John Harlan Williams Jr.

John Harlan Williams Jr. ( )

John H. "Beau" Williams Jr., who had headed a Baltimore contracting and building firm, died Friday of congestive heart failure at Gilchrist Hospice Care in Towson. He was 87.

Born in Baltimore and raised in Roland Park, John Harlan Williams Jr. was the son of John Harlan Williams Sr., who founded J. H. Williams & Co. in 1941, and Lela Ingram Williams, a homemaker.

Mr. Williams, who was known as "Beau," attended Gilman School and graduated in 1944 from the Pomfret School in Pomfret, Conn. He attended Princeton University before enlisting in the Navy, and after the end of the war returned to Princeton.

His college career was cut short after he was involved in an automobile accident. After his father's death in 1951, Mr. Williams took over the family building and construction business.

During the next 45 years, the company owned, built or managed many significant private and commercial projects in the Baltimore area, some of which included the Downtown Athletic Club, now the Merritt Athletic Club, the Mercy Medical Center expansion, Bare Hills Tennis Club, Rash Field and the Otterbein Swim Club.

The company, which still has headquarters in Bare Hills, also built auditoriums, libraries, art studios and gymnasiums for Garrison Forest School, Roland Park Country School, Gilman School and the Park School.

Mr. Williams, who lived for many years at a home on Falls Road in Butler before moving to Mercy Ridge in Timonium in 2009, retired in the 1990s.

For years, he enjoyed thoroughbred horse racing and breeding. In 1969, his horse, Curator, was named Steeplechase Horse of the Year.

He was active in land preservation and worked diligently with the Land Preservation Trust. He was one of the founders of Shawan Downs, the state-of-the-art equestrian and steeplechase center in Cockeysville.

He also served on the boards of Garrison Forest School, Mercy Medical Center and HopeWell Cancer Support Center in Brooklandville, of which he was a founder.

He was a fan of the Baltimore Colts, Orioles and Ravens.

His wife of 31 years, the former Nina Poe Elder, died in 1989.

Mr. Williams was a communicant of St. John's Episcopal Church, 3738 Butler Road, Glyndon, where a memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Wednesday.

He is survived by his wife of 19 years, the former Maria Cromwell Marshall; two daughters, Peggy Williams Spears of Cockeysville and Lela Williams of Kennebunkport, Maine; a sister, Elizabeth Harvey of Ruxton; and two grandchildren.

fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com