Alvin B. Watson
Former city health department deputy commissioner had been standout track and field athlete at La Salle University
Alvin Berry Watson, a former Baltimore City Health Department deputy commissioner, died of heart failure Oct. 23 at Sinai Hospital.
The Northwest Baltimore resident was 84.
“He lived his life in treating people fairly, regardless of who they were,” said his son, Barry K. Watson, a Baltimore resident. “He was a taskmaster, but he was fair with all his employees. He did not believe in people being mistreated in the workplace.
“He was always there for his friends and family,” he said.
Born in Baltimore and raised at Arlington and Lafayette avenues, he was the son of David Watson, a hotel waiter, and his wife, Beatrice Russell, a beautician.
He was a 1952 graduate of Frederick Douglass High School, where he played football and won honors on the track and field team.
He met his future wife, Anita Elaine Harris, when she was a Dunbar High School student and he was playing football for Douglass
He entered Morgan State University and majored in business administration. During his sophomore year, he enlisted in the Army and joined its track and field team, becoming a member of an elite four-by-four squad that ran in the Penn Relays.
He received a scholarship to La Salle University in Philadelphia and earned a Bachelor of Science degree in business administration. He also ran on the school’s track team and joined the Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity.
In 1959 he joined Morgan State University’s administration as an account clerk. He rose to become assistant controller and in 1968 was named the school’s finance officer and comptroller.
He then joined the Maryland Public Broadcasting Commission as its director of administrative services, and later joined the state’s Department of Budget and Fiscal Planning. He went on to become Coppin State University’s vice president for business and finance.
“He was an able administrator,” said Coppin’s former president, Dr. Calvin W. Burnett.
In 1975, then-Mayor William Donald Schaefer named him a Baltimore City deputy health commissioner.
In a Baltimore Sun article, the mayor called Mr. Watson “exceptionally well qualified.” The article said Mr. Watson was “the highest-ranking black health officer in Baltimore’s history, and the highest such officer in the state.”
“Mr. Watson ranked highest on the competitive examination given to all candidates who applied for the post,” Mr. Schaefer told The Sun. “His past work record and background demonstrate his qualifications.
“We need a person who can handle fiscal and budgetary matters, who can deal skillfully in personnel concerns and can work affirmatively with people,” said Mr. Schaefer. “We have found such a person in Mr. Watson.”
In late 1975, Mr. Watson stepped in as acting city health commissioner when the sitting commissioner, Dr. John B. DeHoff, took over as acting director of the old Baltimore City Hospitals, now the Johns Hopkins Bayvew Medical Center.
Mr. Watson retired nearly 20 years ago.
He collected jazz record albums and was a fan of Miles Davis and Cannonball Adderley.
He also maintained a large library of detective fiction, and read the works of James Patterson, Michael Connelly and Margaret Truman. He read about the Civil War and the life of Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman.
He played golf with the Forest Park Senior Men’s Club and the T&T Golfers.
He was a Mason and belonged to the Prince Hall Lodge in Baltimore. He was also a member of the Eppos, a social group associated with the Epicureans. He was a past member of the No Name Club.
Services will be held at 11 a.m. Thursday at Douglas Memorial Community Church, 1325 Madison Ave., where he was a lifelong member. A visitation will be held beginning at 10 a.m.
In addition to his son, survivors include his sister, Muriel-Beulah Roberts of Ellicott City; and nieces and nephews. His wife of 53 years, a Baltimore City public schools teacher, died in 2013. Alvin B. Watson was “the highest-ranking black health officer in Baltimore’s history.”