Remembering a judge who blazed trails


April 04, 1997|By DAN RODRICKS

Memories of Judge John R. Hargrove Sr., the trailblazing African-American jurist who died this week, from someone who observed him many times in the early 1970s in the District Court of Maryland:

"One day a police officer in the Northwestern [District] gave his account of a woman who was shouting, screaming, generally making a ruckus outside her house. He told her to go inside and settle down, which she did. But a half-hour later, she was back outside, behaving as before. The officer confronted her again, and this time she started arguing and a crowd started gathering. He arrested her for disorderly conduct.

"Judge Hargrove asked the woman for her account. She said she went outside to try and get her grandson to come in and take a bath. The officer ordered her indoors. But then her daughter told her to 'go back out there and get that boy inside!' Which is what she was doing when the police returned. Judge Hargrove, who had keen senses, asked the woman a trenchant question: 'Had you been drinking anything?'

" 'No sir,' she replied, and with absolute certainty.

" 'Are you sure?' Hargrove asked.

" 'Nothing except what my doctor prescribed.'

" 'And what was that?' the judge asked.

" 'Thunderbird.'

"The whole courtroom broke up that day. Even Hargrove had troubled maintaining his rather stern judicial demeanor.

"A more serious memory of him from those days was Hargrove listening to arrested black men complaining about racist harassment from cops. You could tell by the expression on Hargrove's face that he knew they were telling the truth, but he also knew that if he started not believing the cops in all but the most extreme cases, the whole system broke down. So he would listen to those men and say, 'I understand, I understand.' And you knew he did."

Good news, bad news

We're all glad Cal gets to be an Oriole for a few more seasons and maybe play out his career here. But unless you've lost all sense of proportion and perspective, you have to be affected by the juxtaposition of another $15 million for one millionaire baseball player next to news that London Fog is closing and taking 281 jobs out of the city. Something's wrong with that picture -- I don't care how you frame it.

Just the facts

Peter Angelos -- I know, smart man, astute attorney. His downtown hotel plan is fab, baby, fab. And he's doing the right thing by keeping Cal. But maybe sometimes Da Boss flaps his yapper too much. While radio host Nasty Nestor had him going on the widely lamented departure of Jon Miller from the Orioles broadcast booth, Angelos actually said he'd like the play-by-play man to "really tell it like it is but keep your opinions to yourself." Get that, Jim? Fred, you OK with that?

Sound check

They can deliver ear-crashing rock between innings, they can annoy us with dramatic musical chords at critical moments in critical games -- highlight tracks before there are highlights -- but can they give us the tenor? I'm talking about the sound chemists at Camden Yards. What was up with that National Anthem on Wednesday afternoon? Chris Merritt, world-class tenor, Pikesville resident and recent lead in the Baltimore Opera's production of "Il Trovatore," could not be heard singing most of it.

"He did manage to get the B-flat out," said Merritt's wife, Joan, referring to the tenor's impressive reach in the closing stanza. Get this guy back for the playoffs. (And, just before he sings, have him tap the mike a few times.)

Keeping score

Not everyone was lucky enough to get the free True Value Hardware made-in-China Opening Day baseball (imprinted with the April-Fool's-Day date on which the game was not played). But one fan who missed out on the ball proudly showed off the free score card he received from Jews For Jesus, which declared "Know the Score."

Debating issues

Fed up with the lack of informed opinion and civility in talk radio, fed up with sound-bite news on television, Baltimore developer Stewart Greenebaum is putting his money behind a truly novel concept: Intellectually stimulating public discourse (ISPD). Greenebaum and his wife, Marlene, are sponsoring a series of debates, with the high-minded goal of engaging articulate experts on issues of public concern. Marc Steiner, who strives toward ISPD as host of a talk show on WJHU-FM (88.1, weekdays, noon to 2 p.m.), has agreed to be the moderator. The first debate, schedule for 7: 30 p.m. Wednesday at Temple Oheb Shalom, Park Heights Avenue, will be over physician-assisted suicide. The debaters are Derek Humphry, founder of the Hemlock Society and author of "Final Exit," the "how-to" book on suicide, and Arthur Caplan, the University of Pennsylvania professor and world-renowned bioethicist. Great ISPD potential, and admission is free.

Contact Dan Rodricks by voice mail at 332-6166, by post at The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore 21278, by e-mail at, or through the World Wide Web at http: //

Pub Date: 4/04/97

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