Hall Hammond, 89, retired chief judge, dies

November 28, 1991

Hall Hammond, a dominant figure in the Maryland judicial system for decades before his retirement as the state's chief judge in 1972, died early yesterday of cancer at his home in the Ruxton Village Apartments. He was 89.

Described yesterday by one former associate as a "titan" and "one of the shining lights" of his profession, Judge Hammond served on the state Court of Appeals for 20 years, the last six as chief judge.

Judge Hammond had served as Maryland attorney general from 1946 until being named to the state's highest court in 1952. He was deputy attorney general from 1941 to 1946. While in the attorney general's office, he took five cases to the Supreme Court, winning all of them.

In 1972, shortly before his retirement from the Court of Appeals, Judge Hammond made the first State of the Judiciary speech before the legislature -- a custom that his successor, Chief Judge Robert C. Murphy, has continued.

Yesterday, Judge Murphy decribed his predecessor as having "one of the most powerful intellects of any public figure in this century that I can think of" -- and a man who "could master any subject in 15 minutes" or capture a thought with just a few words.

Judge Murphy added that despite a "stern appearance," Judge Hammond had "a sense of humor that was legendary among his friends."

Judge Francis D. Murnaghan Jr. of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, who served as an assistant attorney general under Judge Hammond, described him as "a titan" and "one of the shining lights of the legal profession."

He said Judge Hammond was "one of the most incisively logical and yet human people I know," and that as chief judge of the Court of Appeals his influence "could be found in almost every opinion."

As attorney general, he got into a fight with the late Dr. H. C. Byrd, then president of the University of Maryland, over a bill granting autonomy to the university. Mr. Hammond urged the bill be vetoed because it would make the university's only link to the state "a pipeline to the treasury."

As a judge, he supported the creation of the Court of Special Appeals to reduce the Court of Appeals caseload. Later, in one of his many letters to the editor on legal subjects, he suggested the possibility of combining the Court of Appeals with the Court of Special Appeals as a remedy for the return of crowded appellate dockets.

He suggested that three-judge panels could hear most cases, leaving the most difficult or serious ones for a seven-judge panel.

Long a resident of Baltimore County, he helped organize a study group on the overhaul of the county government in the early 1950s.

DTC In 1976, he was named Citizen of the Year by the Central Baltimore County Chamber of Commerce.

Born in Baltimore, he was a 1919 graduate of City College and a 1923 graduate of the Johns Hopkins University.

He was a 1925 graduate of the University of Maryland law school, where he was elected to the Order of the Coif.

He practiced privately in Baltimore before becoming deputy attorney general.

Judge Hammond had served on the boards of the South Baltimore General Hospital, the Pickersgill Home and Children's Hospital.

He was a member of the Maryland Club, the Elkridge Club and L'Hirondelle Club.

His first wife, the former Elizabeth Ashton Luck, whom he married in 1934, died in 1961.

He is survived by his wife, the former Dorothy Nelson Cannon; three stepsons, Harry Cannon of Harwood, Hugh Cannon of Sarasota, Fla., and Jonathan Cannon of Alexandria, Va.; a stepdaughter, Hope Buckley of Barnard, Vt.; a sister, Rosalie E. Oster of Baltimore; two nephews, Robert and William Oster, both of Baltimore; a niece, Rosalie Oster Kerr of Belmont, Mass.; 11 grandchildren; four grandnephews; and three grandnieces.

Services for Judge Hammond will be held at 11 a.m. Monday at the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd, Boyce and Carrollton Avenues in Ruxton.

The family suggested memorial contributions to Our Daily Bread.

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