William D. Crump, 89, Lyric's managing director, president


William D. Crump, who rose from part-time usher to managing director and president of the Lyric Theater, died Sunday at the Charlestown Retirement Community of cancer. He was 89.

He was known as "Buddy" to performers, governors, mayors and members of Baltimore society, whom he escorted to their private boxes. To the staff, he was "Mr. Crump."

A draftsman by trade, Mr. Crump began working as a part-time usher at the Lyric in 1932 "because he wanted to hear the music without buying a ticket," said his daughter, Karen L. Davison of Bunker Hill, W.Va.

During World War II, he designed aircraft turrets at the Glenn L. Martin Co. in Middle River and continued as an usher. In 1947, he was appointed house manager of the Lyric.

He became managing director in 1959 after the death of Frederick R. Huber, one of the founders of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, who had held the position since 1921.

During his daily routine at the Lyric, Mr. Crump saw to the replacement of burned out light bulbs, checked the temperature in the auditorium and dealt with temperamental performers and ushers who came to work slightly tipsy.

Robert Pomory has been executive director and president of the Lyric since Mr. Crump retired in 1970. He was hired by Mr. Crump in 1962.

"His advice to me was be stern," Mr. Pomory said. "Get your point across and don't give in. Always have a smile -- think what you want but don't let them know what you're thinking -- and bite your tongue.' "

He recalled Mr. Crump as "an elegant man who had a very mild temperment and tone of voice and always stood smoking his ever-present pipe at his usual spot outside of the men's smoking parlor."

"He stood there politely answering questions, talking to the guests while maintaining the dignity and decorum of the Lyric," Mr. Pomory said.

Mr. Crump was acquainted with stars of the opera and concert worlds, including opera singer Rosa Ponselle whom he described as "quite a character." His other favorites included pianist-composer Sergei Rachmaninoff, pianists Rudolph Serkin and Jose Iturbi, violinist Fritz Kreisler, comedian Jack Benny and comedian and pianist Victor Borge.

Mr. Crump "was especially fond of [conductor] Leopold Stokowski and even helped Eugene Ormandy, another favorite, select a red sofa that he napped on in the conductor's dressing BTC room and was known as the Ormandy Sofa," Mr. Pomory said.

Born in Howard Park and raised on Guilford Avenue, Mr. Crump was a graduate of the Polytechnic Institute and Maryland Institute of Art. He also attended Johns Hopkins University.

During World War II, the former Armagh Village resident served in the Naval Reserve.

His wife, the former Genevieve Jackson, whom he married in 1929, died in 1980. A daughter, Margaret Duffy, died in 1993.

Services were held yesterday.

Other survivors include six grandchildren; 11 great-grandchildren; and two great-great grandchildren.

Donations for a memorial portrait may be made to the Lyric Foundation, 1302 St. Paul St., Baltimore 21202.

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