Monday, April 5, 2004

Harold Edwin McClure, 87, WWII veteran


Helped develop U.S. ZIP code

By Karen Andrew
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Harold Edwin McClure was a man of extraordinary accomplishments who remained humble throughout his life.

"In his later years, he still thought he'd done nothing," said longtime friend, employee and caregiver Blanche Brinkley of North Avondale. "He never asked for accolades and just went about doing his job."

One of the Tuskegee Airmen, a pianist and philanthropist, Mr. McClure died March 27 at his home in North Avondale. He was 87.

In the mid-1930s, after his graduation from Withrow High School, Mr. McClure sailed for France. In Paris, he studied at the Conservatoire Nationale.

Although an accomplished classical pianist, to help with expenses, he accompanied such artists as Josephine Baker in a jazz club. Ms. Baker called him "Sonny."

"He had a beautiful baritone voice," said Mrs. Brinkley. "He was so versatile and good in everything. He sang in church in his earlier years."

When he returned to the United States, he joined the Tuskegee Airmen to serve in World War II.

The G.I. Bill enabled Mr. McClure to earn his bachelor's degree from the University of Cincinnati and his master's degree in business administration from Xavier University.

He began his career with the United States Postal Service and eventually became the first African-American supervisor of a branch office, Avondale, and later, the downtown annex.

He also owned and operated Harold's Tours, the first African-American-owned travel agency in the Midwest.

In 1961, the United Nations sent Mr. McClure as a negotiator to the former Belgian Congo during its struggle for independence. After his return to Cincinnati in 1962, Mr. McClure went to work at the postal headquarters in Washington, D.C., as a financial systems analyst.

He was transferred to the Office of Special Assistant to the Postmaster General for International Postal Affairs to serve as the director of technical relations.

He served as a roving ambassador and team member of the Internal Postal Meetings and Study Groups and was later named to the United Nations' Universal Postal Union in Berne, Switzerland, where he served until 1977.

He was also instrumental in developing the U.S. Postal ZIP code.

He returned to the United States to work for American Airlines.

Although he and his wife of 40 years, Marybelle, who died in 1994, were childless, they benefited numerous children.

"You'd be surprised how many young people he helped," said Mrs. Brinkley. "They helped students pay for school."

She said Mr. McClure's vast documentation of his life as well as his collection of 8 mm home movies will be donated to the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center.

His memberships included the Allen Temple AME Church and the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity.

Survivors include a niece, Judith McClure of Woodlawn; and nephews Alvin McClure of Wisconsin, James Yates Jr. of Yellow Springs, and Fred, Steven and Leroy Mitchell of Chicago. He will be interred in the Memorial Mausoleum, Spring Grove Cemetery.

Visitation will be 10 a.m.today at the Allen Temple AME Church, 7030 Reading Road, with the funeral service at 11 a.m.

Memorials: The Greater Cincinnati Foundation, Mary and Harold E. McClure Scholarship, 200 West Fourth St., Cincinnati, OH 45202.

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E-mail kandrew@enquirer.com




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