Albert H. Blum, Municipal Court judge and world traveler

November 04, 1992|By David Michael Ettlin and DeWitt Bliss | David Michael Ettlin and DeWitt Bliss,Staff Writers

Albert H. Blum, a retired Baltimore Municipal Court judge whose passion for travel and adventure took him to the far reaches of the planet, died Saturday of heart failure in his sleep at his home in the Fairhaven retirement community in Sykesville.

Services for Judge Blum, 92, were conducted Monday.

Appointed to the court by then-Gov. J. Millard Tawes in 1961, Judge Blum stepped down from the bench in 1970 upon reaching the mandatory retirement age of 70.

Born in Baltimore, he was a 1917 graduate of City College, earned his undergraduate degree at the Johns Hopkins University, where he played lacrosse. He graduated from the University of Maryland Law School in 1923.

He practiced law in Baltimore and held a series of government posts, serving in the 1930s as an assistant state's attorney and as co-organizer and co-director of the city's Domestic Relations Court, as a police magistrate, and as chairman of the old Advisory Board on Veterans' Pardons and the board of the State Accident Fund.

Commissioned as a Navy lieutenant during World War II, he served as a liaison officer with the British Navy in the Mediterranean and in Italy, and was proud to have been the first American naval officer to enter Naples. He rose to the rank of lieutenant commander, and his decorations included knighthood in the Order of the Crown of Italy -- conferred personally by King Victor Emmanuel III.

Judge Blum's lifelong affliction with wanderlust took root as early as 1922 when, just out of Hopkins, he made a 10,000-mile tour of the United States.

During the war years, he took a convoy of trucks on a 2,000-mile trek across Africa -- a trip that led to Algiers, and the first of many purchases of native art: a carved head of a Senegalese man that he saw in a window. "Gallivanting around the world" became Judge Blum's special hobby, and Africa his "particular passion" as his collection of tribal masks, weaponry and art objects grew with each trip. In 1975, he lent 101 pieces from his collection for display by the Baltimore Museum of Art.

In 1952, he enjoyed a 7,500-mile jaunt through much of his favorite continent, and other journeys over the years took him to Easter Island, Afghanistan, the Amazon and the Andes, across the Arctic Circle, and shooting down the Colorado River rapids on a rubber raft.

Judge Blum's travels were a stark contrast to his professionallife, presiding over the cases of sad domestic misadventure, drunks, petty thieves, thugs or drug dealers.

His last day on the bench was June 24, 1970, and was played out before an appreciative audience of courtroom habitues -- mostly retirees -- who made up the "Unofficial Jury" at the Municipal Court in the old Southern District police station at 28 E. Ostend St.

After disposing of a typical run of drunk-and-disorderly cases, he addressed the jury to lament at having to leave because of reaching the time of "constitutional antiquity and statutory senility" -- even though he still managed to run three miles thrice weekly.

He thanked the jurors, from whom he would often solicit opinions on his handling of a case, and they in turn declared him "the greatest judge of all."

In retirement, Judge Blum remained a physical fitness buff, and was often seen jogging on the Gilman School campus. And despite all his exotic travel, Judge Blum noted, "I have seen more beautiful dawns come up here."

He was a member of the American Legion, a trustee of the Maryland Academy of Science, a member of the Reserve Officers of the Naval Service and member of the Baltimore alumni club of Johns Hopkins, which gave him a distinguished alumnus award in 1945. He also served as president of the Mercantile Club and of the Jewish Family and Children's Bureau.

His first wife, the former Mildred Cala Kern, died in 1948.

He is survived by his wife, the former Eva Ginsberg Brown; two daughters, Sunny Jo Blum Brodsky of St. Louis, Mo., and Judith Long of Santa Cruz, Calif.; a son, Dr. David S. Brown of Brookline, Mass.; two sisters, Jeannette Levy of Baltimore and Percy Levin of Lakewood, N.J.; and many nieces and nephews.

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