Howard R. Simpson

Longtime broker also maintained an interest in railroading and 1920s and 1930s American literature, music and culture

August 14, 2010|By Frederick N. Rasmussen, The Baltimore Sun

Howard Russell Simpson, a longtime Baltimore broker and bond specialist who was an accomplished hiker and canoeist, died Thursday at Gilchrist Center for Hospice Care.

The Roland Park resident was 83.

"His physician said the cause of death was a 'failure to thrive,'" said Mr. Simpson's wife of 31 years, the former Katherine Goodman.

Mr. Simpson, the son of a homemaker and a Central Railroad of New Jersey executive who joined the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad in 1931, was born in Elizabeth, N.J., where he also spent his early years.

When his father was transferred in 1936 to B&O headquarters in Baltimore, the family moved to an apartment at 100 W. University Parkway, where Mr. Simpson was raised.

He was a 1944 graduate of Boys' Latin School, then located at its old Brevard Street campus in downtown Baltimore, where he was an outstanding student.

During his high school years, he earned varsity letters in football and lacrosse and served as business manager of the school newspaper and yearbook.

Mr. Simpson began his college studies at Williams College and left in December of his freshman year when he enlisted in the Army. After completing basic training as an infantryman, he was waiting to take part in the invasion of Japan after the German surrender.

With the Japanese surrender in 1945, he was sent to Germany, where, because of his thorough knowledge of German, he interviewed former German infantrymen to determine their suitability to work for the American occupation.

After being discharged from the Army, he returned to Williams College and earned a bachelor's degree in 1950.

Mr. Simpson began his business career in 1950 with Union Securities Corp. in New York City and later worked in the firm's Philadelphia office.

He returned to Baltimore when Eastman, Dillon, Union Securities & Co. established an office in the old Mathieson Building at Light and Baltimore streets, now the Bank of America building.

In 1971, he was named vice president of institutional sales.

Mr. Simpson spent the majority of his 50-year career as a bond specialist in the Baltimore office of Blyth, Eastman Dillon & Co., which became Paine Webber until it was acquired by UBS AG.

Gary C. Gadziala, a friend and colleague for 40 years, met Mr. Simpson when he joined the firm in 1970.

"He worked on the institutional side, and we both shared an interest in railroads and railroad securities," Mr. Gadziala said. "I would say he was one of the most down-to-earth individuals I've ever met in my life, and he was willing to help and share, and that solidified our friendship through the years."

Because of Mr. Simpson's conservative nature when it came to his customer's investments, he earned the nickname of "Hold 'em Howard," Mr. Gadziala said.

Colleagues said Mr. Simpson was the embodiment of the old-fashioned "customer's man" who did business face-to-face rather than strictly over the telephone.

He visited companies and talked to their management before he recommended them to his clients. He would travel across the country visiting clients and explaining their investment portfolios.

"He'd frequently have customers into the Center Club for lunch or dinner. It was a holdover from the old days. It was a more personal touch. Today, it's the phone," Mr. Gadziala said. "He also didn't care what a person's background was or if they had been to a fancy school or not. He treated them all with respect and dignity."

"He was a tower of rectitude," said Charles O. Culver, a friend of 70 years and a longtime customer who lives in Philadelphia.

Mr. Simpson, who spent the last five years of his career at Ferris Baker Watts, now Royal Bank of Canada, retired last year.

He always dressed in conservatively cut suits, which he frequently wore with a hand-tied bow tie, and a gold railroad pocket watch and chain.

On Saturdays, he still observed a long-abandoned business custom of working a half day in the office, dressing less formally in slacks, button-down dress shirt, tie and sport jacket.

When work was done, he'd visit the Pratt Library on Cathedral Street, and the now-gone Old European delicatessen on Eutaw Street, where he purchased the German meats, wurst and breads he favored.

Saturday afternoons often concluded with a visit to the Kelmscott Bookshop on 25th Street, where he spoke with owners Teresa and Don Johanson about the 1920s and 1930s literature — especially New Yorker magazine writers — that he so prized and whose books he was interested in acquiring for his library.

He was also a longtime subscriber to Center Stage and was a devotee of operettas and Broadway shows and musicals from the 1920s through the 1950s.

Mr. Simpson also maintained a lifelong interest in railroading — his father, Howard E. Simpson, was president of the B&O from 1953 to 1961 — and enjoyed riding trains, no matter how obscure the line or infrequent of service, in the U.S. and Europe.

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