Trail-blazing, Respected Lawyers Honored Posthumously

January 12, 1992|By Alan J. Craver | Alan J. Craver,Staff writer

In her day, the late Georgia Howard was a trailblazer. Meanwhile, her colleague in the county legal profession, the late Robert H. ArcherJr., earned a reputation at the forefront of county politics for more than three decades.

And Charles Reed, another deceased lawyer, was considered something of a Renaissance man, playing the piano, working to protect the environment and advocating a single world government.

The three county attorneys, each of whom died within about the past year, were honored for their achievements at a memorial ceremony at Harford Circuit Court Friday. About 40 relatives, friends and associates attended the ceremony.

"They were all good people," said John Kelly, president of the Harford Bar Association. "They have a lot of history in Harford County."

The following are profiles of the three attorneys:

* Georgia Howard

Howard was one of those people who didn't allow anything to stand in the way of her dreams, say those who knew her.

In the 1950s, after graduating from law school, Howard began practicing in Harford County, becoming the first woman to join the Harford Bar Association.

She became interested in law while working as a secretary for a Bel Air attorney and later a county judge, recalled her nephew, Howard Weith, of Aberdeen. Howard then entered the University of Baltimore's law school in 1947, when she was 40 years old.

"She was working daytime and going to school at nightto get her law degree," Weith said.

Weith recalled that his aunt once noted her professors did not believe a woman should be an attorney. Howard was one of six women out of 200 students in the university's law program.

In 1953, when she graduated from law school, therewere about 15 women working as lawyers in Maryland, but none in Harford.

"She was the one at that time," said Albert P. Close, a retired Harford Circuit Court judge who knew Howard since his elementary school days. "But there certainly wasn't any difficulty for her. She was just as respected as anyone."

Howard -- who died after suffering a stroke last November at age 83 -- had her office in the Holden Building on Courtland Street, across from the County Courthouse, throughout her practice.

Kelly said Howard specialized in real estate law and estate cases, but occasionally handled court proceedings for adoptions free of charge.

"Miss Georgia was a great lady. Just a great lady," Kelly said.

* Robert H. Archer Jr.

Archer was a lawyer by trade, but a politician at heart.

He was elected as state's attorney in 1950, but lost his bid for a judgeship four years later. From 1959 to 1972, the Bel Air resident was a member of the DemocraticCentral Committee in the county.

Archer also worked as the countyattorney between 1955 and 1971, until a political scuffle between the then-county commissioners led to his dismissal.

The attorney -- who died of a heart attack in November 1990 at age 77 -- said at the time: "The movement to oust me has been purely of a political nature,motivated by a certain ambitious faction within the Democratic Partyof Harford County."

But Archer did not wallow: He went on to workas attorney for the State Highway Administration, where he represented Maryland during proceedings for land acquisitions. He also worked as assistant secretary of the state Department of Licensing and Regulation until his retirement in 1985.

In the early years of Archer'spractice, he handled all types of cases -- from wills and real estate matters to criminal and civil trials, recalled Edwin H.W. Harlan, aformer Harford State's Attorney and District Court judge.

* Charles Reed

Reed was perhaps the definitive Renaissance Man.

"He had a thirst for knowledge that was extraordinary," said Lester H. Feinberg, a Bel Air attorney who worked for Reed's law firm since 1974. "He knew a little about a lot. He would be a great Trivial Pursuit player."

Reed, who died of cancer last February at age 73, was the kind of person who would study the Greek language and culture when planning to take a trip to Greece, Feinberg said.

A graduate of the University of Maryland's law school, Reed's legal practice was diverse -- from criminal and civil cases to wills and estates to zoning matters, Feinberg said.

The Bel Air native played the piano and was an avid reader, Feinberg said. He described Reed as a "classic liberal Democrat," an ardent believer in social and racial integration.

Reed was a member of the World Federalist Association, which advocated asingle international government. He also was a founder of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship church in Bel Air.

The father of four children, he also was a conservationist, active in the Deer Creek Watershed Association's work protecting the Deer Creek valley, said Johnston Hegeman, current vice president of the association.

The association is working with the Reed family to build a memorial for the attorney at Susquehanna State Park near Havre de Grace, Hegeman said. The memorial may be placed near an old canal lock along Deer Creek.

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