Edward Wilson Jr.

Towson Resident And World War Ii Veteran Played A Key Role In Developing Baltimore's Charles Center Project

July 22, 2009|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com

Edward Wilson Jr., former chief relocation agent for the city of Baltimore who had earlier been vice president of Charles Center-Inner Harbor Management Inc. specializing in business relocation, died Friday of cancer at Greater Baltimore Medical Center.

The longtime Towson resident was 82.

Mr. Wilson was born in Radford, Va., and was raised in Lynchburg, Va., and Portsmouth, Va., where he graduated from Woodrow Wilson High School in 1945.

He joined the Army near the end of World War II, and served as a noncommissioned intelligence officer in Dachau, Germany. His responsibilities included being in charge of prisoner interrogation, Nazi prisoners being tried at the Nuremberg war crimes trials, internment, release and general post security.

After the war, Mr. Wilson attended the Brooklyn School of Optics in New York City, from which he graduated in 1949. He attended the College of William & Mary and later the University of Tennessee, where he earned a bachelor's degree in business administration.

In 1950, Mr. Wilson went to work as a civilian allowance and contract specialist in the Navy's Bureau of Ships in Norfolk, Va., and then moved to Baltimore in 1953.

After studying real estate appraisal at Johns Hopkins' McCoy College, he went to work in 1956 for the Baltimore Urban Renewal and Housing Agency as a member of its planning staff.

Mr. Wilson's wide-ranging responsibilities included writing all ordinances and documentation necessary to receive federal funds; initiating and implementing a community organization structure to support revitalization of the city; representing the city in all zoning matters relative to urban renewal areas; and conducting economic, sociological and structural studies on those being affected by urban renewal.

In 1962, Mr. Wilson was appointed director of Baltimore County's Redevelopment and Rehabilitation Commission, and three years later, was named assistant to the county's director of planning and zoning.

Mr. Wilson resigned his position in a 1967 dispute with Baltimore County Executive Dale Anderson, who was not interested in obtaining federal funds for housing for low- and moderate-income families displaced by urban renewal, according to news articles published at the time.

Mr. Wilson was named vice president of business relocation and management in 1967 by Charles Center-Inner Harbor Management Inc., where he was responsible for directing all business displacement and relocation in the Inner Harbor and Harbor Campus urban renewal areas.

He oversaw and coordinated all property acquisition, relocation and demolition until the sites were cleared and ready to be developed. He also handled all leases for businesses that remained on city-owned property.

"He played an important role in the Inner Harbor story and had an unheralded job relocating people. You don't get much credit for that," said Martin L. Millspaugh Jr., who was the first chief executive of Charles Center-Inner Harbor Management Inc., which oversaw the redevelopment in the 1960s of the harbor and what became Charles Center.

"Ed was a straight shooter, and he was typical of the Greatest Generation. When the Inner Harbor was just getting under way, he took on an unsung job advising and assisting businesses both small and large that had to be moved from the various blocks that were to be cleared," Mr. Millspaugh recalled.

"He carried this out with diplomacy and without fanfare or publicity. He did this with quiet competence and through good relationships. There were scores of businesses, and Ed helped 90 percent of them stay in the city," he said. "And many of them went to better locations than they had before. He made it all go."

From 1981 until 2001, Mr. Wilson was the city's chief relocation agent and counselor for the city's Department of Housing and Community Development.

Mr. Wilson was summoned from retirement in 2006, when Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. appointed him to the state Real Estate Department, where he counseled and audited small businesses.

He retired in 2008.

Mr. Wilson was an avid golfer, opera fan and bridge player, who enjoyed playing at the Valley Bridge Club in Lutherville, which is owned by his wife of 58 years, the former Patricia Freels.

For years, Mr. Wilson was a board member and acted in the annual Paint and Powder Club shows, which raise money for charity.

Mr. Wilson was a member for 47 years of Second Presbyterian Church, where he had been a member of the board of deacons and an ordained elder.

He also had served on the executive board of the Baltimore Council of Presbyterian Churches.

Services were held yesterday at St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Owings Mills.

Also surviving are two daughters, Natalie Beese of Owings Mills and Cynthia Klemm of McLean, Va.; and four grandchildren.

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