William A. Hubbard, a retired chemical engineer who headed a Baltimore business that created the orange-colored coatings for Howard Johnson restaurant roofs, died of heart failure Monday at his Towson home. He was 92.
Born in Rolla, Mo., he was the son of Noel Hubbard, a University of Missouri registrar, and Ruth Johns Hubbard, a syndicated newspaper artist and journalist.
He earned a bachelor's degree in chemical engineering from the University of Missouri in 1944, where he was a member of Phi Beta Kappa and Tau Beta Pi. Family members said he tried to enlist in the military during World War II but was turned down. He worked in research, development and production of improved airplane fuels.
"The U.S. was trying to catch up and compete with a superior German technology at the time that helped make their planes more responsive, with less engine knock," said his daughter, Nancy Hubbard of Sparks. "He was instrumental in developing more efficient, high-octane plane fuel during the war."
He held 16 industrial patents related to fuels.
After the war, he met his future wife, Elizabeth Edwards, then a Washington University School of Medicine chemist who later worked in diabetes research. He went on to earn a master's degree in business administration at Harvard University.
Mr. Hubbard worked for Phillips Petroleum, Shell Oil and Shell Chemical. He then joined Amoco Chemical and was its national sales manager for its organic chemical division.
"My father was scientifically astute and was also personable. He was outgoing and friendly," his daughter said.
He moved to Baltimore in 1965 when he was named vice president for sales for Pemco Products on Eastern Avenue in the Bayview section of Southeast Baltimore. The plant was then the third-largest producer of porcelain enamel in the world and had 600 employees and other plants in South America and Europe. He sold the glass powder employed in the manufacture of porcelain, enamel and ceramic glazes. His coatings, when heated to high temperatures, could be fused on steel.
"They were perhaps most famous for creating the material that [gave] the Howard Johnson roofs their distinctive orange color," his daughter said.
The plant also made porcelain-coated street signs, including some used in New York City, as well as station signs for the New York subway. Its coatings were also used on automobiles and had applications for dinnerware as well.
Mr. Hubbard was later named president and general manager and held the posts for eight years until his retirement about 30 years ago. The business later left Baltimore but remains in operation.
He was a board member and president for the national organization associated with his industry, the Porcelain Enamel Institute.
After leaving Pemco, he co-owned two radio stations in the Cumberland area. He also developed and marketed a product, Spare Tank, a fuel substitute that motorists could carry safely in a trunk should they run out of gas.
He was president of the United Way of Central Maryland from 1974 to 1976 and also served on its board. He also was a president of the Combined Health Agencies of Maryland.
"He felt that Baltimore had been good to him, and he wanted to give something back," his daughter said.
He also played the clarinet for nearly 70 years and belonged to Baltimore's Paint and Powder Club, a theatrical organization that donates the proceeds of its performances to charity. He played in the Paint and Powder's annual shows, often staged at the Alcazar Ballroom in downtown Baltimore.
He was a board member of the North Baltimore Aquatic Club and a past president of the Hampton Pool.
Mr. Hubbard enjoyed travel and playing tennis. He lived in the Hampton section of Towson for many years and moved for a period to Ford's Colony in Williamsburg, Va. He returned to Towson in 2010.
No service is planned. A visitation will be held from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. and from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Friday at the Ruck Towson Funeral Home, 1050 York Road.
In addition to his daughter, a Goucher College business professor, survivors include his wife of 67 years; a son, Donald Hubbard of Fanwood, N.J.; a sister, Mary Hubbard Wilson of Laguna Beach, Calif.; and eight grandchildren.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun