HENRY J. KNOTT SR., who died Sunday at 89, will be remembered for his generous gifts. The Catholic Church and its educational and medical institutions were particularly dear to him. But the building magnate also gave to other causes, ranging from the Johns Hopkins Oncology Center to the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra.
Mr. Knott was a hard-nosed businessman with direct lines to a number of Maryland governors and other political leaders as well as to the princes of the church. Because of his wealth, he was an insider who gladly participated in deals that promised to have a civic benefit, even though he might not have fully understood what was involved. Two years ago, when he joined his long-time friend Peter Angelos and a coterie of investors in buying the Orioles, Mr. Knott remarked: "I know as much about baseball as you know about going to the moon. If it works out all right, fine. If it doesn't, that's fine, too. I've lost money before."
Mr. Knott started work as a bricklayer with his father's construction company in the 1920s. He and his brother, Charles A. Knott, who died two years ago, became major builders after World War II, capitalizing on suburban growth in the Baltimore area and developing land in strategic locations that benefited from the opening of the Baltimore Beltway.
In the 1960s, Henry Knott was among the laymen and clergy responsible for creating what today is the United Way from an array of separate Catholic and Jewish charities, the Community Chest agencies and the Red Cross. Meanwhile, his personal wealth kept increasing due to his ownership of such companies as the Arundel Corp., Henry A. Knott Homebuilders and Knott Enterprises.
In charitable giving, he valued Catholic educational institutions above all. His alma mater, Loyola College, the College of Notre Dame of Maryland and Emmitsburg's Mount St. Mary's College were among major beneficiaries of Knott contributions, which by 1988 had exceeded $140 million.
Henry Knott took his civic and religious responsibilities seriously. He will be missed.