Thomas A. "Tom" Marr, a longtime WCBM-AM radio talk show host known for his conservative stance and recalled for his days as an Orioles play-by-play announcer, died Thursday at the University of Maryland St. Joseph Medical Center from a massive stroke following back surgery at the University of Maryland Medical Center,
The Timonium resident was 73.
"He was a great man and had a real impact on the community. He had a real impact on the state," said Gov. Larry Hogan.
"He was a smart guy. He was a guy with a lot of integrity," Governor Hogan said. "Even with people he disagreed with, he was a gentleman and somebody I think people listen to."
"Tom Marr was an icon in the conservative world and a real friend," said former Republican congresswoman and former federal Maritime Commission chairwoman Helen Delich Bentley. "He was rare. He never lost his goals and was very concerned about the future of the United States."
"Tom was one of Baltimore's great radio personalities. He was larger than life and his voice was one that we all knew. It felt like home," City Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke said. "I loved him. He was such an interesting guy."
"He was a good interviewer, a tough interviewer and a fair interviewer," said former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich. "He helped make talk show radio relevant locally. … He was strongly opinionated and able to back his opinions up. And unafraid. As a result, he was well, well respected."
The son of Royle Marr, who owned a tile company, and Julia Marr, a registered nurse, Thomas Aquinas Marr was born and raised in Silver Spring.
He began his radio career in 1960 while a student at Montgomery Blair High School and hosted a sports show on WWDC-AM.
After serving in the Marine Corps from 1960 to 1963, Mr. Marr launched his professional radio career working at stations in Rhode Island, Virginia and Salisbury before joining WFBR-AM in 1967 as a newsman.
At WFBR, he became an anchor and news director and was a regular panelist on "Conference Call," a lunchtime radio current events discussion that was hosted by Harry R. Shriver, the station's president and general manager.
"He had cantankerous love-hate relationship with The Baltimore Sun and on 'Conference Call' coined the phrase that it was the 'Calvert Street Democratic Club,'" said Thomas A. Marr IV, a son, of Carney.
"He broke me in. Tom was the news director at WFBR and I had just graduated in 1971 from the University of Maryland. He took me under his wing and showed me the ropes," said WJZ-TV reporter Ron Matz. "I'll never forget that."
The two later became co-anchors of the 4 a.m. news.
"Those were the glory years of WFBR when Harry Shriver put together the team of Johnny Walker, Charley Eckman, Tom Marr and me — and we loved every minute of it," recalled Mr. Matz.
"The arc of his career made him a pioneer in talk radio. 'Conference Call' dated to the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis and was one of the first talk show in radio," Mr. Matz said.
"Tom Marr was at WFBR during the '70s and '80s at a time when WFBR, WCBM, WCAO and WBAL were fiercely competitive in the news arena," Dave Humphrey, former WCBM News anchor, wrote in an email. "Tom was one of the best-recognized voices in Baltimore radio."
In 1979, when WFBR acquired the rights to broadcast Orioles games, Mr. Marr joined the play-by-play team. He also hosted a pregame and postgame show.
"A 1979 article in Sports Illustrated credited him with creating the pregame and postgame show," said another son, Brendan Marr of Columbia.
Mr. Marr was very much a part of what was called the "Oriole Magic" team created by Mr. Shriver. He later was joined in the booth with the legendary Jon Miller.
"I came into this three years ago with a fan's knowledge," Mr. Marr told The Sun in a 1983 interview. "I've got a lot to learn but Jon's a great teacher. He knows more about baseball than anybody I've ever met. I play Ed McMahon to his Johnny Carson."
He developed relationships with many Orioles players, including Jim Palmer and catcher Rick Dempsey, who became close friends.
"Tom was our connection between the players and the media, and we had so much fun on and off the field," Mr. Dempsey said. "He was a loyal friend and loyal to the Orioles. He was a huge part of the Orioles of those days."
After WFBR stopped broadcasting Orioles games in 1987, Mr. Marr hosted a talk show until the station was sold in 1988 and he moved to WCBM.
"When Tom left baseball it was hard to take," Mr. Dempsey said, "and then he headed over to do the political thing."
Mr. Marr was at WCBM from 1988 to 1996, when he left the station for two years to work at WWDB in Philadelphia. He returned to WCBM in 1998.
He hosted "The Tom Marr Show," which aired from 9 a.m. to noon, and where no issue was too sensitive to discuss. In its biography of Mr. Marr, the station touted him as "the judge in the court of public opinion."
"He helped build this news/talk radio station into the force that it is today," WCBM program director Sean Casey said in a statement. "He had a successful career while informing and entertaining listeners in Baltimore and worldwide."
"Mr. Marr was one of the most prominent conservative voices on the radio for decades," said Joe Cluster, executive director of the Maryland Republican Party.
Baltimore attorney William H. Murphy Jr. said Mr. Marr and he had been friends for 30 years. They were at opposite ends of the political spectrum, but enjoyed debating their differences.
"The more we debated the more we loved each other," said Mr. Murphy. "It was a wonderful relationship, and I'm going to miss him dearly."
"He was my buddy and he would invite me onto the show for an hour each week to help me solve constituent problems," Ms. Clarke said. "We stayed away from politics. We both knew we weren't going to agree."
Mr. Marr was named one of the 100 top talk show hosts in the nation for seven straight years by Talkers Magazine. He also made appearances on CNN, Fox and WSNBC.
He had also been appointed to the Maryland Aviation Administration by Governors Ehrlich and Hogan.
Mr. Marr was on a medical leave at his death and had not retired.
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His family issued a statement Thursday thanking well-wishers for their "overwhelming" support and said: "We know he was special to so many throughout Maryland. ... He was even more special to us as a husband, father and grandfather. He was our hero, and we will miss him dearly."
A viewing for Mr. Marr will be held 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. Thursday, July 14, at the Ruck Towson Funeral Home, 1050 York Road. A funeral Mass will be offered 11:30 a.m. Friday, July 15, at St. Joseph Roman Catholic Church, 101 Church Lane, Cockeysville.
In addition to his two sons, he is survived by his wife of 53 years, the former Sharon Sullivan, a retired Baltimore police detective; another son, Christopher Marr of Catonsville; two daughters, Erin Marr Brooks of Timonium and Allison Marr Casey of Terre Haute, Ind.; a brother, Michael E. Marr Sr. of Baltimore; a sister, Maureen Kidwell of Fairfield, Pa.; and 10 grandchildren.
NOTE: An earlier version of this story missated where Mr. Marr had received back surgery. It has been corrected here. Also, information regarding services has been added.
Baltimore Sun reporters Erin Cox, Ian Duncan, Pamela Wood and David Zurawik and researcher Paul McCardell contributed to this article.