Ralph Hayes Hemphill Jr.
Ralph Hayes Hemphill Jr. (Baltimore Sun)

Ralph H. Hemphill Jr., a former Crown Central Petroleum Corp. executive who later worked for the state Department of Agriculture, died Oct. 7 from complications of Alzheimer's disease at a San Diego assisted-living facility.

The former Towson resident was 89.

The son of a contractor and a homemaker, Ralph Hayes Hemphill Jr. was born in Philadelphia and raised in Upper Darby, Pa.

After graduating from Upper Darby High School, Mr. Hemphill worked before World War II at the old Baldwin Locomotive Works in Eddystone, Pa., and the Sun Shipbuilding & Drydock Co. in Chester, Pa.

With the outbreak of World War II, he enlisted in the Navy, where he was trained as a carrier pilot and flew Douglas Dauntless dive bombers and F4U Corsair fighter planes.

"He never saw action but survived a mid-air collision during a training mission as well as a forced landing in mountainous terrain," said a son, Ralph H. "Chip" Hemphill III of San Diego.

After the war, he earned a degree in 1949 from the University of Virginia, and went to work as a regional salesman for Gulf Oil Co. in Pittsburgh.

He moved to Towson in 1958 and joined Crown Central, where he was in merchandising and public relations.

During his tenure at the oil company, he organized Crown Family Night, which sponsored discounted tickets, the Orioles World Series ticker tape parade and Thanks, Brooks Day.

After leaving the Baltimore oil company in 1980, he was director of economic development for the state Department of Agriculture.

"During the [William Donald] Schaefer administration, he created the concept of branding Maryland-grown agricultural products and was also responsible for establishing today's chain of Maryland farmers' markets," his son said.

He retired in the 1980s.

After the death of his wife of 52 years, the former Bonnie Smith, in 2007, he moved to San Diego.

A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday at Peaceful Alternatives Funeral and Cremation Center, 2325 York Road in Timonium.

Also surviving is another son, Hunter Hemphill of San Diego; and two grandchildren.


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