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Joseph Banks Bracy, 79, national bridge champion, longtime SSA employee


Joseph Banks Bracy, a national champion bridge player and a longtime Social Security Administration employee, died Monday of cancer at Joseph Richey Hospice in West Baltimore. He was 79.

Mr. Bracy lived in the Windsor Hills community in West Baltimore and belonged to many Baltimore-area card groups and played in tournaments along the East Coast.

In his most recent major competition, the National Bridge Tournament last summer in Philadelphia, Mr. Bracy and his partner, Henry Hall of Baltimore, placed first.

"He was constantly playing and reading" about bridge, said Mr. Hall. "We understood each other."

Some of the local bridge clubs of which Mr. Bracy was a member included the Double Finesse, Two and Four, 12 Plus and Holiday.

A soft-spoken man who studied the game, Mr. Bracy often played bridge three or four times a week.

"He was very good at it," said his wife, the former Norma Humphrey, whom he married in 1978. "And he was obviously very competitive."

A Boston native, Mr. Bracy received a football scholarship to what is now Huston-Tillotson College in Austin, Texas, from which he graduated in the early 1940s with a bachelor's degree in business.

He later received a master's degree from the Boston College School of Social Work and took courses at Cornell University, George Washington University and the University of Michigan.

Mr. Bracy served in the Army from the mid-1940s until 1950 and, later, in the Baltimore offices of the National Guard for 20 years. He fought in World War II and the Korean War.

In 1958, he began work in the Department of Health, Education and Welfare at the Woodlawn offices of the Social Security Administration. When he retired in 1979, he was awarded the commissioner's citation for outstanding performance.

"Everyone knew Joe as a hard worker and someone who would come, day in and day out, and do the job, no questions asked," said Carl Hilton, a former co-worker.

In addition to bridge, Mr. Bracy enjoyed playing golf and belonged to the Forest Park Senior Golf Club. As a young man, he pitched for a semiprofessional baseball team in the Negro Leagues in New England.

For more than 50 years, Mr. Bracy was a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc., and he was the current historian of the Baltimore chapter and past chairman of the organization's Founders Day.

"He was very much an Alpha man," said Ray Johnson of Baltimore, one of Mr. Bracy's fraternity brothers. "He just had the idea that the Alpha fraternity was the best fraternity."

Since 1978, Mr. Bracy belonged to Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church, where his many activities included serving as a deacon, trustee and elder, and belonging to the church's restoration committee.

Services are scheduled for 11 a.m. today at the church, 2110 Madison Ave.

Mr. Bracy married Eleanor Emerson in 1942; she died in 1974.

In addition to his wife, he is survived by two daughters, Ann Starks of Baltimore and Charlotte Bracy of Baltimore; a brother, Paul Bracy of Boston; three grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.

Pub Date: 2/12/99

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