David C. Holly, 83, author of 4 books on steamboats, Navy veteran, teacher


Since childhood, David C. Holly had been in love with steamboats, moved by their glamour and romance, mesmerized by the memories of seeing these huge vessels line the harbors of Baltimore, and spellbound by the stories he was told as a child.

Mr. Holly turned his love for steamboats, in particular, and ships, in general, into a career, including 20 years of military service in the Navy, years of teaching at colleges and universities on the East Coast and writing four books.

Mr. Holly died Friday at Anne Arundel Medical Center in Annapolis after a short illness. He was 83 and had been a resident of Annapolis since 1969.

In 1969, his "Exodus 1947" was published. In it, he traced the career of the steamboat President Warfield, later to be remembered by another name, Exodus.

Mr. Holly called the book a trilogy. He said it covers the golden days of steamboats, filled with glamour; it follows the ship's days as a warship, from the lend-lease British training ship to the control ship off Omaha Beach during the D-Day Invasion in World War II; and finally it describes the vessel's 1947 voyage.

That year, the President Warfield was bought by the Jewish underground and kept in the James River. After it had been outfitted in Baltimore, the ship set off for Sete, France, where 4,554 Jewish refugees were waiting for passage to Palestine and freedom from postwar detention camps.

The ship's journey to Palestine was cut short when it tried to run a British blockade. During the confrontation, the crew of the President Warfield turned over the ship's name board to reveal "Exodus 1947." The refugees were forced to board British ships and sent back to Germany. But in the end, the United Nations voted to partition Palestine and created the state of Israel.

Mr. Holly's three other books are "Steamboat on the Chesapeake," "Tidewater by Steamboat" and "Chesapeake Steamboats."

He also wrote articles for journals such as Weather Cage, Classic Boat and American Neptune.

A Catonsville native, Mr. Holly graduated from Catonsville High School in 1934 and received a bachelor's degree in science from the Johns Hopkins University in 1938 and a master's degree from the University of Maryland, College Park in 1939. He served in the Navy from 1942 to 1964.

After receiving a doctorate from American University in 1964, he taught for two years in American University's School for International Studies. From 1967 to 1978, he was at Hampden-Sydney College in Virginia, where he was head of the Department of Government and Foreign Affairs.

No services will be held, but a visitation is scheduled from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. tomorrow in the Blue Heron Center at Quiet Waters Park, 600 Quiet Waters Park Road in Annapolis.

He is survived by his wife, the former Carolyn King, whom he married in 1949; three sons, J. Timothy Holly of Oldsmar, Fla., Brian M. Holly of Frederick and Guy K. Holly of Corvallis, Ore.; and five grandchildren.

Pub Date: 2/17/99

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