George Bernard Solomon, a "gentle giant" who served for 12 years as chairman of Advance Bank, was pronounced dead last Monday after apparently suffering a heart attack the previous night while walking at the Woodlawn High School track. He was 55.
Mr. Solomon helped guide Advance, a community bank founded to serve African-Americans in Baltimore, as it more than doubled its assets over the past dozen years to about $75 million, according to its president and chief executive officer, John Hamilton.
In particular, Mr. Solomon advised the bank when it acquired Berean Bank in West Philadelphia in 2003.
The Catonsville resident cut an imposing figure at 6 feet 5 inches and 250 pounds, but he did not intimidate. He used a combination of intelligence, experience and charm in dealing with employees at all levels, Mr. Hamilton said. As a result, the bank president said, he felt the loss as much personally as professionally.
"When you meet someone with such integrity, such class, such style, you grow to love that person," Mr. Hamilton said. "It's been extremely painful this week."
Mr. Hamilton said the two last saw each other June 2, when Mr. Solomon stopped by the bank to prepare for a board meeting. The institution will wait until after funeral services to discuss how to replace its chairman, he said.
Mr. Solomon was born in Greensboro, N.C., and grew up in Raleigh. His father was a State Farm Bureau administrator and his mother was a school system employee, according to Mr. Solomon's wife, the former Bernadette Marie Lynch. He attended private schools in North Carolina before going to Providence College in Rhode Island, graduating in 1972.
He moved to Baltimore to take a job with the former Ernst & Young accounting office that year. He received his certified public accountant's license in 1975, the year he married his wife.
He had noticed her while doing an audit at Provident Hospital, where she was an administrative assistant, and asked to be introduced.
"The first time we met, he wanted to know what I did, how long I had worked at the hospital - just general conversation," Mrs. Solomon said. "His next question was: Was I available?"
"We all called George a gentle giant," she said.
Mr. Solomon worked in top finance positions at several concerns, including the Jackson Group, which Mr. Hamilton said was involved in oil distribution; Constant Care Community Health Center; and the American Red Cross.
In 1993, he joined the accounting firm of Abrams, Foster, Nole & Williams as a principal, and in 1995 he began his own firm, which provided tax, audit and accounting services.
Active in the community, Mr. Solomon was treasurer of the Girl Scouts of Central Maryland and the Children's Home, and a member of the National Association of Black Accountants.
Mr. Solomon enjoyed barbecuing and spending time with his family at picnics.
He was an indulgent parent, said his daughter, Alicia Solomon of Catonsville.
"He spoiled me to death - turned me into a daddy's girl," said Ms. Solomon, whose father attended her graduation from Villa Julie College two weeks ago.
Mr. Solomon last spent time with his family June 4, when his extended family gathered for a backyard barbecue. Mrs. Solomon then left to visit her father, who was in the hospital at the time, and Mr. Solomon apparently decided to go for an evening walk at the track.
Mrs. Solomon called his cell phone repeatedly from Union Memorial Hospital until police officers answered early June 5 and told her to come home, she said. Joggers had discovered his body at the track.
Funeral services will be at 11 a.m. today at St. Joseph Monastery Parish, at 3801 Old Frederick Road.
In addition to his wife and daughter, Mr. Solomon is survived by another daughter, Lizette Marie Crosby of Owings Mills; a brother, Aaron Walter Solomon Jr. of Wake Forest, N.C.; a sister, Michelle Solomon-Brown of Fuquay-Varina, N.C.; and two grandchildren.