Grover L. McCrea Jr., a retired college administrator and former member of the Baltimore school board who advocated the "back-to-basics" movement in education, died Friday after a heart attack at his home in Northeast Baltimore.
Mr. McCrea, who was 61, retired in 1986 from Coppin State College, where he had been director of urban leadership programs since 1971. For a time, he was also assistant to the dean of continuing education.
In the 1970s, he was also a consultant for B.F. and M. Recruiters Association, an area management recruiting firm for industry.
From 1968 to 1971, he directed the training and assistance programs at the Community College of Baltimore.
He was appointed to the school board in 1975 by Mayor William Donald Schaefer. He resigned from the board in 1981.
"He was always a very strong supporter of mine and a really good man. I count him as one of my friends, and he served the city well in his work in both education and on the parks board. A good, good man," said Mr. Schaefer, who as mayor named Mr. McCrea a commissioner of recreation and parks.
Mr. McCrea got interested in the schools when the parent-involvement chairman of the Northwood Elementary School PTA sent home a note asking for help from parents. Mr. McCrea scrawled across the letter, "How can I get involved?"
He became PTA vice president and helped in the effort to establish Chinquapin Middle School.
He was born on Caroline Street in East Baltimore and attended public schools. He graduated fifth in his class at Dunbar High School in 1950, then joined the Army. He was stationed in Germany for several years. He earned a bachelor's degree from Antioch College in Ohio in 1970 and a master's degree in business administration from Loyola College in 1973.
He was active at Bethel Holy Tabernacle United Holy Church on Aisquith Street, where he had been an assistant pastor. He had also been the pastor of St. Rose United Holy Church in Washington. At the time of his death, he was associate minister of the Hallelujah Church of God in Baltimore.
Among his many civic posts, he was a member of the board of the Urban Coalition and the Baltimore City Mental Health Advisory Board, and vice chairman of the board of Liberty Medical Center.
"He was an involved citizen. He was insightful, inspirational and always asked the question, 'How will this impact people?' I always appreciated his views," said William Jews, president and chief executive officer of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Maryland.
In 1979, Mr. McCrea was the first black candidate to run for a seat from the 3rd City Council District in Northeast Baltimore. He lost.
"From my standpoint, he was very hard-working, easily met and he ran at full steam," recalled former Councilman Frank X. Gallagher, who was a winning candidate in that election.
A wake is set for 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. today with services at 11:30 a.m. at Bethel AME Church, Druid Hill Avenue and Lanvale Street. Interment will be in Garrison Forest Veterans Cemetery, 11501 Garrison Forest Road in Owings Mills.
He is survived by his wife, the former Marian Jones, a son, Daryl McCrea, and a daughter, Denise D. Washington, all of Baltimore; his father, Grover L. McCrea of Linden, N.J.; two brothers, Rufus McCrea of Baltimore and Charles McCrea of Chelmsford, Mass.; three sisters, Gloria Clark of Linden and Doris Thomas and Patricia Ross, both of Baltimore; and four grandchildren.