Wednesday morning, September 9, 2020, Grady Wilbert Towns, 83, passed peacefully in his sleep at his Denver home.
In high school Grady washed windows and waited tables to help support his mother and siblings; a good student and class leader, he graduated from Langston Junior and Senior High School in Hot Springs, Arkansas. He worked as a waiter on Michigan's Mackinac Island to help pay tuition for the honors B.S. degree (Biology) he received from the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff (formerly Arkansas AM&N). He remained grateful to the AM&N educators who, at that historically Black institution, imparted the life skills of toughness, spirituality, focus, and endurance. He worked as a graduate Teaching Assistant at the University of Utah and environmental contractor while he earned an M.S. degree (Biology) and a PhD (Ecology).
A Veteran of the United States Army, he worked on classified projects at Utah's Tooele Army Depot and Dugway Proving Ground. He spent his 30-year Federal career with the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service as one of few Black natural resource scientists. An Ecologist, he analyzed the environmental impacts of large controversial projects - often negotiating with private landowners, State and Federal regulators, international government representatives, military officers, and elected officials. Motivated by the segregation barriers he overcame in his life, he strongly supported laws and programs to reduce systemic racism and obstacles to the empowerment of African Americans and others. He helped to expand opportunities and encouraged Black students to consider scientific careers, to be prepared and open to career opportunities in unfamiliar places, and to use their education and skills to ""do good.""
Grady loved the West, skiing, camping, hiking, and golf. He was a member of Omega Psi Phi fraternity. Dr. Towns made civic contributions as Vice-President of the 490-family Hyland Greens Homeowners' Association. He served as President and Membership Chair of the 500-member Slippers-n-Slider's Ski Club that is committed to introducing Blacks to winter sports; he also nominated Charles Smith, the first Black person to be inducted into the prestigious Colorado Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame. He and his local golfing buddies painted the then newly constructed Our Faith Baptist Church in the heart of Denver's Five Points. Grady also worked on Presidential campaigns, and refurbished computers for inner-city families. He was a member of Second Baptist Church (Boulder, CO), but was most recently associated with Our Faith Baptist Church, Reverend Luther J. Whatley, Pastor, and friend.
Born October 15, 1936, to Viola Dessie Banks and Bennie Towns, he was predeceased by them and his brother, James Towns. Devoted to family, he is survived by Eleanor Saunders Towns, wife of 43 years; daughter, Erika Wyrick Klafehn; son, Brandon Scott (Yvette) Towns; grandsons, Adrian Joseph Towns and Miles Xavier Klafehn; granddaughter, Isabel Alyssa Towns; sister, Berniece Towns Frenche (Stockton, CA); and cousins, Shirley Dismuke (Detroit, MI), Ervin Jones, MD (Cape Charles, VA), Geneva Buggs Brown (St. Louis, MO), Bertha (John) Sims (Hot Springs, AR), Helen Buggs Singleton (DeSoto, TX), William Murray and Deserine Lawson (Las Vegas, NV), and Rutha Buggs Jones, Thelma Banks Green, and Vernestine Banks Thompson (Los Angeles, CA). He will also be missed by a host of nieces, nephews, and friends.
Dr. Grady Wilbert Towns lived his talk.
The family will be forever grateful for the competent, compassionate assistance we received from the doctors, nurses, certified nursing assistants, social worker, and chaplain at Denver Hospice and the caretakers from the Denver Safe at Home agency for guiding us through this final leg of his journey.
A celebratory memorial event will be held when COVID permits.
Published in www.denverpost.com on Sep. 13, 2020.