Eugene Lang (left), who founded the “I Have a Dream” Foundation, with Stewart Bainum at Kramer Junior High.
Eugene Lang (left), who founded the “I Have a Dream” Foundation, with Stewart Bainum at Kramer Junior High.
Ray Lustig/Washington Post/File 1988

WASHINGTON — Stewart Bainum Sr. — who founded the nursing home and hospitality chains now known as HCR Manor Care and Choice Hotels International, two of the largest operations of their kinds — died Feb. 12 at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore.

He was 94.

The cause was complications of pneumonia, said his son Stewart Bainum Jr.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

The son of a Ford Motor assembly-line worker, Stewart Bainum Sr. came of age during the Great Depression and hitchhiked to the Washington area in 1936 with a reported $3 in his pocket.

He found work as a plumber’s apprentice — later driving a taxi and selling watermelons on the side, his son said — before saving enough money to start his own plumbing business and then move into real estate development.

With several partners, Mr. Bainum opened his first hotel in Silver Spring, Md., in 1957. Three years later, with his brother Robert, he opened his first nursing home in nearby Wheaton, Md.

Mr. Bainum’s lodging venture grew into Quality Inns International, an operation that was later renamed Choice Hotels International and that today includes brands such as Comfort Inn, Quality Inn, Clarion, Econo Lodge, Sleep Inn, and Rodeway Inn.

The nursing home grew into Manor Care, which merged in 1998 with the Health Care and Retirement Corp. to become HCR Manor Care. That company now includes more than 500 nursing, rehabilitation, assisted-living, and other care facilities, according to its website.

Mr. Bainum led the lodging and nursing operations from their founding until 1987. He was succeeded as chief executive by his son Stewart, a former Maryland state legislator and prominent Democratic politician.

The elder Bainum retired in 2000 from the board of HCR Manor Care and stepped down around the same time from the board of the hotel concern, which by then had been spun off from the combined business. HCR Manor Care was purchased in 2007 by Carlyle Group, the private-equity firm, for a reported $6.3 billion.

In 1968, he and his wife founded what is now known as the Commonweal Foundation to support the education of underprivileged youths in the Washington area and beyond.

In 1988, working through the New York-based ‘‘I Have a Dream’’ Foundation, Mr. Bainum promised 67 seventh-graders at Kramer Junior High School in Washington that he would finance their college educations if they graduated from high school. He remained in touch with some of those students until his death, his son said.