Roger M. Kelly

The Baltimore Sun

Roger M. "Mike" Kelly, a former railroad executive and a longtime Oxford resident, suffered a heart attack Monday and was pronounced dead at a hospital in Melbourne, Fla. He was 96.

Mr. Kelly, who was born and raised in Towson, was a 1927 graduate of Calvert Hall College High School and attended the University of Maryland, College Park. He earned a bachelor's degree in business from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1933.

Mr. Kelly's extensive career, spanning more than 50 years, began in Washington during the 1930s when he worked for the Department of Commerce.

After obtaining his certified public accountant's certificate, Mr. Kelly worked for F.W. Lafrentz, a downtown Baltimore accounting firm, until enlisting in the Navy the day after Pearl Harbor was bombed on Dec. 7, 1941.

Mr. Kelly rose from the rank of ordinary seaman to commander and was assigned to the staff of James V. Forrestal, then secretary of the Navy and later secretary of defense.

During the war, Mr. Kelly was in charge of aircraft procurement for the Navy.

"He was assigned to New York City and dealt regularly with the Glenn L. Martin Co. and Grumman Aircraft Corp. on Long Island," said his son-in-law, Thomas H. Reynolds Jr. of Oxford.

After the end of the war, Mr. Kelly began working for Arthur Young & Co., an accounting firm in New York. During his career there he also worked in the company's Boston office.

In 1956, he joined the Philadelphia & Reading Corp. in New York as executive vice president and director, and "played a leading role in that company's diversification program," said a 1970 article in The Sun.

After the 1968 acquisition of Philadelphia & Reading by Northwest Industries Inc., formerly Chicago & Northwestern Railway, a holding company, Mr. Kelly retired.

His retirement was short-lived, and in 1970, he joined Seaboard Coast Line Railroad as vice chairman and chief financial officer.

The Seaboard Coast Line Railroad, which had historic ties to Baltimore through its component lines, was formed by the 1967 merger of the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad, Louisville & Nashville Railroad and Seaboard Air Line Railroad.

Mr. Kelly remained with Seaboard Coast Line until 1980, when the company was merged with the Chessie System, now CSX Corp.

H. Furlong Baldwin, who was chief executive officer of Mercantile Bankshares Corp. for 25 years, was an old friend of Mr. Kelly's.

"Most people in life are lucky to have one mentor during their lifetimes. I had three," Mr. Baldwin said last week. "I had Benjamin Griswold, William McGuirk and Mike Kelly. I was very fortunate."

Because of Mercantile's involvement with Seaboard Coast Line, Mr. Kelly maintained an office in the Mercantile building in downtown Baltimore.

"Mike was not your average guy and was very bright," Mr. Baldwin said. "He also had several great characteristics. He got to a problem quickly and a solution quickly."

Mr. Baldwin added: "He also had a charming sense of humor and was great fun to be around."

During his business career, Mr. Kelly also was a vice president of the Baltimore Colts from 1958 to 1959 and had served on the boards of a number of publicly traded companies, including Arundel Corp., Eastmet, Mercantile Bankshares Corp. and Eastco.

He also served on the boards of Washington College in Chestertown and the Talbot Country Club.

During his retirement years, Mr. Kelly split his time between his farm in Oxford, where he bred red Angus cattle, and his winter home in John's Island near Vero Beach, Fla.

Mr. Kelly was active in his Florida community and was a past member of the board of directors of the John's Island Association, where he had chaired its finance committee.

He was also a member of the Maryland Club.

"His greatest pleasure in life was his family and his beloved farm in Oxford," Mr. Reynolds said. "His enthusiasm for life was exemplified in everything he did - his sports, his cattle and everyday life."

Mr. Kelly's wife of 44 years, the former Dorothy Morrell, died in 1987.

Mr. Kelly was a communicant for 47 years of SS. Peter & Paul Roman Catholic Church in Easton, where a Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 10 a.m. Tuesday.

Surviving are his wife of nine years, the former Adele Read; a son, Michael C. Kelly of Oxford; a daughter, Patricia Kelly Reynolds of Oxford; two grandchildren; and six great-grandchildren.

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