Inspiration for 'Roc' television show killed after city argument

The 80-year-old man killed in Northeast Baltimore on Monday — after a punch caused him to fall and hit his head, police said — was the inspiration for the 1990s TV show "Roc."

John Wood formed the basis for the lead character on the Fox show portrayed by Baltimore actor Charles S. Dutton. Dutton grew up in Wood's neighborhood, and in the show portrayed a trash worker who believed in an honest day's work and went beyond his means to help his neighbors.


Wood retired as a Baltimore sanitation worker after more than 35 years, his wife said. He also raised two disabled foster children in addition to seven children, 15 grandchildren and several great-grandchildren.

"He was always helping people, always moving people, especially people on Social Security, people in church who had no money," said his wife, Hattie Wood, 79.

On Wednesday, police arrested Lorenzo Thornton Jr., 25, and charged him with second-degree murder. Police said he lived in the block where Wood was killed. No attorney was listed in court records for Thornton on Wednesday. Attempts to reach a close relative were not successful.

Hattie Wood said she believed Thornton was related to Wood but said she did not know him. John Wood's sister died recently, and Hattie Wood said John Wood had promised to look after her children and grandchildren.

She said Wood had been at his sister's home in the 5600 block of Midwood Ave. on Monday, fixing it up, when Thornton came by.

He told Wood he was moving into the home, Hattie Wood said detectives had told her. John Wood responded that Thornton could do so but asked for a donation to help pay for the extensive electrical, plumbing and structural work he had done, Hattie Wood said.

The dispute led to an argument, and police said Thornton punched Wood, sending him down a hill. He hit his head on concrete steps and was pronounced dead at Sinai Hospital at 1:15 p.m., police said.

The city of Baltimore declared a "John Wood Day" in August 1991 to honor Wood just after "Roc" premiered. Hattie Wood said John Wood also played semipro football for the Baltimore Rams until an ulcer forced him out of the game.

In a July 1991 article in The Baltimore Sun, Wood played down his fame, saying he was just a "garbage mover" who worked hard and did good deeds.

"It's not the best job, but it's an honest job," he said. "It's labor. It beats stealing, and I don't have to go stealing and I don't have to go to jail."