The daughter of Willie Morrow, Cheryl Morrow, says I never heard my father talk about many men, but when it came to Mr. Logan that was another story. She goes on to say Mr. Logan was like a bible study partner for my dad, at least that’s how he described Mr. Logan.
“I have fond memories of Mr. Logan, you never heard him but you heard him, she laughs.” Cheryl Morrow goes on to say I remember the day Mr. Logan and my Dad took the cover photo and Mr. Logan was shuffling to find his best pose, and my dad said, “Mr. Logan” you sit, and I’ll stand, Mr. Logan said “No, this is your office” then Mr. Morrow kindly said, “T, you had an office before I even knew what an office was, please Sir sit down and let’s take this picture.” Mr. Logan, I believe, was the only barber client, whom Mr. would not accept any money from.
Theophilus “Theo” Logan is best known for his work in local real estate, where he helped make homeownership possible for Black San Diegans and other minorities at a time when redlining and segregation made it nearly impossible to secure financing. But to those who were close to him, Logan was known as a man of great faith, a legend, and the embodiment of a gentleman.
Logan, 105, passed away of natural causes at his home in Bankers Hill, surrounded by family on March 16. He died a month before his 106th birthday.
Daughter Barbara Logan recalls that he never left the house without a hat — the kind you’d see men wearing in the 1940s — and he was known to be a “dapper dresser.” Family members joked that you’d never catch him wearing jeans in public, although he had a few pairs to wear around the house.
Dee Sanford, a close family friend who grew up with the Logans, said he was a wise man who was “larger than life” in stature. She never heard him say a bad word about anyone.
“He was always calm, cool, collected, well dressed, very dignified; just a presence,” said Sanford, who noted that Theo Logan is the reason her father moved to San Diego. “He had a presence like no one else.”
To many, he epitomized the dignity of a gentleman inside and out.
And though he took great care in his physical appearance, Logan was not one to judge by looks. The equal treatment of people was important to Logan, and at the center of his life’s work. Barbara Logan said he always believed in doing the right thing and helping people in need.
“What he did was not an easy thing to do,” she said. “He found there was a need and that the banking system was unjust and he felt that we should all be entitled to the same opportunities and to build generational wealth.”
After serving in the military, Logan opened his firm Logan Realty in Logan Heights at a time in the 1960s when redlining and prejudice kept people of color from homeownership.
While some commercial lenders refused to write mortgages for minorities, Logan figured out another way and helped people secure financing through FHA and VA loans.
“I encouraged a lot of people who didn’t realize that they were able to buy,” he said in a 2019 interview with the Union-Tribune.
He established himself in the real estate industry and joined the San Diego Board of Realtors — today’s Greater San Diego Association of Realtors — and chaired its Neighborhood Revitalization Committee.
In 1978, he became the first African American elected as a local realty board president.
Logan was also committed to uplifting young, African American men through his 87-year tenure as a member of the Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity. Samuel Knight, his fraternity brother in the San Diego chapter said this is part of Logan’s legacy.
“Anybody who knew him and met him for any length of time just loved him and just loved to be in his presence. I mean, his aura just permeated the room,” Knight said. “We’ve lost a legend.”
Born in Lima, Okla., on April 30, 1917, Logan was the oldest of five children. His father worked on building and maintaining tracks for the Rock Island railroad and his mother was a schoolteacher.
He grew up visiting his grandparents in San Diego in the 1920s; he adored the city and called it “one of the jewels of America.”
He graduated in 1939 with a liberal arts degree from the historically Black college Lincoln University in Oxford, Penn. Logan moved to San Diego in September 1941 with the intention of working in the local welfare department.
But when war broke out three months later, he was soon drafted into the Army and sent for six months of training at Fort Huachuca south of Phoenix. Then he shipped out to Italy, where he was a platoon leader in an anti-tank gun unit and later served as a liaison officer. He later served in Germany, Japan and Korea.
Logan served in the 92nd Infantry Division. As the only all-Black unit to see combat in World War II, it inherited the reputation of the famed Buffalo Soldiers’ cavalry regiment that fought in the late-19th century Indian Wars.
Logan taught from 1955 to 1959 at another historically Black school — Lincoln University in Jefferson City, Mo. It was there that he met and married his wife, Martha, who earned a law degree in 1972 and was one of a handful of Black women attorneys in San Diego. They had two children, William and Barbara, both born in Germany where Logan was stationed a second time from 1960 to 1962.
Logan retired after 20 years of service and received numerous awards, including a Bronze Star Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster, during his service in World War II and Korean Conflict.
While he was not one to boast about his accomplishments or good deeds, people in the community took notice.
Last year, he was honored with the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Human Dignity Award from the Jackie Robinson YMCA.
“I remember his sincerity in what he was doing,” Logan said of King’s legacy in an interview with the Union-Tribune last year. “He realized the situation in this country, and he did something about it. I think we need to understand what he gave up in order to help us improve our lives in this country.”
Leon Williams, a former politician who was the first Black person elected to the San Diego city council and board of supervisors, remembers Logan as a “positive human being” and “a builder of human relations” during the challenges of the civil rights era.
Michael Brunker, retired executive director of the Jackie Robinson Family YMCA, said Logan cared about the community organization and valued what it offered people in Southeastern San Diego.
“A lot of people can holler and scream about things being wrong. Theo Logan made a difference,” Brunker said.
Brunker added that even after Logan retired and moved to a different neighborhood in San Diego, he stayed rooted in the community and invested in its continued growth. Inside the doors of the Jackie Robinson YMCA, Brunker said there’s a quote by the baseball legend that says, “a life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.”
“And there’s no doubt in my mind Theo Logan was an impact player … what he did in terms of his career providing people opportunities to get homes and the philanthropy that he was responsible for in so many private ways,” Brunker said.
When Logan wasn’t working, he enjoyed watching classic Westerns, like Bonanza, or the “shoot ‘em ups” as he called them, his daughter said. He was devout in his Christian faith, and at gatherings, he was known as the prayer leader who would bring people together in a circle by proclaiming “good evening, good evening” — always twice.
For his 100th birthday, he asked for an iPhone and learned how to send group texts. He never stopped wanting to learn and he stayed active — two things Barbara Logan credits for her father’s long and happy life.
Logan is survived by his wife, Martha; his children, Barbara Logan of El Cajon and William Logan of Bankers Hill; four grandchildren; one great-grandson and many nieces and nephews.
A memorial service will be held at 1 p.m. on April 7 at the Christian Fellowship Congregational Church off Kelton Road.
His family said that donations in Theo Logan’s name can be made to the San Diego Education and Mentoring Fund through Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity.
U-T freelancer Roger Showley contributed to this article.
The San Diego Monitor-News has been serving Black San Diego since 1986