Reno Sr., law professor, dies at 86

R. R.

May 24, 1991

Russell R. Reno Sr., professor emeritus at the University of Maryland School of Law and an expert on real property law, died Tuesday at Baltimore County General Hospital of heart disease.

A memorial service for Mr. Reno, who was 86 and moved from Towson to the Fairhaven retirement community in Sykesville in 1980, will be held in its chapel at 11 a.m. Monday. A second memorial service will be held at 10 a.m. June 1 at the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer, 5603 N. Charles St.

He joined the Maryland faculty in 1936 and retired in 1974. He taught there for 36 years, taking time out for military service during World War II and for work as a special fellow at Columbia University, earning a master of law degree.

In the early 1970s, he was chairman of the Maryland Bar Association's Section on Real Property, Planning and Zoning. He also was a member of its committee to codify the property laws of the state, which involved modernization of English statutes dating back to 1200 in Maryland law books. They had been part of Maryland law since Colonial days but had never been included in Maryland law books.

This work, in which Mr. Reno played a major role, essentially produced the present real property law of the state, according to Chief Judge Robert C. Murphy of the Court of Appeals, who praised Mr. Reno as a teacher.

"He was probably the most highly revered law school professor the university ever produced," Judge Murphy said yesterday.

He said Mr. Reno had "an enthusiasm for teaching, even very dry subjects, that was contagious." Noting that he had a talent for making difficult subjects understandable and almost enjoyable, the judge said, "He made us learn whether we wanted to or not."

Author of articles in the Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia law reviews, Mr. Reno was also one of the authors of "The American Law of Property," a seven-volume work found in all law libraries.

A native of Chicago who was reared in Oak Park, Ill., Mr. Reno was a graduate of the University of Illinois and its law school and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa and the Order of the Coif.

He practiced law in Decatur, Ill., and then began teaching -- first at the University of Illinois business school and then at the law schools of Valparaiso University in Indiana and the University of South Dakota.

During World War II, he served in the Army, first teaching in the Reserve Officers' Training Corps at the University of Illinois and then as an officer in a field artillery unit in Europe, where he won the Bronze Star.

After the war, he helped to organize and teach business courses at a university for American servicemen at Biarritz, France.

After returning to the Maryland faculty, he remained active in the Army Reserve, transferring to the Judge Advocate General's Corps 10 years before his retirement in 1960 as a lieutenant colonel.

He had been senior warden of the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer at the time the congregation planned and built its present building and had also served as president of its Men's Club.

A member of the Mount Moriah Lodge of the Masons in Towson, he became a member of the board of the Fairhaven Residents' Association and led about 300 trips to plays and concerts.

He is survived by his wife, the former Katherine N. White; a son, Russell R. Reno Jr. of Towson; a daughter, Katherine R. Calvert of Rodgers Forge; eight grandchildren; and six great-grandchildren.

The family suggested memorial contributions to the Fairhaven Residents' Assistance Fund or the University of Maryland School of Law.

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