Wellington Matthews Jr., 44, lawyer, former military attorney

September 12, 1996|By Robert Hilson Jr. | Robert Hilson Jr.,SUN STAFF

Practicing law was a lifelong dream for Wellington "Teddy" Matthews Jr.

He addressed pretend juries as a teen, and when friends spoke to him he carefully listened and digested their words before he answered. But he became a lawyer mainly for one reason: to help people.

"That's what he liked to do most, just help people," said his wife, the former Jean Mickens, whom he married in 1980.

When Mr. Matthews died of cancer Monday at Johns Hopkins Hospital, at age 44, he was president of the Monumental City Bar Association, the Baltimore area's minority legal association.

After 17 years as a military lawyer, the Abingdon resident began a private law practice in Northeast Baltimore two years ago.

"Teddy had a way of exacting the truth from people," said Ben Alston, an attorney and longtime friend of Mr. Matthews. "He was always so level-headed and always trying to evaluate stuff."

Friends and colleagues said Mr. Matthews had a commanding presence -- much from his long military career -- but a soft side that made people still feel relaxed around him. A native of Baltimore, Mr. Matthews graduated from Northwestern High School in 1970 and Morgan State University in 1974. He graduated from the University of Maryland Law School in 1977 and served in the Army's legal department until 1994. He received a master of law degree from the University of Virginia in 1987.

In the military, he was a prosecutor at Fort Bliss, Texas, and Fort Leavenworth, Kan.; personal injury and defense counsel in Germany; chief of administrative law at Fort Belvoir, Va.; and chief of budget operations and information management at the Army Claims Service at Fort Meade.

In 1988, he successfully prosecuted an Army sergeant at Aberdeen Proving Ground for trying to sell government documents to officials from what was then the Soviet Union. The soldier was convicted of espionage, failure to report contact with a foreign government, larceny of government property and unauthorized disposition of government property.

Andrea Johnson, an attorney who attended Morgan State with Mr. Matthews, said one of his best qualities was his adaptability.

"He could always change gears and adjust to the situation," she said. "He had something about him that you knew he was going to be successful."

Mr. Matthews was eager to open his law practice after retiring from the military. He talked to colleagues about what to expect before he opened his office in Northwood Shopping Center.

"He had a military strategy about how he was going to do it," said Dana C. Petersen, an attorney and friend. "He was a planner. Teddy was a doer."

Services are scheduled for noon tomorrow at First Apostolic Faith Church of Jesus Christ, 27 S. Caroline St., in East Baltimore.

Survivors include two sisters, Blanche Matthews and Deborah Matthews, both of Baltimore; his stepmother, Willa Mae Matthews of Baltimore; a stepdaughter, Charice Caver of Fort Smith, Ark.; two stepbrothers, Randy Matthews and Chris Matthews, both of Abingdon; a nephew and a niece.

Pub Date: 9/12/96

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