Raymond Hamilton 'Ray' Leonard Jr., boxer and city officer, dies

Highly decorated combat Marine had also coached a number of service boxing teams and amateur fighters

  • Raymond Leonard
Raymond Leonard
February 28, 2011|By Frederick N. Rasmussen, The Baltimore Sun

Raymond Hamilton "Ray" Leonard Jr., a retired police chief, decorated Korean War veteran and former amateur fighter who had been chairman of the Maryland Boxing Hall of Fame, died Feb. 18 of heart failure at a niece's home in Myrtle Beach, S.C.

The longtime Morrell Park resident, who moved to Myrtle Beach last year, was 82.

Mr. Leonard, whose father was a Baltimore & Ohio Railroad boilermaker who worked at the Mount Clare shops and whose mother managed a restaurant, was born in Baltimore and raised in Pigtown. He was educated in city public schools.

A successful amateur boxer in his youth, Mr. Leonard had won a Virginia championship by the time he enlisted in 1945 in the Marine Corps. His amateur and service boxing statistics include 150 wins and 15 losses.

While still boxing, he started coaching Marine Corps fighters. In 1948, he coached the North China Marines and the Navy's Western Pacific fleet teams.

Mr. Leonard was promoted in 1949 to coach the boxing team at Camp Pendleton in California and the Marine Corps' First Division Team. His team won the San Diego Gloves, 11th Naval District and Fleet West Coast naval championships.

"His team went on to win six of eight championships, with one runner-up. For this accomplishment, Ray was named to the All Marine team and the All Navy boxing teams by the secretary of the Navy," according to a biographical account of Mr. Leonard's life in 1984 when he was inducted into the Maryland Boxing Hall of Fame.

"This team was so talented it boxed a team of National Golden Glove boxers and they won all eight bouts, six via knockouts," according to the sketch.

With the outbreak of the Korean War in 1950, the members of the Camp Pendleton team, which Mr. Leonard was still coaching, decided to disband and return to their original units to join the First Marine Brigade and fight in Korea.

Five team members were subsequently killed in action and two were seriously wounded.

As a combat Marine, Mr. Leonard fought in some of the Korean War's bloodiest battles, including Pusan Perimeter, Inchon-Seoul landings, Wonson landing and Chosin Reservoir.

Wounded three times, which ended his boxing career, he was decorated with two Silver Stars.

Because of his wounds, Mr. Leonard returned to the United States and was appointed boxing coach at the Marine Corps School at Quantico, Va. He continued coaching Marine fighters until leaving the service in 1955.

"His team won numerous team championships, both civilian and military, also defeating such collegiate teams as Michigan State, Syracuse and Wisconsin," according to the biographical sketch.

Several of Mr. Leonard's boxers went on to represent the U.S. on Olympic and Pan American teams, while Walter Byars, who later became Massachusetts boxing commissioner, Eddie Cotton and Irish Pat Lowery turned pro.

"Ray was a man of honor and a Korean War hero who never said anything about it. He never talked about his military experiences," said Frank H. Gilbert, chairman of the board of the Veteran Boxers Association, International Ring 101, and vice president of the South Atlantic Association, which includes several boxing clubs in Maryland.

"He had been an outstanding amateur fighter who during his years in the Marine Corps trained lots of champions," said Mr. Gilbert, a manager, coach and trainer at the Loch Raven Boxing Club.

After leaving the Marine Corps, Mr. Leonard joined the Baltimore Police Department and earned his general educational development diploma. He also studied at the University of Maryland.

Mr. Leonard served in the Police Department's old Detectives Bureau and its Criminal Investigation Unit. During his career, he also served as president of the now-defunct Police Supervisors Union 1599 of the AFL/CIO.

He was fond of reminding family and friends that the union did not go on strike during the 1974 police strike.

After retiring in 1980 as a detective sergeant, he was appointed chief of police of the Veteran Administration's Hospital at Fort Howard, where he served until retiring a second time in 2001.

Boxing always remained at the center of Mr. Leonard's life. He was a member of the selection committee for the World Boxing Hall of Fame and was a life member of the Veteran Boxers Association Inc., International Ring 101, serving as the organization's president from 1992 to 1994.

For years, he was chairman of the Maryland Boxing Hall of Fame and was inducted into the Washington, D.C., Boxing Hall of Fame in 1993.

"Ray had been a good amateur boxer himself and knew what he was talking about. He was one of those people who was into so many different things, and he never bragged about his service during the Korean War," said Al Goldstein, longtime former boxing reporter for The Baltimore Sun.

"Ray was the kind of guy who if he said something, it was gospel," said Mr. Gilbert. "He was a very important part of the Maryland boxing scene for years and if he saw something wrong, he'd pick up the phone and let you know about it. He was our watchdog."

Mr. Leonard, who had lived on James Street in Morrell Park, was an avid flower gardener.

Services were Wednesday.

Surviving are several nieces and nephews.

fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com

Due to incorrect information supplied to The Baltimore Sun, an earlier version of this obituary misstated Mr. Leonard's age. The Sun regrets the error.

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