Gwynne Holden, attorney and farmer

September 27, 1994|By Rafael Alvarez | Rafael Alvarez,Sun Staff Writer

Gwynne L. Holden -- a Harford County attorney and dairy farmer who nurtured a lifetime love for the poetry of Rudyard Kipling -- died of lung cancer Wednesday at Fallston General Hospital. He was 82.

He served as an assistant state's attorney for Harford County from the mid-1970s until 1978 and was past president of the Harford County Bar Association.

"Dad was proudest of being a defense attorney," said S. Todd Holden, his son. "His father was a carpenter, and his mother was a phone operator. I think coming from a humble family allowed him to share a bond with minorities and impoverished people. Long before it was in vogue, he defended them for very small fees, sometimes none at all."

Born in Delta, Pa., Mr. Holden hated school as a youngster and was a chronic truant. A favorite family story tells of young Gwynne being marched to class by his mother only to cut and run the minute she was out of sight, arriving home before she did.

By high school, where he played basketball and football, he and academics had been reconciled. At his graduation in 1931, a favorite teacher gave him a leather-bound copy of Kipling's poetry, which he cherished until his death.

His other favorite poet was Robert Service, whom he quoted to his children from the time they could understand English: "Now a promise made is a debt unpaid, and the trail has its own stern code."

He worked his way through Gettysburg (Pa.) College doing odd jobs, including a stint as a copy boy at a local newspaper. He was forced to leave college because of money problems and took a job as a surveyor's assistant in York, Pa. He eventually returned to school and earned undergraduate and law degrees from the Columbus University School of Law in Washington. During this time, he worked as a clerk for the U.S. Department of Justice.

He was admitted to the Maryland Bar in 1941. During World War II, he served as an ensign in the Coast Guard Auxiliary and was assigned to Baltimore.

In 1937, he married the former Jean Todd, daughter of a Harford County dairy farmer, and the couple settled in Bel Air. In 1953, along with Jean's father, they bought Southampton Farm, a 525-acre dairy farm northwest of Bel Air. The Holdens, who enjoyed traveling to Europe, sold the farm in 1986 and returned to Bel Air.

In Harford County, Mr. Holden organized softball leagues, was past president of the Lions Club, was a founding member of the Highland Society of Harford County and belonged to the First Presbyterian Church of Bel Air.

A memorial service has not yet been set.

In addition to his wife and son, he is survived by three grandchildren. A second son died in 1966.

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