Sherman J. Polley
Columbia resident was a longtime advocate of affordable housing and a decorated World War II veteran
Sherman J. Polley, a retired affordablehousing official who was also active in the National Negro Golf Association, died of complications from dementia Aug. 18 at the Lorien Columbia nursing home. The longtime Columbia resident was 97. Born in Huntington, W.Va., and raised in Indianapolis, Ind., he was a1938 graduate of Crispus Attucks High School.
He enlisted in the Army during World War II and was assigned to a segregated unit, the 93rd Infantry, known as the Blue Hats.
He participated in the battle of Morotai, Netherlands East Indies, and was awarded a Bronze Star. His discharge papers said he earned the medal “for meritorious achievement in support of military operations against the enemy.”
After the war, he earned a bachelor’s degree from West Virginia State University, where he was a member of the Omega Psi Phi fraternity
He also obtained a master’s degree in marketing from Butler University in Indianapolis. While at Butler, he served as an assistant basketball coach.
In 1952, while living in Indianapolis, he married Rubie Thompson. They met as workers at a Western Electric Co. plant.
Mr. Polley then taught accounting at Tyler College in Texas, where he also coached basketball.
In 1954 he moved to Philadelphia and joined the old Food Fair grocery store chain as a research analyst. He became an administrative assistant to the branch manager and later supervised operations of 102 stores throughout the Philadelphia metro area.
Family members said Mr. Polley lived for a time in a home in Blackwood, N.J. He enjoyed golf but was not permitted to play at a nearby segregated course. He brought a lawsuit that ultimately opened the course to African-Americans.
In1968, he moved to Baltimore to work as vice president in charge of operations of the old Super Jet Food Markets, a firm that had recently opened its first Baltimore store at the Mondawmin shopping center.
Mr. Polley changed careers in 1970, becoming executive vice president of a private Baltimore nonprofit housing agen- cy, Home Ownership Plan Endeavor — also known as Project Hope. He held the post briefly, then joined the Model Cities Housing Development Corporation as its executive director.
Mr. Polley supervised construction of new affordable-income townhouses in the 300 block of N. Carey St
“We want to do all we can to get homes for low- and moderate-income families,” he said in an article in The Sun.
The Polley family lived briefly in Baltimore, then found a new home in Columbia. He was among the first 100 owners in the Bryant Woods section of the Village of Wilde Lake.
“He selected Columbia because it was a nice place to live, but also because of its diversity of races and religions,” said a daughter, Karen Elizabeth Randall of Columbia. “My parents wanted us to accept everyone. The ideals of Columbia he believed in, and he wanted that environment for his family.”
After moving to Howard County, Mr. Polley enjoyed playing golf at the Hobbits Glen course, and he joined the National Negro Golf Association. He competed in events sponsored by the association and helped raise funds for charities. He remained a golfer for many years.
He later became president of the D.C. Development Corp., a nonprofit that provided housing assistance.
He retired nearly 30 “The ideals of Columbia he believed in,” Sherman J. Polley’s daughter said of him. years ago.
Mr. Polley later moved to Palm Coast, Fla., where he helped establish the Tau Pi Columbia chapter of the Omega Psi Phi fraternity. He moved back to Columbia in 2012.
He was a member of St. Johns United Church.
Plans for services at Arlington National Cemetery are pending.
He is survived by his wife of 64 years, a retired Baltimore City elementary schools teacher, as well as his daughter; three sons, John Evan Polley of Charlotte, N.C., Stephen Lewis Polley of Los Angeles and Edward Phillip Polley of Columbia; another daughter, Claudia Ann Polley of Los Angeles; seven grandchildren; and three greatgrandchildren. A son, Sherman J. Polley III, died as an infant.