Gregory P. Kane, a former Baltimore Sun columnist known for his perceptive observations, died of cancer Tuesday at Johns Hopkins Hospital. He was 62.
"He challenged a lot of traditional political thought in the African-American community," said Anthony McCarthy, a talk-show host at radio station WEEA-FM. "When I'd have him as a guest on my show, he'd say to me, 'I'm your token conservative.' "
Mr. Kane became a Sun reporter in 1993 and began writing his local column in 1995. Recalled for his provocative style, he wrote a description of himself in his first column: "a lifelong Baltimore resident, liberal on some issues, conservative on others, a veritable fascist on the topic of crime."
Born in Baltimore and raised in West Baltimore, he recalled in columns his upbringing near St. Peter Claver Roman Catholic Church, where he was baptized. He was a 1969 graduate of City College, where he wrestled and was well known among other students.
"We all got up early in the morning and took the bus in search of a good education," said his City College classmate, Rep. Elijah E. Cummings. "He had a humility about him and he spoke through his writings. He gave his words a lot of thought, and he had the ability to make you think about the other side of the issue. I never doubted that he believed his positions, and you certainly never knew what he was going to say."
Mr. Cummings said that he remained friendly with his classmate.
"Whenever I'd question what he'd written, he'd get a twinkle in his eye and say, 'Well, you read it, didn't you?' " the congressman said.
Other classmates recalled a young Mr. Kane, who grew up in segregated Baltimore and initially espoused liberal social causes.
"Greg was born into poverty, and he was universally beloved at City," said a classmate, Albert Robinson, a retired Coppin State University administrator. "He was always an original. He was a wrestler, and we used to joke that as a result of too many falls he developed peculiar ideas."
He attended Franklin & Marshall College and the Broadcasting Institute of Maryland.
He went on to work at Sinai Hospital for 16 years. He started in data processing and for his last five years was a supervisor in the transportation department. He was also fascinated by astronomy and worked at the Maryland Science Center's Davis Planetarium.
Beginning in 1984, while still working at Sinai, he started an association with the old Evening Sun. He wrote op-ed page essays on local topics.
"I recognized him as a good writer right off. His copy was clean," said Michael H. Bowler, a retired Sun staff member who edited Mr. Kane's columns 25 years ago. "He was controversial and sort of drifted to the right in his later days. He was very perceptive and an intelligent guy. I liked him, and on social issues, he was perfect for balance."
Mr. Kane often mentioned his family in his writings. He wrote of how his brother had been killed in a street fight in Easton. He also said that his mother taught him the moral values that influenced his life. In a recent column for the Washington Examiner, he said that a phone call from his grandchildren on Christmas Day was his most precious gift.
"He had an incredible work ethic," said his daughter, Jennifer White Cherry of Berkeley, Calif. "I can recall in his early days of writing columns, I would alter my way home from school and drop them off at the Sunpapers. He didn't want to miss any time at work. During a big snowstorm, he walked to Sinai."
He also was a film buff and wrote about his favorite movies and performers. Other columns discussed politics — or wrestling.
"I always thought he was one of a kind," said John S. Carroll, a former editor of The Sun. "He didn't bend to please the crowd. He had not been employed in journalism. He was one of those people who felt a calling. He was writing columns for no pay."
Mr. Kane worked with Baltimore Sun reporter Gilbert Lewthwaite in 1997 on a three-part series about slavery in Sudan, "Where children live in bondage." They were nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in Explanatory Journalism. They won the Overseas Press Club award "for best reporting on human rights." The National Association of Black Journalists also gave them an award for their work.
After leaving The Sun in 2008, Mr. Kane began writing for the old Baltimore Examiner. At his death, he was writing for the Washington Examiner and The Baltimore Times. He also was a visiting professor at the Johns Hopkins University's Writing Seminars and taught in the fall semester.
Mr. Kane won awards from the Press Club of Atlantic City, the Maryland chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists and Baltimore magazine.
Mr. Kane's last article for The Baltimore Times, a weekly, was a tribute to late city Police Commissioner Bishop Robinson, which appeared Jan. 10.
"I loved his mind," said Kathy Reevie, an editorial assistant at The Baltimore Times. "Even when I didn't agree with him, he was fun to read."
A memorial service will be held at 2:30 p.m. Monday at the March Life Center, 5616 Old Court Road. A family hour precedes the service and begins at 2 p.m.
In addition to his daughter, survivors include his wife of nearly 30 years, Veronica White Kane; a son, Ray Chapman Sr.; a brother, Michael A. Kane; a sister, Margaret Spearman, all of Baltimore; another sister, Mary Reed of Upper Marlboro; and seven grandchildren.
Baltimore Sun reporter Frederick N. Rasmussen contributed to this article.
An earlier version of this obituary omitted a survivor, a sister, Mary Reed of Upper Marlboro. In addition, the name of another sister was incorrect. He is also survived by a sister, Margaret Spearman of Baltimore. The Baltimore Sun regrets the errors.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun