retired national parks roads design engineer and historian of the Long Green Valley, died of heart failure Monday at Oak Crest Village. He was 98.

Born in Towson and raised in Cockeysville, he was a 1927 Towson High School graduate. Between 1927 and 1931, while he was a Johns Hopkins University civil engineering student, he commuted via the old Pennsylvania Railroad from Cockeysville to Charles Street.

In a 1992 Sun article, he recalled the construction of the old railroad underpass on York Road in Cockeysville. He said the railroad built a detour line around the bridge site, which slowed the travel time during the year of construction, he said.

"It had a sharp turn and they had a flare beside the track a half-mile away all the time to remind the engineers. There was never any problem that I know of," he said.

After his Hopkins graduation, he became a regional design engineer for the Department of Commerce's Bureau of Public Roads and worked initially building roads and bridges in Gettysburg National Military Park.

In 1937, while supervising construction of a stone bridge, he discovered 180 million-year-old dinosaur tracks that were later displayed at the Carnegie Institute in Pittsburgh and the Smithsonian Institution in Washington.

Mr. Haile continued his engineering work in New Jersey and Virginia and in 1940 joined the Army and served in an engineering unit at Fort Belvoir, Va. In 1941, he composed a tune, "Keep 'Em Flying," that became an early World War II hit. According to a 1941 article in the Jeffersonian, he never received credit for the song.

After the war, he moved to Arlington, Va., and continued to design roads and bridges in federal parks and historic sites, including Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

He retired in 1975 from the Department of Transportation. In 1965 he was given a Silver Medal Award for his federal service. His citation noted his "exceptionally meritorious leadership in highway design."

He then moved to Gunpowder Manor on Hydes Road in Baltimore County and joined the Historical Society of Baltimore County. Mr. Haile helped establish its library and was the group's president from 1993 to 1995.

He was named the Long Green Valley's Outstanding Senior Citizen of the Year in 1976 and was historian of the Historic Long Green Valley. He was also secretary of the Long Green Valley Lions Club from 1976 to 1986. He was treasurer for the Baltimore County Genealogical Society from 1984 to 1986.

Mr. Haile enjoyed visiting old cemeteries and copying information from tombstones. He researched the Long Green Valley, which he found attracted settlers in the mid-1700s when farmers from the coast moved inland to find fields for tobacco growing.

Mr. Haile took long countryside hikes. He also gardened, enjoyed photography and attended the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra.

A memorial service will be held at 10 a.m. Friday at the Oak Crest Village Chapel, 8800 Walther Blvd. in Parkville.

Mr. Haile survived two wives. He married Amelia Rebecca Kolk in 1938. She died in 1991. He later married Mildred Springer Sherry. She died in 2003.

Mr. Haile is survived by a stepdaughter, Bernice G. Wilson of Lawrenceville, Ga.; and two sisters, Evelyn Haile Price of Corvallis, Ore., and Barbara Haile Chilcoat of Durango, Colo.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.