James Sydney King, a retired WBAL television executive who was active on numerous charitable and civic boards, died of complications from Parkinson's disease Nov. 4 at the Pickersgill Retirement Community.

The former Ruxton and Roland Park resident was 91.


Born in Baltimore and raised on Lanvale Street in Bolton Hill, he was the son of John Theodore King Jr., a physician, and Charlotte Baker, a Walters Art Museum board president.

He attended the Calvert School and was a 1943 graduate of the Gilman School.

During World War II he served as an Air Force bombardier instructor and achieved the rank of second lieutenant.

He attended Princeton University, but left school to get into broadcasting. He joined WBAL-TV as a stagehand at its old Charles Street studio in Charles Village.

"He was always upbeat and an incredible gentleman," said Maryland Public Television host Rhea Feikin. "His enthusiasm pervaded everything I did with him at WBAL. He also gave me my first chance there."

Mr. King met his future wife, Ann Eberhart, at Hood College. They were on a blind date.

According to a biography supplied by his family, he worked as an announcer, director, producer and production manager at WBAL. In 1954, he was named program director. After three years he changed jobs and became the Gunther Brewing Co.'s advertising director.

Family members recalled that early in 1960, Mr. King returned to WBAL as its director of community services.

"He was responsible for all the station's religious, educational and informational programs and other special, local productions," said his son, James Sydney King Jr. of Silver Spring.

His son said Mr. King served as executive producer for the station's documentary programs, three of which won the National Academy of Television Arts and Science's regional Emmy Awards.

These included "The Dark Corner," a 90-minute broadcast in 1962 that exposed conditions at the old Rosewood Hospital in Owings Mills, narrated by the station's Rolf Hertsgaard; 1964's "A Conversation with James Emory Bond," an hourlong talk about discrimination and poverty with an African-American Baltimore resident who was the grandson of a slave; and "A Baby is a Wonderful Thing," a documentary about infants and mothers' pre- and postnatal care.

"My father won dozens of other national and local awards while at WBAL," said his son. "'The Dark Corner' also won an Albert Lasker Award for distinguished medical journalism."

In 1967, Mr. King produced a show that brought Maryland medical officials together to discuss venereal disease. It was aired at 11:30 p.m. to prevent children from seeing it. A Baltimore Sun story noted that "more than 800 phone calls choked the station's switchboard."

From 1972 to 1977, Mr. King moderated "Update," the station's public affairs program. Topics included a 1973 documentary on Coldspring, a new community in Northwest Baltimore.


His son said Mr. King was an innovator of free public service announcements and programs on behalf of nonprofit community organizations and causes.

Mr. King took on many civic posts. In the 1960s he chaired a subcommittee of the Citizens School Advisory Committee on Baltimore's public schools. In the 1970s, he served on a panel that recommended creation of the Baltimore School for the Arts.

He was also a past board president and board member of Roland Park Country School.

Mr. King was a past chair of the United Way of Central Maryland, the Central Maryland Chapter of the American Red Cross, the National Center for Prevention of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome and the Maryland Health Fair.

He was also vice president of the Health and Welfare Council of Maryland, the Baltimore Radio Reading Service and Action for the Homeless, and a co-chair of its Project Shelter. He was a board member of Combined Health Agencies, the Maryland Bible Society, and the Holocaust and War Victims Tracing Service.

He was co-chair of the YMCA of Greater Baltimore's annual Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Breakfast and also co-chaired the United Negro College Fund Telethon Committee.

For 20 years he was a Meals on Wheels volunteer.

His son said his father was an enthusiastic camper and visited sites throughout the U.S. and Canada. He and his wife also bought and renovated homes in Mount Washington and Ruxton. They enjoyed gardening as well.

A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Nov. 16 at the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer, 5603 N. Charles St., where he was a member.

In addition to his son, survivors include his wife of 66 years, who worked alongside her husband on a home renovation hobby-business; two daughters, Ann King Kotmair and Katherine Marie Rutter King, both of Baltimore; nine grandchildren; and nine great-grandchildren.