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Douglas R. Price, historian and former aide to President Eisenhower, dies

Douglas R. Price was a businessman, inventor, historian and writer who had been an aide to President Dwight D. Eisenhower.
Douglas R. Price was a businessman, inventor, historian and writer who had been an aide to President Dwight D. Eisenhower.(HANDOUT)

Douglas R. Price, a businessman, inventor, historian and writer who had been an aide to President Dwight D. Eisenhower, died Sunday on his 87th birthday of complications from Parkinson's disease at the Blakehurst Retirement Community in Towson.

The son of W. James Price III, a partner at Alex. Brown & sons, and Frances Robbins Price, a homemaker, Douglas Robbins Price was born and raised in Ruxton.

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After graduating from the Gilman School in 1947, he earned a bachelor's degree in 1951 in economics from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

In 1951, he joined the Eisenhower for President campaign and was press assistant to the future president at the 1952 Republican Convention in Chicago.

As a member of Mr. Eisenhower's personal campaign staff, Mr. Price traveled aboard the campaign train as it criss-crossed the country.

He enjoyed telling friends: "When I first met Eisenhower, he was a retired Army officer. When I finished my mission, he was president of the United States. That's the kind of work I do."

In a 2006 article in The Baltimore Sun about presidential swearing, Mr. Price recalled that Mr. Eisenhower "cursed privately on occasion, but only in light blue, not dark four-letter words."

"Anyone who made the mistake of using scatological or vulgar language in Ike's presence regretted it, as did any one of his friends who made the mistake of telling an off-color story. Eisenhower had too much respect for the presidency," Mr. Price said.

He recalled what it was like when someone annoyed President Eisenhower, earning a dose of presidential enmity. Mr. Price said he once tarried to get a last-minute shot of the presidential plane with his new movie camera — and was the last person to board as the door was shut.

The president greeted him "with the nonverbal presidential stare that was coolly delivered and burned like a blowtorch."

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"I didn't ever do that again," said Mr. Price. "He didn't have to say anything. He could reprimand you severely with those cold blue steel eyes of his. They could penetrate right through you."

After working at the Republican National Committee, the International Cooperation Administration and the U.S. Commission on Government Security, Mr. Price was named a special assistant to the president and joined the White House staff in 1957.

After President Eisenhower left office in 1961, Mr. Price co-founded Atlantic Development Co., an international marketing and sales firm, which recently closed.

In addition to his own business career, Mr. Price served as chairman of the board of the Baltimore-based Vanns Spices Ltd.

A longtime resident of Rock Hall and Chestertown, Mr. Price was a familiar sight on the Chesapeake Bay and the Intracoastal Waterway as he sailed his twin-diesel-powered cabin cruiser, the Francina, between Maryland, the Florida Keys and the Bahamas.

Mr. Price was a member of the Corsica River Yacht Club and the Magothy River Sailing Association.

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He also held two patents on maritime safety and navigation devices.

"He had invented a channel finder that measured the water and depth on both sides of a channel, which aided a mariner to safely stay in deep water," said a nephew, Jonathan Price of Cockeysville.

In 1977, Mr. Price filed suit against the state Department of Natural Resources, seeking an injunction forbidding state officials and Gov. Marvin Mandel to use the Prowler, an unmarked Marine Police patrol boat, for "personal pleasure." The suit ended in a consent decree that ended the use of the Prowler for the entertainment and pleasure of state officials.

"The injunction set a powerful precedent in Maryland, showing that a taxpayer can stop officials from diverting public funds to their own personal use," Mr. Price said at the time.

He served as a member of the editorial advisory board of the Dwight David Eisenhower Papers at the Johns Hopkins University, and was on the board of the Eisenhower Institute and the Eisenhower Foundation.

Mr. Price's favorite hobby was collecting and writing about presidential and White House trivia and stories. In an unpublished monograph about then-General Eisenhower's supposed wartime affair with Kay Summersby, an English woman who was his driver, Mr. Price relied on the recollections of Sgt. Mickey McKeough, who was the general's orderly.

"That stuff about an affair with Kay is sheer nonsense," he said Sergeant McKeough told him. "I put the boss to bed every night, and there was no one else in the bed. In the mornings when I would wake him up, there was no one else in the bed, except the one time I found Telek, his black Scotty, on his pillow."

Mr. Price told The Sun it was time for educators, journalists, biographers and historians to put that "baseless old rumor to rest."

Since 2015, Mr. Price had lived at the Towson retirement community. He was a member of the Elkridge Club and the Metropolitan Club of Washington.

A memorial service will be held at 11:30 a.m. Saturday in the chapel of the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer, 5603 N. Charles St.

In addition to his nephew, Mr. Price is survived by a brother, W. James Price IV of Towson; a sister, Dorsey Price Salerno of Maplewood, N.J.; and several other nieces and nephews.

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