James P. Farrier Jr., Towson teacher and sports equity advocate, dies

James P. Farrier Jr., a retired Towson High School teacher and coach who had a second career as an actor, died April 8 from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. The Parkville resident was 85.

The son of James P. Farrier Sr., a Bethlehem Steel Corp. mechanic, and Ethel Goddard Farrier, a homemaker, James Plank Farrier Jr. was born in Reading, Pa., and moved with his family to Armistead Gardens in 1940.

Recognized for both his academic and athletic abilities, he was a champion diver and had been named athlete of the year at City College, where he graduated in 1949.

Mr. Farrier then entered Springfield College in Springfield, Mass., and excelled in sports — he was a nationally ranked All-American diver and an All-American New England soccer player and team captain.

He was also a member of Kappa Delta Pi, an honor society for those entering the field of education, and qualified for Sigma Delta Psi, an honorary athletic fraternity.

Mr. Farrier's college years were interrupted when he enlisted in the Navy in 1951. He served as a swimming instructor at the U.S. Naval Training Center in Bainbridge — where he was named sailor of the year — and later at the naval air station in Pensacola, Fla.

The Navy allowed him to continue competing in diving competitions, and it was at a meet at Meadowbrook Swim Club in Mount Washington in 1952 that he met his future wife, the former Barbara Baumann. They married in 1955.

After being discharged in 1953, he returned to Springfield and earned a bachelor's degree in 1955. He later obtained a master's degree in the 1970s.

He worked a year at the newly completed Dumbarton Middle School in Rodgers Forge and set up its athletic department. Other than that, Mr. Farrier spent his entire career — from 1955 until 1984 when he retired — at Towson High School, where he taught physical education and English and coached interscholastic soccer, wrestling and outdoor track and field teams.

When Mr. Farrier came to Towson High School, his first assignment was coaching wrestling.

"I had played soccer, swam and run track. I prepared to coach football, basketball and baseball," he told The Evening Sun in a 1972 interview. "So what did they make me? A wrestling coach."

During the 1960s, he coached Towson soccer to county and district championships. In 1972, his squad posted an 8-0-1 record in county play and upset previously unbeaten Walter Johnson High School in the Maryland Class AA-A championship.

When the Generals captured the title, he told the Evening Sun it was "a day to rival his wedding day and the birth days of his children."

Mr. Farrier found himself at the center of a debate about the role of girls in boys' sports in 1976, a year after federal law, Title IX, mandated equal school sports opportunities for boys and girls.

A Towson sophomore girl, Madeline "Maddy" Russell, asked to be allowed to try out for the boys' soccer team, and Mr. Farrier did not hesitate to honor her request, even though Baltimore County school officials reversed his decision a few days later.

"I didn't — and I still don't — see any reason why a young girl with ability couldn't play high school soccer," he told The Evening Sun in 1977. "I cannot honestly say whether her ability is such that, given the opportunity this year she'll maker our team. But I guarantee she will be given the same chance as any boy to make it."

Ms. Russell was later allowed to try out, and made the team in 1977.

"I'm just playing because I like playing the sport," she told The Sun. "If they had a girls' team, I'd go out for the girls' team."

"We're not going to keep her just because she's a girl, and we're not going to cut her because she's a girl. We want to give everybody a fair chance," Mr. Farrier told The Sun. "If the coach is open-minded, that will be communicated to the team."

He was an active member of the Teachers Association of Baltimore County. He was also a member of the Maryland Officials Club and in that capacity officiated at intercollegiate swimming and diving meets at the Naval Academy.

From 1966 to 1967, he served as chairman for soccer in the South Atlantic Association (now the Maryland District) of the Amateur Athletic Union. For nearly 30 years, he was the swimming and diving professional at the Suburban Club and the Roland Run Club.

After retiring, Mr. Farrier, who had acted in high school, began working as a model for print media.

"At one point, he surprised former students by peering down at them from a Towson billboard advertising a local bank," said his son, Thomas A. Farrier of Alexandria, Va.

He joined Actors' Equity and the Screen Actors Guild after getting a small role in Barry Levinson's 1987 film "Tin Men." He appeared with Baltimore County's Senior Star Showcase.

Until moving to Oak Crest Village in Parkville in 2014, he had lived 45 years on Maryland Avenue in Towson and walked each day to work at Towson High School.

A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Saturday at Ruck Towson Funeral Home, 1050 York Road.

In addition to his wife of 62 years and son, he is survived by another son, Jeffrey Farrier of Chester, Va.; a daughter, Susan Rotar of Portsmouth, R.I.; and three grandchildren.

frasmussen@baltsun.com

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