Robert L. Tate, business owner

Robert L. "Bob" Tate

Robert Lamont Tate, who founded two industrial manufacturing businesses and was a former president of the Maryland Chamber of Commerce, died of heart disease Oct. 5 at his Sarasota, Fla., home. The former Ruxton resident was 89.

Born in Baltimore, he was the son of William J. Tate and the former Mary Lamont. His father's family, who were of Scots ancestry, lived in Belfast, Northern Ireland. His father was a marine engineer at Harland & Wolff, builders of the Titanic and numerous other vessels.


Mr. Tate, who was known as Bob, grew up on Chelsea Terrace and was a 1942 graduate of Forest Park High School, where he played lacrosse, basketball and football.

He then attended the Johns Hopkins University until he was sent to Tufts University as part of the Navy's V-12 training program. At Tufts, he was a naval regimental commander. He also boxed, wrestled, played football and was a lacrosse midfielder. He was co-captain of the 1945 undefeated Tufts lacrosse team that won the New England Intercollegiate Lacrosse League. A high-scoring center on that team, he was named an All-American.


"He was a strong-willed person with a leadership quality and had a warm personality. He was an all-around, standout individual," said Robert Scott, a longtime family friend, who is a retired Hopkins lacrosse coach and athletic director.

While a Tufts student, he met his future wife, Joyce Jackson.

Mt. Tate was commissioned as an officer in the Navy. He served in China and North Africa at the end of World War II and later in the Korean War.

He earned a master's degree in economics from George Washington University and in 1948, after the death of his father, took over a small family business, Tate Engineering Inc., then located on East Lombard Street at a site now occupied by the Baltimore Holocaust Memorial.

"My father was able to take a small marine parts supplier and turn it into a major supplier of engineering components to all facets of industry," said his son, William J. Tate of Ruxton. "After the war had ended, he saw that ship construction was changing and he added product lines that had to do with general industry. He founded two additional companies and built them up from nothing."

Mr. Tate went on to found Tate Andale Inc., which serves shipyards with specialty valves and flow control equipment. He also founded Tate Access Floors Inc., a business that makes raised-access floors for office buildings.

Family members said his businesses expanded from four employees to more than 700. Most were located in Baltimore, but he had subsidiaries in Singapore, England, France and South Africa.

He later moved the business to South Eutaw Street, to a site now occupied by Oriole Park at Camden Yards. When he then moved the business to Russell Street, it too was later taken, for a parking lot at what is now M&T Bank Stadium. His businesses that remain in family hands are located in Halethorpe and Lansdowne. He sold Tate Access Floors in 2001.

In 1969, he was elected president of the Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan Baltimore. He was a leader in the creation of Carroll Industrial Park in Southwest Baltimore.

He was also a past chairman of the Maryland Chamber of Commerce and was a founder and chairman of Marylanders for a Balanced Federal Budget and Maryland Business for Responsive Government. In 1984, he joined with former Hopkins President Milton Eisenhower to call for a balanced federal budget.

"Congress has been totally incapable of exercising fiscal responsibility," he said in an Evening Sun article.

He was chairman of the Baltimore County Planning Commission in the 1960s during the administration of County Executive Spiro T. Agnew, who was later vice president under Richard M. Nixon.


Mr. Tate was a past board member and chairman of the Baltimore Federal Reserve Bank. He was also active with and led the Young Presidents Organization and later was president of the Chief Executives Organization.

He was a past troop committee chairman of the Church of the Redeemer's Boy Scout Troop 35. He belonged to the Center Club, Maryland Club, Baltimore Country Club, L'Hirondelle Club, the Engineering Society, the Severn Sailing Association and the Annapolis Yacht Club.

He was active in Tufts University alumni activities and was a past president of the First Unitarian Church trustees board.

Mr. Tate had a summer home at Bembe Beach near Annapolis. He played tennis and golf and sailed.

After moving to Sarasota in 1991, he became involved in philanthropies, including the Ringling Museum of Art and Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall.

Plans for a memorial gathering are incomplete.

In addition to his wife of 67 years and his son, survivors include two daughters, Patricia Baker of Upperco and Robin Tate of Riderwood; four grandchildren; and a great-granddaughter.


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