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Lee Polk Woody Jr., who forged a nearly 50-year career at Alex. Brown & Sons in Baltimore, dies

Lee Polk Woody Jr. served on the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s board of visitors.
Lee Polk Woody Jr. served on the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s board of visitors. (Handout / HANDOUT)

Lee Polk Woody Jr., who enjoyed a 49-year career at Alex. Brown & Sons as the head of the special products department and a general partner, died of complications from a stroke Oct. 9 at Gilchrist Center in Towson. He was 92.

Pete Powell, who had served as Mr. Woody’s personal attorney for 30 years and had known him for an additional 20, grew to admire his client’s approach to life.

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“In my days as an attorney, I cannot recall anyone who cared more about his family than Lee Woody,” he said. “Many times, he let me marvel at his wonderful Southern accent and his stylish tennis game and his grace and his charm.”

The older of two children raised by Lee Polk Woody Sr., a tobacco farm owner, and the former Rosa Robertson, a teacher, Mr. Woody enjoyed a happy childhood of playing with friends and drinking milkshakes at a local soda fountain in small-town South Boston, Virginia. Because many men were serving in the military overseas during the 1940s, children such as Mr. Woody were permitted to apply for and receive their driver’s licenses early.

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“Lee was a small person, slight in stature,” Susie Woody, his wife of 34 years, said from her home in Towson. “He was driving a car, and a friend of his father’s walked up to Lee Sr. and said, ‘I saw your car driving down Main Street, and nobody was in it.’”

At the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, Mr. Woody initiated a lifelong allegiance to the Tar Heels. He signed up as the manager of the men’s basketball team for the 1948-49 season and traveled with the team to road games, which contributed to one humorous memory.

“They were put up on cots in the gym,” his wife said. “And there was a tiger that kept them up all night long roaring because he had his cage right outside the gym.”

Despite being more than a foot shorter than the players, Mr. Woody developed a rapport with them, according to Mr. Powell.

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“So here he was, a short man among these towering giants all around him, and he could hold his own because he was the kind of guy you had to respect,” Mr. Powell said. “I think he carried that memory with him for the rest of his life, being part of that Tar Heels dynasty.”

After being drafted into the U.S. Army to serve in the Korean War with the 15th Infantry, Regiment 3rd Division and getting discharged in 1952 as a sergeant, Mr. Woody returned to North Carolina and graduated in 1956 with a bachelor’s degree in political science. After graduation, he accepted a job offer from Bankers Trust in New York City.

En route to New York, Mr. Woody stopped in Baltimore for a weekend to visit his uncle and aunt, Dr. William H. Woody and Anne Woody. They took him to a cocktail party where he met several senior partners at Alex. Brown & Sons, who persuaded him to stay until Monday to swing by their office. That day, Mr. Woody decided to join Alex. Brown & Sons over Bankers Trust.

“It was just sort of meant to be when he talked to those men,” Mrs. Woody said. “He liked them, and they liked him. And of course, his aunt and uncle were in Baltimore, and he was very close to them. So it did seem like a natural fit. He never said, ‘Wow, wasn’t that a coincidence?’ But people who know him and know the story think it’s pretty remarkable.”

Mr. Woody ran the special products department, overseeing mutual funds investments and climbing the corporate ladder to become a general partner. He remained with the company even after it had been purchased by Bankers Trust in 1997 and then Deutsche Bank in 1999 and been rebranded as BT Alex. Brown and then Deutsche Bank Alex. Brown.

Truman T. Semans, another general partner at Alex. Brown & Sons, had worked with Mr. Woody since the 1970s.

“He was very pleasant to work with,” Semans said. “I think what made him pleasant to work with was he was a person who cared about other people. He wasn’t all about himself. … I think [his long career] was a testament to how well liked he was and how much he liked it.”

Mrs. Woody said her husband took pride in his longevity at Alex. Brown & Sons.

“It just doesn’t happen these days,” she said. “He felt very fortunate. He loved Alex. Brown, and it worked so well for him. It was an honor for him to be with them for so long.”

The former Susan Clark met Mr. Woody during a dinner at a mutual friend’s house in Baltimore in December 1984. In April 1987, Ms. Clark, who had divorced her first husband, and her two sons were searching for a new home when Mr. Woody made a suggestion.

“Lee said, ‘Why don’t you and the boys come and live in my house, and I’ll find somewhere else to live?’ I said, ‘Oh gosh, that is not going to work. Of course I can’t do that,’” she said. “One thing led to another, and he said, ‘Well, I guess we’re just going to have to get married.’ It certainly wasn’t romantic, but that’s what we did.”

After retiring in 2005, Mr. Woody continued to travel with his wife, read mysteries and biographies, and play tennis. Mr. Powell played tennis with Mr. Woody for 20 years.

“He had a wonderful backhand volley down the line,” Mr. Powell said. “That won him a lot of points.”

A former member of the Maryland and Elkridge clubs, Mr. Woody also thrived at golf. Even after the sun went down, he would practice his golf swings in the living room, which worried his wife.

“I would watch him carefully to see if he was nicking any of the furniture,” Mrs. Woody said with a laugh. “But he found a place where it worked just fine.”

Mr. Woody remained a strong advocate for his alma mater. He served on North Carolina’s board of visitors and chaired the National Development Council where he helped establish a scholarship fund for students from Maryland. He was a season ticket holder of the Tar Heels basketball program and had four seats at the Dean E. Smith Student Activities Center since it opened in January 1986.

“This will be the first time he won’t be going to the Duke-North Carolina game,” Mrs. Woody said, adding that her husband’s love for North Carolina had filtered down to his stepson and grandson. “He loved to watch any college basketball or college football game. He was very knowledgeable about college sports, and it wasn’t just the Tar Heels, and it wasn’t just the ACC teams.”

Besides his wife, Mr. Woody is survived by one daughter, Elisabeth Woody of Berkeley, California; two stepsons, Jonathan Clark of Baltimore and Frederick Clark of Glen Cove, New York; eight grandchildren; and one great-granddaughter. He was predeceased by a son, Lee Polk “Chip” Woody III, who died in 2017.

A memorial service is scheduled for Oct. 27 at 11 a.m. at The Church of the Redeemer in Baltimore.

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