James Harold ‘Jim’ Belt, Baltimore County physical education teacher, coach and standout soccer player, dies

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James Harold “Jim” Belt, a retired Baltimore County physical education teacher, coach and standout soccer player, died of complications from COVID-19 on March 20 at Dove House Hospice in Westminster.

He was a day short of his 98th birthday and lived at Oak Crest by Erickson Senior Living in Parkville for 22 years.

James Harold "Jim" Belt earned 11 letters for soccer, baseball, basketball and lacrosse at Franklin High School.

Born in Glyndon on Zouck’s Farm in the Worthington Valley, he was the son of James Edgar Belt, a farm manager, and Lenore Brauning Belt, a homemaker.

As a young man he worked on the farm and told his family the physically demanding work — plowing fields and milking cows — prepared him to be an athlete and coach.


“He was a living legend among coaches and he helped significantly in implementing our Values Education Program in phys ed classes and school athletics,” said Robert Y. Dubel, former Baltimore County Schools superintendent. “Students loved him and he had quite a personality. He’d demonstrate exactly what he wanted them to do with the soccer ball.”

Mr. Belt was a 1942 graduate of Franklin High School in Reisterstown and earned 11 letters for soccer, baseball, basketball and lacrosse.

He set a basketball scoring record at Franklin and was named to the 1942 all-state and all-county teams in basketball, baseball and soccer.

Mr. Belt then joined the Marine Corps. After two of his brothers were killed in the line of duty, he was assigned to Cherry Point, North Carolina, as an equipment and message dispatcher.

He used the GI Bill to graduate from the University of Maryland and was captain of the soccer team.

A 1950 article in the University of Maryland’s newspaper, The Diamondback, said, “The great amount of success that soccer has had at Terptown in the past four years is largely due to [Mr. Belt’s] untiring efforts.”

He was named to All-Maryland, All-South and All-America soccer teams.

He turned down baseball offers from the Boston Red Sox, St. Louis Browns and Pittsburgh Pirates.


Instead, he joined the Baltimore County Department of Education and taught physical education at what was then called Sparks High School. In 1954 he joined the new Hereford High School faculty and was named its first athletic director and coach.

“He was an enthusiastic coach and when he came to Sparks we had barely won a game in years. He soon had us winning five games in Baltimore County,” said Wayne McGinnis, a former student. “He was a winner in everything he did and brought that attitude as a coach.”

From 1961 to 1983 he was a physical education teacher and athletic department head at Franklin Junior High School in Reisterstown.

“My father was a respected teacher known for his no-nonsense Marine style,” said his daughter, Caron B. McCausland. “He had a sense of humor, a whistle on his lanyard and expected each student to achieve their potential.”

Paul Wooden, a former Franklin student, said, “He taught me self-confidence and that I could push myself when I felt like quitting.”

Mr. Belt was a member of the Mason Dixon Soccer Officials for 25 years. He refereed high school basketball for 10 years and college basketball for over 21 years.


He was named to the Maryland State Athletic Hall of Fame and the Old Timers Soccer Association of Maryland, University of Maryland, Franklin High School and Sparks-Hereford athletic halls of fame.

Mr. Belt met his future wife, Betty Jean Tovell Belt, when he was mowing grass near her home. They married in 1950 and settled in Reisterstown.

Mr. Belt and his wife were advocates for their disabled son. They helped start a greenhouse and raised funds for day care and a pool in Reisterstown through the Maryland Society for Retarded Children — known today as The Arc Baltimore.

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He was active in the Rosewood Auxiliary, an organization for the families and guardians of residents of the old Rosewood State Hospital, a residential facility for adults with disabilities, and spent 10 years on its board of directors. His son Bobby was a resident.

He was active in the Reisterstown Kiwanis and Lions clubs. He was a charter member of the all-volunteer Reisterstown Recreation Council.

He was a past manager of the Glyndon pool and operated a Mr. Softee ice cream truck.


He played tennis and golf with his friends and manicured his yard.

Survivors include his daughter, Caron B. McCausland of Glyndon; two sons, James H. Belt Jr. of Westminster and Robert T. Belt of Timonium; eight grandchildren; and six great-grandchildren. His wife of 65 years, a Baltimore County elementary special education teacher, died in 2015.

Services for Mr. Belt were held Saturday at the Eline Funeral Home in Reisterstown.

Baltimore Sun reporter Frederick N. Rasmussen contributed to this article.