Emma Richardson, pioneering lawyer

January 24, 1995|By DeWitt Bliss | DeWitt Bliss,Sun Staff Writer

A memorial service for Emma Robertson Richardson, the first woman to become a partner in a major Baltimore law firm, was to be held at 11 a.m. today at Broadmead, the Cockeysville retirement community at 13801 York Road.

Mrs. Richardson, 82, who also had been a private pilot, died of pneumonia Dec. 23 at Broadmead.

The former Emma S. "Bobbie" Robertson was born in Baltimore, graduating in 1930 from Friends School and 1934 from Goucher College -- where she majored in physics.

She began working after graduation on a Treasury Department study of the income tax, and recalled in a 1950 interview how that sparked her interest in tax law: "I decided if so many people can be so dumb about their income taxes, there must be money in straightening them out."

While a student at the University of Maryland law school, she worked for a tax lawyer, the late John D. Wright, and after graduating with honors in 1940 became a partner in the firm known then as Wright, Robertson and Dowell.

As a student, she also became interested in flying and earned her private pilot's license. She tried to enlist in the women's service that ferried planes during World War II, but did not meet eyesight requirements. But she managed to become a captain in the Civil Air Patrol and also flew for the Coast Guard Auxiliary.

John B. Powell Jr., a partner in the law firm -- now known as Wright, Constable and Skeen -- praised the attention to detail that made her a "fine tax attorney." He said Mrs. Richardson was also a specialist in estates and trusts, and one of the first 10 lawyers to become members of the Baltimore Estate Planning Council.

Retired Baltimore City Circuit Judge Mary Arabian said Mrs. Richardson was "the first woman to have been taken into a major law firm in Baltimore as a partner."

Mrs. Richardson was elected president of the Women's Bar Association in 1950 and, according to the judge, fought for the admission of black women to the group.

She had also been a member of the Phi Delta Delta legal fraternity.

In 1990, the Baltimore City Bar Association cited Mrs. Richardson for half a century as a lawyer.

A former president of the alumni association of the University of Maryland law school, she received an outstanding alumni award from Friends in 1983 and served as a trustee of Goucher College.

Fond of golf and bridge, she was a member of the Baltimore Country Club and also belonged to Brown Memorial Park Avenue Presbyterian Church, and the Goucher Club of Maryland.

Her husband, William H. Richardson, died in 1962.

Survivors include a stepdaughter, Aline Richardson Freeman of Houston, Texas; a nephew, George S. Robertson III, of Alexandria, Va.; and several cousins.

The family suggested donations to the Emma Robertson Richardson Scholarship Fund at Goucher College.

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