Remembering Julian “Jack” Lapides

Today, July 14, long-time Baltimore Heritage board member Julian “Jack” Lapides passed away. His death has saddened us in too many ways to count. And his legacy and impact on Baltimore, Maryland, and indeed the country, is also too expansive to properly capture. Nonetheless, we would humbly like to offer a tribute to Jack for his dedication to making our lives, our neighborhoods, and the world a better place by sharing a few highlights of his life’s work in his own words. Below are audio excerpts from an oral interview that fellow board members Susan Talbott and Barbara Weeks conducted with him several years ago. We hope you appreciate these short recordings for what they are: Jack sharing stories of fighting to save our heritage, fighting for civil rights, fighting always for the right path forward even against overwhelming odds, and always told with a smile and a joke in a way that only Jack could do.


Facing Urban Renewal & the Highway Fight

Beginning in the 1960s, Jack was one of the very first people to oppose a highway that would have paved over Fell’s Point and Federal Hill in East Baltimore and through Poppleton and Harlem Park in West Baltimore. He was instrumental in saving Baltimore’s waterfront and although part of the highway was built in West Baltimore, he helped block it half-way through construction and prevented even greater destruction in West Baltimore.

Saving Stirling Street (Plus Jack’s Favorite Preservation Story)

With his wife Linda, Jack convinced city officials not only to save historic Stirling Street in the Oldtown neighborhood, but to sell the houses for $1 to new owners, thus launching Baltimore’s famous Dollar House Program. 

Preserving the Phipps Building On Hopkins’ Campus

While in the Maryland Senate, Jack threatened to withhold funds that Johns Hopkins Hospital sought for a new oncology center until they agreed to save the historic Phipps building. The result: a saved and restored Phipps building and a new oncology center (with state funds) built nearby.

Passing the Public Accommodations Bill, 1963

In his first year in the state legislature, Jack supported legislation that would make it illegal for owners of places like restaurants and theaters to bar African Americans entry. Jack had won his seat by beating out an incumbent who opposed this civil rights legislation, and was one of two new votes that swung the state legislature into passing the Public Accommodations law of 1963. 

Starting the Maryland State Arts Council

Recognizing the importance of the arts in creating vibrant communities, Jack was one of the founding members of the Maryland State Arts Council in 1967.

One comment

  1. Marilyn Powel says:

    Jack Lapides was an active member of the Board of the Baltimore Shakespeare Festival when I served as President. One year we honored him with our annual service award. Because Jack was literally one of the most honored people in Baltimore, we weren’t sure what we could do for our cherished octogenarian. We finally wrote a poem that touted his generosity, kindness, curiosity, humor, and most of all, his incredible spirit. He and Linda roared with laughter at the reading of this tome – hardly Shakespearean, but filled with the stories Jack told with such joy. At the end of the reading, he asked for a copy to keep, which was, for us, the evening’s greatest honor. Jack’s tribute poem is a thing of the past, but our memories of him and all he did for the arts in Maryland are bright and lasting. Rest In Peace dear friend. You were one in a million.

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