E. William Furey, 68, senior partner in D.C. law firm, head of racing panel

August 13, 1998|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF Sun staff writer Fred Rasmussen contributed to this article.

E. William Furey, twice chairman of the Maryland Racing Commission and senior partner in a suburban Washington law firm, died Tuesday of cancer at his home in Chevy Chase. He was 68.

His colleagues at the commission universally praised Mr. Furey's sense of fairness and humor, his ability to solve disputes and his personal involvement with all types of racing people.

John McDaniel, former commission chairman and current member, called Mr. Furey "one of the most unforgettable characters I've ever met. He had a great, dry sense of humor."

Executive secretary Ken Schertle said, "I thought he was a great guy before he was on the commission and an even better one after. He had tremendous ability to make difficult things light."

Mr. Furey was appointed to the commission (then called the Thoroughbred Board) by Gov. Harry R. Hughes in 1982.

Two years later, the board was consolidated with its Standardbred counterpart to become the Maryland Racing Commission, and he was named chairman, serving through 1988.

Gov. Parris N. Glendening brought him back to the commission as chairman in the fall of 1996, and he remained in that capacity until June, when his term expired and his health worsened.

Mr. Furey was a highly respected corporate lawyer who headed the firm of Furey, Doolan and Abell.

"Bill had a faculty for taking the ripples and waves out of problems and flattening them out," said Mr. Schertle. "All people in racing, especially the little people, will miss him."

John "Jack" Mosner, who served with Mr. Furey during the latter's first term, said he was basically a hands-off commissioner who "believed in letting things alone that didn't need to be bothered. But if action was needed, he acted.

"He stood his ground against strong factors in the industry and wouldn't let any element dictate to him," Mr. Mosner said.

Mr. McDaniel added: "He always believed parties should resolve their problems rather than have it determined by a public panel. He preferred the free enterprise system. But on principle issues, he would go to the wall."

One of the difficult issues he had to deal with during a stormy first term was an unsuccessful proposal to race Arabian horses, which are slower than thoroughbreds. It was opposed by the state's horsemen and breeders.

"He was a man of reason and integrity," said commissioner Frank Hopkins. "His logic always seemed to reach a good conclusion. He had a great sense for mediating, but was definitely not a yes man."

As a commissioner, Mr. Furey's foremost concern was the racing fans and "what was in their best interest," Mr. McDaniel said. "That's what made him an excellent chairman."

Devin Doolan, a law partner of Mr. Furey, said: "He was an irreverent guy with a wonderful Irish sense of humor. He was the kind of person people gravitate to."

Mr. Furey was part-owner of a few claiming horses in the 1960s and was the first to suggest the idea of inter-tracking (telecasting races from Pimlico Race Course to Laurel Race Course and vice versa).

Mr. Furey was born in Washington, where he graduated from Wilson High School. He earned a bachelor's degree from American University and a law degree from the George Washington University School of Law in 1954.

He served in the Army from 1955 to 1957.

He was a member and served as president of the Barristers' Club and the Society of the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick.

His passions were racing and golf, and he "loved to bet," Mr. Mosner said.

Mr. Furey was a member of Columbia Country Club, Chevy Chase Club and the Rehoboth Beach Country Club.

He was a communicant of Blessed Sacrament Roman Catholic Church, 6001 Western Ave., N.W., Washington, where a Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 9: 30 a.m. tomorrow .

He is survived by his wife of 35 years, the former Betty Wise; a son, Mark F. Furey of Pacific Palisades, Calif; his mother, Ruth W. Furey of Chevy Chase; three brothers, Patrick W. Furey of Leonardtown, and John F. Furey and Michael K. Furey, both of Chevy Chase; and a sister, Dorothy F. Gates of Bethesda.

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Pub Date: 8/13/98

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