Clee O. Worden Jr. helped find a way to protect the hulls of Liberty ships in World War II.
Clee O. Worden Jr. helped find a way to protect the hulls of Liberty ships in World War II. (Handout)

Clee O. Worden Jr., a retired metallurgist and founder of Bayport Steel, died April 23 from heart failure at the Blakehurst Retirement Community in Towson. He was 98.

Clee Oakley Worden Jr., the son of Clee O. Worden Sr., a manufacturer of barber and beauty products, and his wife, Wilhelmina Munzer, who worked in the Baltimore County tax assessor’s office, was born in Baltimore and raised in Towson.

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He was a 1938 graduate of Towson High School. When he was 16, because of family financial difficulties, he took a job at Montgomery Ward, where he “earned 54 cents an hour,” said a daughter, Nancy Worden Horst of Towson.

After high school, Mr. Worden worked at Rustless Iron and Steel Co. on Edison Highway and several other local steel and iron mills, while attending the Johns Hopkins University at night to study metallurgy.

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Native of Argentina practiced architecture in Pennsylvania and Maryland before joining the Social Security Administration.

He enlisted in the Navy in 1943 and joined the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, where he was assigned as a member of a team that was trying to solve the problem of why Liberty ship hulls ruptured in freezing waters of the North Atlantic.

They discovered that the freezing water caused the embrittlement of the steel hulls, and the solution was not using welded hull technology but rather rivets.

After the war, Mr. Worden worked with Carl Zapffe on a new method of metallurgical research called fractology, photographing metals fractured by different processes under high magnification.

The Smithsonian Institution and the American Society of Metals recognized their work with several awards, family members said.

After moving near Philadelphia, Mr. Worden took a position in sales first for the Horace T. Potts Co., and then Edgecomb Steel.

In 1965, he moved to Baltimore, and with his wife, the former Mary Louise Vale, whom he had married in 1942, built a home in Glen Arm.

Mr. Worden established his own firm, Bayport Steel, in 1968, as a manufacturers’ representative for steel fabricating and manufacturing firms, and also served as a consultant on metallurgical manufacturing issues.

He retired from the business in 1998.

Mr. Worden drove only General Motors automobiles, family members said, and he was especially fond of Cadillacs, and it wasn’t uncommon for him to put 40,000 miles a year on them.

He moved to Blakehurst, where enjoyed writing light verse, which was published in the Blakehurst Banner. When he turned 98, he wrote, “If I live to be 99, I’ll try to write another rhyme.”

His wife died in 2009.

Mr. Worden was a member of St. Andrew’s Christian Community in Roland Park.

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He was a member of the Johns Hopkins Club, Baltimore Country Club, and the St. George’s Society.

Plans for a memorial society are incomplete.

He is survived by five daughters, Nancy Worden Horst of Towson, Carol W. Morris of Homeland, Karen “Gussy” Millard of Stoneleigh, Mary Jo Stropp of Naples, Fla., and Suzanne Worden of New York City; 12 grandchildren; eight great-grandchildren; and his companion, Bettie Crow.

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