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Leo C. Dutton, former co-owner of Dutton Moving & Storage who later established two other moving companies, dies

Leo C. Dutton founded Leo’s Express Moving Service and Promise Keepers Express.
Leo C. Dutton founded Leo’s Express Moving Service and Promise Keepers Express.

Leo C. Dutton, former co-owner of Dutton Moving & Storage who later established two other moving companies, died Dec. 2 at Northwest Hospital in Randallstown of complications from Parkinson’s disease. The Owings Mills resident was 70.

“Leo was a quiet, humble gentle giant,” said retired Baltimore Circuit Judge David W. Young, a longtime friend. “I’ve been blessed to know such a man as Leo Dutton. He will be missed but his labors speak for him and will continue to speak for him. There is an old African proverb that says, ‘You never die as long as your name is called.’”

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Charles “Chuck” Blue has been a friend of Mr. Dutton’s since their student days at City College.

“I first met Leo in 1966 at City when we both played basketball. He epitomized the definition of being a friend. He was even-keeled and always consistent.”

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Leo Calvin Dutton, son of Samuel Leo Dutton, founder of Dutton Moving & Storage, and his wife, Alva Dutton, a homemaker, who was the firstborn in Baltimore of seven children, was raised in the 2600 block of Boone St. in Waverly.

Mr. Dutton was an outstanding varsity basketball player at City College where he earned the nickname of “Jumpshot,” said his daughter, Kimberly Dutton Terrell of Charlotte, North Carolina.

“He was an unstoppable force on the varsity basketball team, continuously dominating his opponents on the court, and helping to lead his team, under the instruction of Coach George Phipps, to multiple victories,” Ms. Terrell wrote in a biographical profile of her father.

“Our team had a lot of success,” Mr. Blue recalled, “and we called him ‘Jump Shot’ because he had the sweetest jump shot in town.”

“Leo loved City College,” Judge Young said. “I got to know him in the 1970s when he played basketball for the Community College of Baltimore and I played for Hagerstown Community College. In those days, CCB was nationally ranked and whenever they came to Hagerstown, they annihilated us. But Leo was always the first person in line when it came time to shake our hands and he’d tell us, ‘Good game.’ That’s the kind of guy he was.”

Judge Young recalled when he and Mr. Dutton went to Seoul, South Korea, on a church mission, and people on the street mistook him for basketball star Michael Jordan.

“Leo was 6 feet, 8 inches and the Koreans are small people. They would come up to him in the airport and on the street and circled and touched him, and say, ‘Michael Jordan,’ over and over again,” he said, with a laugh.

Mr. Dutton’s basketball prowess lingered on into his adult years as a member of the Old Timers League and in games at Cloverdale, Madison and Greenmount recreation centers.

After graduating from City College in 1968, Mr. Dutton attended Laurinburg College in Laurinburg, North Carolina, and later the Community College of Baltimore where he earned an associate degree in business management.

He then joined Dutton Moving & Storage, which had been established by his father in 1976 and which developed a reputation for large moves such as Gilman Hall Library to the new Milton S. Eisenhower Library in 1970, and at the Baltimore Museum of Art, as well as the Maryland Shock Trauma Center, Good Samaritan Hospital, Sheppard Pratt Hospital, and the Broadmead retirement community in Cockeysville.

At the time of his father’s death in 2010, Mr. Dutton told The Baltimore Sun that his father “believed in honesty first” when it came to his employees. “He interviewed before hiring them and taught them on the job. His clients trusted him. They didn’t have to watch. They handed them the paperwork and he’d do it.”

Mr. Dutton and his brother, Donald Eugene Dutton, who died in July, eventually took over the business, continuing to live by their father’s motto, “We take the worry out of moving.”

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“He was a selfless man and would forgo any personal gain,” Judge Young said. “He’d take money out of his own pocket to make sure his employees got paid before he did.”

“When he moved me to my house, he didn’t want to take payment for the move and he had four men on the truck,” Mr. Blue said. “I finally convinced him to take it, but that’s the kind of person Leo was. No one ever said a bad thing to say about him because they couldn’t and everyone liked him.”

In the late 1990s, Mr. Dutton and his wife, the former Vendetta Stokes, whom he married in 1985, founded Leo’s Express Moving Service, a residential and hospital moving company.

In February 2004, Mr. Dutton was involved in a serious automobile accident that left him comatose for weeks, and despite a grim prognosis, eventually recovered, only to need a kidney replacement in 2005.

“That auto accident nearly killed him, but he never gave up. It would have left me bitter, but not Leo,” Judge Young said. “It didn’t make him bitter. He never complained and never asked, ’Why me?’”

Mr. Dutton’s daughter Kimberly donated one of her kidneys to her father.

“It was an automatic decision and something that didn’t need to be discussed from my perspective,” Ms. Terrell said in a telephone interview. “I felt I held a temporary kidney until he needed it. That’s my take on it. Our souls connected over the kidney surgery, and our love has surpassed the typical father-daughter love.”

In 2006, Mr. Dutton and his wife moved to Charlotte to be near their daughter, and returned to Owings Mills the next year, when he established Promise Keepers Express, which he owned and operated until closing the business in 2014.

A deeply religious man, for years he had been an active member of Bethel AME Church, where he had been a trustee, a member of the Mighty Men of God, mentored young men through the Rites of Passage program, and headed the security team for the pastor, which included international travel.

As coach of the church’s basketball team, which he led to various championships, Mr. Dutton was named Coach of the Year.

He later became active at Bazil AME Church in Cockeysville, a historic Black church that was founded 170 years ago, and was pastored for 17 years by Judge Young until 2010 when he was assigned to another church.

“We both attended Bethel in the 1990s and one day he came to Bazil AME Church, and when I looked out into the congregation, he said, ‘I came because I want to be of service.’”

At his death, Mr. Dutton was an active member of Oak Street AME Church in Baltimore.

Mr. Dutton’s hobbies were music, dancing, and listening vintage radio shows.

A public viewing will be held from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. Monday at the Wylie Funeral Home, 9200 Liberty Road, Randallstown. A homegoing service will be held from 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, also at the funeral home.

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In addition to his wife and daughter, he is survived by three sisters, Jacqueline Dutton of Baltimore, Crystal Anderson of Forest Hill and Darlene Wiggins of Philadelphia; two grandchildren; and many nieces and nephews.

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