Alvin J.T. Zumbrun, criminologist

Dr. Alvin J.T. Zumbrun was a noted criminologist who taught at various colleges and police academies.
Dr. Alvin J.T. Zumbrun was a noted criminologist who taught at various colleges and police academies.(Baltimore Sun)

Alvin J.T. Zumbrun, a criminologist whose career in teaching at various colleges and police academies spanned more than four decades, died Tuesday of cancer at his Catonsville home. He was 88.

"During his 40-year career teaching law enforcement officers criminal justice, Dr. Zumbrun had a great impact on the safety of Marylanders," said Maryland State Police spokesman Gregory Shipley. "He was absolutely committed to this training."


The son of Alvin Zumbrun, a Pennsylvania Railroad locomotive engineer, and Mary Kathyrn Zumbrun, a homemaker, Alvin John Thomas Zumbrun was born and raised in West Baltimore.

He attended City College and withdrew to join the Navy in 1943.

"He was 16 and lied about his age and said he was 17 in order to join the Navy," said a son, Alvin J.T. "Jay" Zumbrun Jr. of Sykesville.

He served as a radio operator and gunner aboard an armed cargo ship in the North Atlantic, and also served on destroyers, destroyer escorts and landing craft.

He had attained the rank of radioman first class by the time of his discharge in 1946. He was recalled to active duty during the Korean War, during which he was promoted to lieutenant.

Mr. Zumbrun earned his General Educational Development certificate in 1946. In 1952, he earned a bachelor's degree in sociology with an emphasis on crime control from the University of Maryland, College Park. In 1956, he earned a master's degree in sociology, also from the University of Maryland.

He earned a degree in 1966 from the University of Baltimore School of Law and a second master's degree, in 1972, in correctional education from what is now Coppin State University. In 1974, he earned a master's degree in art education, also from Coppin.

Mr. Zumbrun began his long professional career in 1952 when he was appointed to the Circuit Court of Baltimore City's Division of Juvenile Services as a probation officer. His probation cases included juveniles charged with car theft, assault, robbery, burglary, arson and the making of zipguns, or homemade pistols.


In 1953, he left the field of criminology when he took a job with a mutual life insurance company.

"The beginning salary was approximately 50% more than what I was making at that time and I was in no position to refuse it," he wrote in a biographical sketch in the early 1960s.

Mr. Zumbrun was appointed assistant director of the Baltimore County Community Chest in 1954, and a year later, was named budget and program director.

In 1956, he was appointed managing director of the Baltimore Criminal Justice Commission, a position he held until resigning in 1959.

During his tenure with the commission, he participated in the 1957 probe of the Baltimore Police Department that resulted in the release from prison of several men who had been the victims of planted evidence and the dismissal of approximately 40 cases because of questionable evidence.

Mr. Zumbrun became the first executive director in 1959 of the Maryland Crime Investigating Commission, a position he held until stepping down in 1994.


In addition to his duties with the commission, Mr. Zumbrun developed the police administration and correctional services curriculum at what is now the Community College of Baltimore County at Catonsville and continued expanding the program until retiring from the college in 1994.

His son recalled traveling throughout Maryland with his father when he was teenager.

"I remember going from one correctional institution to another while Dad met with the prison staff and encouraged them to enroll in college courses that were taught in the grounds of the institution," his son said. "He was one of the early pioneers who promoted professionalism through formal education."

He took a year's leave in 1974 from the college when he enhanced the graduate program in criminal justice at the University of Baltimore. He returned to Catonsville in 1975.

In addition to his work at Catonsville, Mr. Zumbrun was an adjunct professor at Coppin State University, the Johns Hopkins University and Hood College from 1970 to 2002. He also taught at the Maryland State Police Academy.

His son said that through the years, his father taught an estimated 32,000 federal, state and local police officers and police recruits.

"He took the time to speak with many of his students and provide encouragement to them. He was affectionately known as 'Dr. Z' by the thousands of Maryland State Police he had taught from 1971 to 2009," he said.

"Nearly 40 years ago, I was a teenager unsure of my future career when I walked into my first class at Catonsville Community College and met Dr. Zumbrun," said Mr. Shipley, who retired from the state police with the rank of major in 2005 and is now its civilian spokesman.

"During that next semester, he not only encouraged me to pursue a career in the Maryland State Police, but he became a mentor and friend who has advised and inspired me ever since," said Mr. Shipley.

Mr. Zumbrun's work earned him many awards through the years.

"He was particularly honored when he received an honorary Maryland State Trooper Award in 1995," his son said.

He was the author of "Organized Crime, Gambling, and Law Enforcement," published in 1964.

Mr. Zumbrun enjoyed traveling. He was a former member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars post in Ellicott City.

He was a communicant of St. Agnes Roman Catholic Church, 5422 Old Frederick Road, Catonsville, where a Mass of Christian burial will be offered at noon Saturday.

In addition to his son, he is survived by his wife of two years, the former Patricia McCarthy; another son, Steven Zumbrun of Perry Hall; a daughter, Mary Kathleen Harrison of Tampa, Fla.; 13 grandchildren; and 11 great-grandchildren.

His wife of 59 years, the former Marianne Nolan, died in 2009. A daughter, Diane Comas, died in 1997; and another daughter, Mary Susan Pantazis, died in 1999.