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Earl W. Nesbitt
Earl W. Nesbitt (Baltimore Sun)

Lt. Col. Earl W. Nesbitt, a retired decorated career Army officer who had fought in Vietnam and remained a staunch advocate for veterans, died Sunday at Northwest Hospital of complications from diabetes. He was 74.

The son of James Robert Nesbitt Sr., a cabdriver, and Mildred Alice Johnson Nesbitt, a bar owner, Earl William Nesbitt was born and raised in South Baltimore.

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After graduating in 1958 from Frederick Douglass High School, he earned a bachelor's degree in 1961 in biology from what is now Morgan State University.

While at Morgan, he joined the ROTC and was a member of the Pershing Rifles. After graduating from college, he was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Army in 1961.

He served overseas in Germany and Korea and in Vietnam, where he was a hospital administrator. When he was discharged with the rank of lieutenant colonel in 1975, he was serving as a health service plans and operation officer at Walter Reed Army Hospital in Washington.

Some of Colonel Nesbitt's decorations included the Bronze Star, Meritorious Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal with Oak Leaf Clusters, Vietnam Service Medal, Vietnam Campaign Medal and Combat Medical Badge.

After completing his service, he served as state coordinator of veterans employment and training with the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation, where he worked for 19 years until retiring in 2005, family members said.

The Rosedale resident, who earlier had lived in Northwood, was a member of the American Legion, Disabled American Veterans, Veterans of Foreign Wars and the Amvets. He was also a member of the National Society of Pershing Rifles, 555th Airborne Association, and the 9th and 10th Horse Calvary Association.

He was a founding member of the African American Patriots Consortium, which later merged with the National Association for Black Veterans.

Through his efforts with the General Assembly, he was successful in getting Feb. 20 declared as Buffalo Soldiers Day, honoring African-American cavalry soldiers of the 19th and early 20th centuries.

Colonel Nesbitt was a Mason and a member of the Sampson Brooks Lodge of Maryland, Mount Tabor Lodge, and the Grand Chapter of AF&FM Masons.

"Earl was sensitive and caring and lived by the philosophy, 'A friend in need is a friend indeed,' " said former state Del. Clarence "Tiger" Davis, a longtime friend, who is chairman of the Baltimore City Veterans Commission.

Funeral services will be held at 4 p.m. Sunday at Emmanuel Ministries Church of God and Christ, 4839 Hazelwood Ave., Baltimore.

He is survived by his wife of four years, the former Diane Ogletree; two daughters, LeVonne A. Nesbitt and Lisa D. Nesbitt, both of Baltimore; a stepson, Dwight D. Jones of Baltimore; and 10 grandchildren. His son, Earl W. Nesbitt Jr., died in 1995. An earlier marriage to the former Theresa Annette Barnes, ended in divorce.

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