O. Bowie Duckett, 90, retired judge

December 23, 1993|By Fred Rasmussen | Fred Rasmussen,Staff Writer

O. Bowie Duckett, who was involved for many years in Anne Arundel County legal and civic affairs and was a retired Circuit Court judge, died yesterday of pneumonia at Anne Arundel General Hospital.

He was 90 and lived at Burnside, his home in Eastport.

Mr. Duckett, who was born in Baltimore, was reared on his parents' farm in West River. His father, Oden Bowie Duckett Sr., a planter who was active in Democratic politics, served in the House of Delegates and was Anne Arundel County register of wills from 1910 to 1930.

Mr. Duckett attended a one-room schoolhouse and graduated from Annapolis High School in 1921. He went to Marion Institute before attending the Naval Academy for three years. He was a 1928 graduate of the University of Maryland Law School.

Admitted to the bar in 1928, he began a long association with William J. McWilliams, who retired as a judge of the Maryland Court of Appeals in 1974.

"We had been law clerks at the same time and, after graduating, decided to form a partnership in Annapolis," Mr. McWilliams said. "We thought it would be cheaper to starve to death in Annapolis than in Baltimore, so we opened an office in Annapolis," he said with a laugh. "In those Depression days, a $5 bill was big money.

"As a lawyer and later on as a judge, he was pretty good," Mr. McWilliams said of Mr. Duckett.

In 1943, Mr. Duckett was commissioned a captain in the Army and graduated from the Judge Advocate's School at the University of Michigan. He participated in the New Guinea campaign and the invasion of the Philippines with the 158th Regimental Combat Team and was awarded five battle stars. He was discharged in 1945.

From 1950 to 1953, he was a special assistant attorney general in charge of enforcing the Ober Act, the state's anti-subversive law. By the time he left the office, he had a file of 600 names of people in Maryland suspected of being Communists or participating in Communist activities. Many of the provisions of the Ober Act were invalidated by the courts by the time it was repealed in 1978.

Anne Arundel Circuit Judge Warren B. Duckett Jr., a nephew, said his uncle "left the attorney general's office because of the Ober Act. He didn't really like the tone of the law and felt it was too abrupt."

From 1956 to 1959, Mr. Duckett was chairman of the Anne Arundel Board of Property Review, and in 1957 he was chairman of the Committee of Law of the Maryland Bar Association. In 1958, he was chairman of the People's Court Committee of the Anne Arundel County Bar Association. That year, he was appointed to the Circuit Court by Gov. J. Millard Tawes. In 1960, he was elected to a 15-year term. He retired for health reasons in 1966.

Once while on the bench, he ordered two men convicted of robbery to work during the day and sleep in the jail at night.

Among the major cases he heard was one on reapportionment of the House of Delegates and another on the constitutionality of state aid to colleges with religious affiliations.

He was a member of several legal associations and the Southern Maryland Society, the South River Club and the Annapolis Yacht Club.

In 1939, he married Mary Clare Mccubin Green of Annapolis, who survives him.

Services are tentatively set for Monday at St. Anne's Episcopal Church on Church Circle in Annapolis, where he was a vestryman.

Other survivors include a niece, Katherine Bowie Duckett Miller of York, Pa.; and several great-nephews and great-nieces.

Memorial donations may be made to St. Anne's Episcopal Church, the South River Club or the Annapolis Yacht Club.

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