Gregory P. Kane, a former Baltimore Sun columnist known for perceptive and provocative observations about his home town, and who later wrote a column for the Washington Examiner, died Feb. 18 of cancer at Johns Hopkins Hospital. He was 62.
Mr. Kane became a Sun reporter in 1993 and began writing his local column in 1995. In his first column, he described himself as “a lifelong Baltimore resident, liberal on some issues, conservative on others, a veritable fascist on the topic of crime.”
Mr. Kane grew up in a poverty-stricken section of West Baltimore and worked at Baltimore’s Sinai Hospital for 16 years before entering journalism. He started in data processing and for his last five years was a supervisor in the transportation department. He was also fascinated by astronomy and worked at the Maryland Science Center’s Davis Planetarium.
Beginning in 1984, while still working at Sinai, Mr. Kane began to write op-ed page essays on local topics for the old Evening Sun of Baltimore.
“I recognized him as a good writer right off,” said Michael H. Bowler, a retired Sun staff member who edited Mr. Kane’s columns 25 years ago. “He was controversial and sort of drifted to the right in his later days. He was very perceptive and an intelligent guy.”
In his columns, Mr. Kane recalled his upbringing near St. Peter Claver Catholic Church, where he was baptized. He was a 1969 graduate of City College, a Baltimore public high school, where he wrestled and was well known among other students.
“We all got up early in the morning and took the bus in search of a good education,” said his City College classmate, U.S. Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.). “He had a humility about him and he spoke through his writings. He gave his words a lot of thought, and he had the ability to make you think about the other side of the issue. I never doubted that he believed his positions, and you certainly never knew what he was going to say.”
Other classmates recalled that Mr. Kane, who grew up in segregated Baltimore, initially espoused liberal social causes before adopting more conservative positions.
“He challenged a lot of traditional political thought in the African American community,” said Anthony McCarthy, a talk-show host at radio station WEEA-FM.
Mr. Kane attended Franklin & Marshall College in Pennsylvania and the Broadcasting Institute of Maryland.
He often mentioned his family in his writings and once wrote of how his brother had been killed in a street fight in Easton, Md. In addition to politics and city life, Mr. Kane often wrote about film and popular culture.
“I always thought he was one of a kind,” said John S. Carroll, a former editor of the Sun. “He didn’t bend to please the crowd. He had not been employed in journalism. He was one of those people who felt a calling. He was writing columns for no pay.”
Mr. Kane worked with Baltimore Sun reporter Gilbert Lewthwaite in 1996 on a three-part series about slavery in Sudan, “Where children live in bondage.” The reporters bought two boys who were being sold as slaves and returned them to their families.
They were finalists for a Pulitzer Prize in Explanatory Journalism and won the Overseas Press Club award “for best reporting on human rights.” The National Association of Black Journalists also gave them an award for their work.
After leaving the Sun in 2008, Mr. Kane wrote for the old Baltimore Examiner and, since 2009, for the Washington Examiner and Baltimore Times. He also was a visiting professor at Johns Hopkins University’s writing seminars.
Survivors include his wife of nearly 30 years, Veronica White Kane of Baltimore; two children; a brother; two sisters; and seven grandchildren.
— Baltimore Sun