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Talmadge L. Hill Jr., attorney, churchman and music enthusiast, dies

Talmadge L. Hill, Jr.
Talmadge L. Hill, Jr.

Talmadge L. Hill Jr., a retired attorney, church trustee and history enthusiast, died of heart failure Oct. 6 at his daughter’s Owings Mills home. The Randallstown resident was 87.

Born in Baltimore on the campus of Morgan State University, he was the son of Frances Berry Hill, a Morgan faculty member and musician, and Talmadge “Marse” Layman Hill, a physical education professor and track, football and basketball coach. The school’s field house is named for the elder Mr. Hill.

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“For my brother and I, growing up on the Morgan campus was blessed. It was like growing up in the country. When we explored the stream that ran through the back fields, he never let me slip off a rock. On Sunday, after church, he would take me to the Baltimore Museum of Art. We might get there a little early and we’d wait by Rodin’s statue of ‘The Thinker,’ ” said his sister, Dr. Freddie Hill Lucas of Silver Spring.

Mr. Hill attended the Benjamin Banneker School on Greenmount Avenue and met his future wife, Shirley Taylor, in a fourth grade classroom. Family members said he pulled her hair formed in a braid. They were reacquainted as college students.

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Mr. Hill was a 1951 graduate of Paul Laurence Dunbar High School, where he played basketball. He earned a degree in history at Morgan State University, where he also played basketball and was a member of the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps.

He joined the Army and was stationed in Germany and elsewhere in Europe, leaving military service as a first lieutenant. While in the service, he coached an Army basketball team.

Known as “Sonny” by his family and “Tal” by friends. he was a life member of the Morgan State University Alumni Association.

“My brother was tall and cerebral. He was gregarious, but in his own silent way. He could also be exuberant in his spirit and selfless way," his sister said. “He modeled himself after his parents and grandparents.”

After leaving the military, he attended the American University’s Washington College of Law, from which he earned a degree.

He joined the Maryland State Department of Human Resources and was an appeals representative, working from an office at Greenmount Avenue and Oliver Street. After his retirement, he managed his family’s real estate holdings.

On June 22, 1963, he married Shirley Taylor.

Mr. Hill grew up in the Methodist church and joined Concord Baptist Church in 1963 to worship with his wife. He sang bass in the church choir and served many years as a trustee. He was later named trustee emeritus.

Mr. Hill was a member of the Omega Psi Phi fraternity since 1953 and later became active with the graduate chapter, Pi Omega.

Family members described Mr. Hill as a “conversational historian,” who shared his historical perspectives on numerous subjects. He was also a fan of collegiate and professional basketball and football.

“My brother went off to Dunbar and I went to Frederick Douglass High School, where I was terrified to take Latin. He helped me and told me tales of the Appian Way and how the Roman troops conquered Europe. He could make history come alive,” said his sister, Freddie.

Mr. Hill also enjoyed taking his family on vacations through battlefields and explaining military campaigns.

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Mr. Hill enjoyed jazz and classical music and delighted in hymns and anthems. He had a collection of jazz record albums and attended singer Ethel Ennis' performances at Redd Foxx’s Club. His daughters said Mr. Hill was also a fan of singer Shirley Bassey.

He and his wife were members of the Baltimore Museum of Art and were founding members of the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

His daughters also called him a “creative spirit” who poured his heart into writing, He wrote poetry and was a photographer.

Mr. Hill was a dancer at social events and played the keyboard at home. As a child he often visited his grandparents in Lynchburg, Virginia. More recently, he often had lunch engagements with his sister in the Washington suburbs.

In addition to his wife of 57 years, a retired Frederick Douglass High School principal and assistant to the area superintendent, and his sister, survivors include two daughters, Talmira Hill DeLena of Bartlett, New Hampshire, and Dr. Felicia Hill-Briggs of Owings Mills, and a grandson, Julian R. Briggs of New York City.

A funeral service was held Oct. 22 at the Vaughn Greene Funeral Services in Randallstown.

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