James R. Dillon, 65, athletic director and founder of state group


James R. Dillon, the former athletic director at Old Mill High School and a founder of the state athletic directors association, died Thursday of a bone-marrow disorder at his Annapolis home. He was 65.

In his 38-year career, Mr. Dillon helped write the physical education curriculum and academic standards for high school athletes in Anne Arundel County. He was one of the first organizers of the annual meeting of state athletic directors, and in 1987 he was named the nation's top athletic director by the National Association of Secondary School Principals, said Steve Malone, a retired soccer coach at North County High School.

When he retired in 2000 as Old Mill's first athletic director, the school named the gymnasium in his honor and Mr. Dillon was inducted into the state's Athletic Director Hall of Fame.

"Whatever needed to be done, he was going to do it, whether it was line the fields or what," said Malone. "Every program was important to him, whether it was the football team or the tennis team. He ran a very fair, very equitable program."

Born and raised on a farm in Hedgesville, W.Va., Mr. Dillon graduated from Shepherd College in 1961 and received a master's degree from the University of Maryland in 1970.

He began his career at Andover High School, now North County High, as football coach and athletic director in 1962.

In 1975, he started the athletic program at Old Mill. Mr. Dillon also helped start the Maryland State Athletic Directors Association, which named him the state's top physical education teacher in 1993.

"We like to think of sports as advanced placement classes," Mr. Dillon told The Sun then. "After high school, very few people go on to play college sports, and most of them stop playing after that. ... Physical education gives you a broad background in fitness and establishes habits that you can use forever."

Mr. Dillon, who had a love for ranching, spent his final years traveling with his wife, the former Brenda Wilson, including a monthlong road trip through Texas and other parts of the southwestern United States. They also visited Hawaii, Alaska and London.

"Both of us had lost our spouses to cancer, so we both realized that if the opportunity [to travel] arises, you might want to go ahead and try it," said his wife, who married Mr. Dillon in 1999. His first wife, the former Elaine Stearns, died in 1997.

A memorial service is planned for 4 p.m. today at Weems Creek Baptist Church, 600 N. Bestgate Road, in Annapolis.

In addition to his wife, he is survived by two daughters, Teresa Bohanan of Arnold and Tamara Smith of Virginia Beach, Va.; two stepchildren, Jeanine Myers of Baltimore and Shawn Wilson of Glen Burnie; a sister, Dorathea Coblentz of Upper Saddle River, N.J.; and 10 grandchildren.

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