David Charles Hjortsberg, president of the Howard County Bar Association, died yesterday at Johns Hopkins Hospital from complications of a rare disease that involves the inflammation of the arteries. He was 55 and lived in Millersville.
Mr. Hjortsberg began his law career at a private law firm in Roanoke, Va., in 1968. From 1973 until 1978, he was an assistant attorney general of Maryland. He then joined Howard County's largest law firm, Reese and Carney, L.L.P. in Columbia.
At the time of his death, Mr. Hjortsberg, who specialized in commercial litigation, real estate construction and education law, and arbitration, was one of 10 partners at the Columbia firm.
Mr. Hjortsberg also was a member of the Board of Governors of the Maryland State Bar Association, and served on three of its committees.
"He was a lawyer's lawyer -- the type of man other lawyers respected from a talent standpoint," said David A. Carney, a senior partner. "The law firm went after him because we saw him as a star."
Said another partner, Kevin Kelehan: "David watched as Reese and Carney grew from a small firm on U.S. 40 to the largest in the county. He helped guide that growth."
Mr. Hjortsberg was elected to the Howard bar's board of directors in 1991 and became its vice president in 1995 and its president in 1996.
His period of leadership coincided with the county experiencing its most contentious judicial race.
During the primary election for that race last spring, the bar association was in the unusual position of being asked to take a stand. But Mr. Hjortsberg, then vice president, and Fred Howard Silverstein, then president of the bar group, took pains to declare their neutrality in the race.
"In a world where people complained about attorneys who had this fault or that fault, he wasn't one of those attorneys," Mr. Silverstein said.
A native of Gary, Ind., Mr. Hjortsberg graduated from Dartmouth College in 1963. While in the Army for two years until 1966, he was stationed in Berlin. In 1968, he received his law degree from the University of Virginia.
Mr. Hjortsberg also was a family historian, and a sailing, tennis and fishing enthusiast, said his son, Matthew of Baltimore, a law clerk for Baltimore Circuit Judge John Carroll Byrnes.
Services will be held at 11 a.m. tomorrow at St. Anne's Episcopal Church in Annapolis.
His family requests that donations be sent to the Grace Episcopal Day School, at 9115 Georgia Ave., Silver Spring, 20910.
In addition to his son, he is survived by his wife of 28 years, the former Carol Glison; and two sisters, Karin Meyer of Arlington, Va., and Gail Gates of Rochester Hills, Mich.