James Hall Bready, an Evening Sun editorial writer for more than three decades and originator of the "Books and Authors" column that was published in The Baltimore Sun for nearly 50 years, died Saturday of renal failure at Gilchrist Hospice Care in Towson.
The Homeland resident was 92.
Mr. Bready, whose parents were staff members of the old Philadelphia Ledger, was born in Philadelphia and raised in South Jersey. He was a graduate of Woodbury High School and Moorestown Friends School, both in New Jersey.
After graduating from Haverford College in 1939, he earned a master's degree in history in 1940 from Harvard University.
During World War II, Mr. Bready served almost five years in the Army's Counterintelligence Corps in the European Theater.
Discharged at 4 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 4, 1945, at Fort George G. Meade, Mr. Bready, still dressed in his uniform, began working as an Evening Sun copy editor at 8:30 the next morning in the newspaper's old Sun Square Building at Charles and Baltimore streets.
Earlier, he had worked as a copy boy for the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin, and on the copy desks of the Des Moines Tribune and the Washington Post.
During his four-decade career, Mr. Bready was a general assignment reporter and later feature writer, editorial writer and columnist.
In 1949, Mr. Bready had interviewed Evelyn Waugh, the English novelist who was visiting Baltimore. His counterpart at The Baltimore Sun, who was also assigned to do a story on the writer, was Russell Baker.
Mr. Baker recalled meeting Mr. Bready in his 1989 memoir, "The Good Times."
"He was James Bready, one of the Evening Sun's brilliant cadre of feature writers, all of whom I admired with a respect close to awe. Bready was major league. The imagination, wit, and graceful lilt of his writing made him one of the glories of the Evening Sun," he wrote.
He had been an editorial writer for The Evening Sun for 34 years — from 1951 until retiring in 1985 — which earned him the accolade "Dean of Baltimore editorialists."
"Jim had a very distinctive style of writing, permeated with a subtle sense of irony which would go right over your head if you weren't attentive," said Ray Jenkins, a retired Evening Sun editorial page editor.
Beginning in 1979, several times a year, generally at the change of season, Mr. Bready would write an essay about his two-block-long Gladstone Avenue neighborhood in Roland Park that was illustrated by former Evening Sun editorial cartoonist Mike Lane.
It chronicled, he wrote in an autobiographical sketch, its "weather abnormalities, steep sledding hill, unexplained noises, potholes, porches, parties, parking games, unstoppable vegetation, slate sidewalks, cluttered alleys, trash-pillaging dogs, attic-squatter raccoons, upsy-daisy parking-strip, maples, unimaginative children and other misdoing's."
A versatile newspaperman who welcomed additional duties, Mr. Bready also served as The Evening Sun's book editor from 1968 to 1979.
At the suggestion of then-Sunday Sun editor Harold A. Williams Jr., Mr. Bready inaugurated the "Books and Authors" column that ran biweekly and then monthly through 2005.
In the column, he highlighted the work of local authors who often were ignored by other media, dished literary gossip, and at the end of each year, compiled a list of books written about Maryland history, biography or belle-lettres.
"A big year, 1954. Nationally, desegregated public education; locally, the Orioles' return to the major leagues. Also, the founding of a book lovers group called the Baltimore Bibliophiles, and of a Sunday column called Books & Authors," wrote Mr. Bready in his final book column in 2005. "All remain alive and, despite here a grumble and there a losing percentage, well."
Mr. Bready was the "longest-running columnist on the three papers," wrote Mr. Williams in his sesquicentennial history of The Baltimore Sun.
For 30 years until 1984, Mr. Bready was the Baltimore correspondent for Time, Life and Fortune magazines, and had been Encyclopedia Britannica's designated writer for its entry on Maryland.
Mr. Bready was also the author of several books, including "This Parish Under God," a 1955 centennial history of the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer, and "The Home Team," an illustrated history of Baltimore baseball, published in 1959.
Turning from sports, in his retirement he wrote the first detailed study of pre-Prohibition Maryland rye whiskey, which was published by the Maryland Historical Society.
Mr. Bready was a longtime member of the Baltimore Antique Bottle Collectors Club and had amassed through the years an extensive collection of material related to Maryland rye.
For years, Mr. Bready and his wife, the former Mary Hatop, whom he married in 1943, were known for their annual Gladstone Avenue Christmas party that drew Baltimore's elite.
It was not unusual for party-goers to encounter governors, mayors or congressmen, standing in a lengthy queue with writers, musicians and other friends. In the 1970s, the Baltimore City Paper declared it the "best party in the city."
For much of his life, Mr. Bready was a runner and a bicyclist.
"Jim Bready didn't discover slow motion until the end of his more than 90 years. He was a Calvert Street whirlwind, running, walking, bicycling fast everywhere and talking even faster," said Ernest F. Imhoff, a retired Evening Sun and Baltimore Sun editor.
Mr. Bready was a founder in 1948 of the Sunpapers Unit of the Newspaper Guild, and served on the board of the Babe Ruth House. He was also a founder in 1960 of the Orioles Advocates.
Mr. Bready was a communicant of the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer, 5603 N. Charles St., where funeral services will be held at 2 p.m. Friday.
In addition to his wife, who retired as the head of the upper school at St. Paul's School for Girls, Mr. Bready is survived by two sons, Christopher H. Bready of Towson and Richard S. Bready of Kirkland, Wash.; and a grandson. Another son, Stephen Y. Bready, died in 1979.