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John William Gryder, educator

John William Gryder, who taught chemistry at the Johns Hopkins University for 40 years and was a civil rights activist, died Jan. 26 of complications from dementia at Roland Park Place. He was 85.
John William Gryder, who taught chemistry at the Johns Hopkins University for 40 years and was a civil rights activist, died Jan. 26 of complications from dementia at Roland Park Place. He was 85. (Baltimore Sun)

John William Gryder, who taught chemistry at the Johns Hopkins University for 40 years and was a civil rights activist, died Jan. 26 of complications from dementia at Roland Park Place.

He was 85.

The son of a Pacific Electric streetcar motorman and a homemaker, he was born and raised in Pasadena, Calif.

He was 16 when he enrolled at the California Institute of Technology and was 22 when he earned his doctorate in chemistry from Columbia University in 1948.

Dr. Gryder joined the faculty at Hopkins in 1948. He spent his career teaching freshman chemistry and advising pre-medical students.

In a profile in the Johns Hopkins Magazine at the time of his retirement in 1988, Dr. Gryder explained the rewards of being a teacher.

"What I really enjoy is when somebody comes back from a long time ago, particularly someone I've completely forgotten, and attributed to me some of the things I've been attributing to my teachers. … That happens every once in a while," he said.

A liberal Democrat, Dr. Gryder joined with Hopkins colleague and campus chaplain, the Rev. Dr. Chester Wickwire, in his civil rights work during the 1960s and 1970s.

"He admired and supported the late Chester Wickwire's work. The Johns Hopkins Tutorial Project was started by Chester and reflected my father's hope that everyone should be given the opportunity to an education," said a son, David Jonas Gryder, who lives in Hillsborough, N.J.

"He also was involved with many blockbusting cases when blacks were being kept out of white neighborhoods," he said. "A house for sale would be one price for whites and a different price for blacks, whom he'd accompany."

Dr. Gryder was a longtime resident of West Rogers Avenue in Mount Washington. He had lived at the Roland Park Place retirement community since 2005.

He was an admirer of French culture, his son said, and would visit France every year. He also enjoyed reading and traveling.

At Dr. Gryder's request, a private memorial service will be held.

Also surviving are his wife of 63 years, the former Rosa Meyersburg, who was a Food and Drug Administration toxicologist; another son, Thomas W. Gryder of Vienna, Va.; a daughter, Katherine Ann Gibbs of Severna Park; and four grandchildren.

fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com

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