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Yerby R. Holman, railroad executive

CultureU.S. ArmyAnglicanismJohns Hopkins UniversityBaltimore Symphony OrchestraDuke University

Yerby R. Holman, a retired Western Maryland Railway executive and World War II veteran who had been active in civic and church affairs, died Sunday of complications from a stroke at the Fairhaven retirement community. He was 98.

The son of Yerby R. Holman Sr., an insurance man, and Elizabeth Wills Holman, a homemaker, Yerby Rozelle Holman was born in Memphis, Tenn.

A descendant of West Tennessee settlers, Mr. Holman was raised on Holman Avenue in the city's Rozelle neighborhood, which was named for his family.

"They owned a great deal of land and when the railroad came through Rozelle, they gave land for the station, and when land for a school was needed, they donated it," said a son, John S. Holman of Towson.

Mr. Holman was a 1932 graduate of Central High School, where he was valedictorian. One of his great memories, family members said, was playing trumpet in a citywide marching band, because John Philip Sousa, who was known as "The March King," conducted several pieces and shook his hand.

He earned a bachelor's degree in 1936 from Duke University and a master's degree in liberal arts from the Johns Hopkins University in 1964.

In the mid-1930s, Mr. Holman was awarded a three-year scholarship to Union Theological Seminary in New York City, where he planned to study for the ministry. He later resigned his scholarship and sought another direction.

He completed a two-year internship with the National Recreation Association in Milwaukee, where he was a community center staff member and a playground director. In 1939, he was named superintendent of the Athens, Ga., Department of Parks and Recreation, where he developed a program for blacks and whites, and was arrested for conducting integrated training sessions.

While living in New York City, he became acquainted in 1937 with Emily Clark Brown, whom he married in 1941.

In 1942, he was inducted into the Army and entered Officer Candidate School in Miami. He was later sent to the Harvard Business School, where he was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Army Air Forces.

Mr. Holman served in England and France with the U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey, whose mission was to evaluate the effects of Allied bombing. After the German surrender, he served as chief of personnel for the European Air Transport Command, and was discharged with the rank of major in 1945.

After working as a management consultant in New York City, W. Arthur Grotz, who was president of the Western Maryland Railway, appointed Mr. Holman director of personnel in 1952.

Mr. Holman and his family settled on L'Hirondelle Club Road in Ruxton, where they lived for the next 35 years.

In an unpublished biographical sketch, Mr. Holman wrote that he "wisely chose to leave in place procedures that worked," and brought company administration into "the 20th century by moving headquarters into a modern building, buying modern office furniture and installing modern administrative procedures."

Other achievements included being first in the railroad industry to computerize personnel records and establishing a company newsletter that was distributed to all employees. In addition to company news, the newsletter also contained operating statistics and financial statements.

Mr. Holman was an early advocate of equal opportunity and affirmative action. He founded an annual management conference that included company officers, managers and union officials. He also was a founder of the Railroad Personnel Association.

He retired in 1977.

"A fundamental theme of his life was Christian stewardship and service to others," his son said. "He gave generously of his time to many civic groups and was equally generous with his gifts."

Active in the community, Mr. Holman served on numerous boards, including the Girl Scout Council of Maryland, Health and Welfare Council of Central Maryland, Baltimore Community Chest and the Over 60 Employment Counseling Service, of which he was a founder.

Of particular interest to Mr. Holman was his 15-year tenure with the Prisoners Aid Association of Maryland, where he served as president for six years.

In his work with Prisoners Aid, Mr. Holman was an outspoken advocate for rehabilitation programs for inmates in the state's prisons.

"There is no plan of action on the state policy level," he told The Baltimore Sun in 1972. "The state has no announced goals, nor are annual budgets presented and approved which incorporate any long-range planning toward social goals."

He also served on various task forces and special committees, and some years after his Prisoner Aid career ended, he was appointed by governors to serve several terms on the State Advisory Board of Correction, Parole and Probation.

He was an active longtime communicant of the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd in Ruxton, where he taught a church school class, sang in the choir, and served as a lector and vestryman. He was also Senior Warden for a decade and served on a number of diocesan committees.

After moving to the Sykesville retirement community in 1988, Mr. Holman became president of the Residents Association. He also edited and wrote a column for the FairHaven, a monthly newsletter for residents.

A conservative dresser, Mr. Holman was never without his hand-tied bow tie.

He and his wife were subscribers to the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, Philadelphia Symphony Orchestra and Center Stage. They were also season ticket-holders to the Orioles and the old Baltimore Colts, and world travelers.

Mrs. Holman died in 2010.

A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Sunday at Fairhaven, 7200 Third Ave., Sykesville.

In addition to his son, Mr. Holman is survived by another son, Hugh F. Holman of Baltimore; two daughters, Emily C. Holman of Toms River, N.J., and Elizabeth W. Holman of Berwyn, Pa.; eight grandchildren; and eight great-grandchildren.

fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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