By Sean Yoes
AFRO Baltimore Editor
Rodney “Binx” Watts, a beloved Baltimore golf legend, as well as an entertainment lawyer in Los Angeles, died on August 7, due to complications from COVID-19. He was 75.
Watts, the son of pioneering legal figure, Judge Robert Watts, who worked with Thurgood Marshall, was the first Black judge in Baltimore City, and co-founded the first Black law firm in Maryland, embraced his father’s towering legacy.
“Having grown up in the late 40’s and 50’s and seeing what my grandfather had endured and hearing the stories about the racial burdens placed on my grandfather it was a duty, an obligation to push through some of the challenges that he then faced,” said Mark Broady, Watts’ nephew, who is also a lawyer.
Golfing legend Rodney “Binx” Watts and his partner Tina Smith. The couple loved to travel and eat at their favorite restaurants. Watts died recently due to complications from COVID-19. He was 75. (Photo by Pam Curtis)
“Obviously, it was very important to him to continue the legacy of civil rights and activism,” Broady added. “It was something he was very serious about fighting for the civil rights of individuals of color.” In fact, Watts was arrested as a teen in the 1960s during a demonstration to integrate Gwynn Oak Amusement Park.
After graduating from Morgan State College in 1967, as his father did in 1943, Watts also followed in his father’s footsteps and graduated from the University of Maryland School of Law and passed the Maryland Bar in 1970 and then the California Bar in 1974. He practiced civil litigation, corporate law and entertainment law in California. However, he began his legal career in the Baltimore City State’s Attorney’s Office as an assistant state’s attorney under the leadership of the legendary Milton B. Allen, who was Maryland’s first Black state’s attorney and co-founded the state’s first Black law firm with Judge Robert Watts.
Although Watts was clearly a formidable attorney, his first and most enduring love was golf.
His lifelong love of the game began in high school at the age of 14, when he attended Mt. St. Joseph’s College High School in 1963. But at Morgan, Watts was a member of the 1967 CIAA Championship Golf team, that won the school’s first golf championship. In 2004, Watts along with his 1967 teammates was inducted into the Morgan State University M Club Hall of Fame.
After his years in California, which included a nine-year marriage to Gail Coleman in Los Angeles that ended in divorce, Watts returned to Baltimore in 1992. That’s when he took his passion for golf to a new level. He became an assistant professional at the Pine Ridge Golf Course in Lutherville, Md., head professional at the Marlton Golf Club in Upper Marlboro, Md., and most recently, the director of golf at the Timbers at Troy Golf Course in Howard County. He also played in the PGA Senior Tour, Senior Series Tour and the Golden State Tour.
“Well known as a gentleman of the game, Binx played for more than 60 years and was a professional since 1995,” said Steve Ragsdale, a lifelong friend in a statement. “Those who knew him were often stunned by his grace and humility and we are now shocked by his sudden passing,” he added.
“If I had to tell you who my Uncle Binx was, I would tell you he was a fun guy,” said his nephew Broady.
“He was the kind of guy who when I was in my early 20’s and I might be at a lounge, I would see my uncle there. I would be like, what are you doing here man, aren’t you too old to be in here?” Broady said with a laugh. “He just loved having fun and being on the scene and eating good food and just being around young people.”
Many of those good times in his later years were spent with his longtime partner Tina Smith by his side. The couple met at Clyde’s restaurant in Columbia on July 31, 2011. They traveled extensively together, loved eating at their favorite restaurants and hanging out with friends and family. Watts became “Papa Binx” to Smith’s two grown children, Kia Talein Harris and Kory Anderson and “Grandpa” to Harris’ children, Austen Anderson and Justen Rainey.
Michael P. Scott, chief equity officer for Equity Matters reflected on the legacy of his longtime friend and mentor.
“A wise, wise man not hardened by the cynicism of the many things he’d seen, but rather they rendered him even more understanding, more compassionate, more empathetic and more humorous,” said Scott in a statement. “No matter the weight of the burden it felt like he bore things lightly and it would just roll off his back…Even in that he was teaching us. Do your work, never let ‘em see you sweat,” he added.
“The only solace is that on his birthday a few weeks back (in May), he was showered with so much love via Zoom, I felt we had a chance to give him his roses while he was still alive,” said Scott, who referred to Watts as his beloved big bro. “It was magnificent. And it was a high water mark to a man who had an extraordinary life, which was extraordinarily well lived.”
A member of the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, the Guardsmen and various other groups and organizations, Watts leaves countless friends and family members to mourn his loss. Funeral arrangements have not yet been announced by the family.