Eugene W. Gallagher, 63, Baltimore Co. councilman

September 02, 1998|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

Eugene W. Gallagher was a blunt, outspoken Baltimore County councilman who opposed raising his colleagues' pay, fought for the council's independence from the county executive and left office on his own terms after 12 years.

But despite his curmudgeonly demeanor and occasional quick temper, he had an equally quick sense of humor and a ramrod straight integrity that won him friends among many of his contemporaries.

He died Monday after an apparently massive heart attack at the offices of the Baltimore County Genealogical Society, in the former Parkville Elementary school at Hiss Avenue and Harford Road. He was 63.

"You have to know him real well to know what a great sense of humor he had. Underneath the serious expression, there'd be a smile or a smirk," said Councilman Joseph Bartenfelder, a Gallagher friend and political ally who represents the same Northeastern County district that Mr. Gallagher represented from 1974 to 1986.

A balding, bespectacled draftsman who helped design satellites for a living, Mr. Gallagher was in the first crop of reform-minded, community-based County Council members elected in 1974 after several years of political corruption scandals that sent then-County Executive Dale Anderson to federal prison and forced former executive and then-U.S. Vice President Spiro T. Agnew from office.

Mr. Gallagher's class of council members was the first group elected from individual districts, rather than being elected countywide. This change ended the council's role as a rubber stamp for the powerful political organization based in the county's east side.

'Fearsome Foursome'

In office, he joined a coalition of two Democrats and two Republicans -- a majority on the seven-member council -- to battle what they felt were the liberal policies of County Executive Theodore G. Venetoulis.

The group became known as "The Fearsome Foursome" for their ability to frustrate Mr. Venetoulis' initiatives.

"You never knew what was going to happen next with him," said foursome member John W. O'Rourke. He recalled that Mr. Gallagher was known for dishing out biting criticisms that he would sometimes regret.

He once called county firefighters "a bunch of thugs," Mr. O'Rourke said, and others remember that as council chairman in 1978, he banged his gavel so hard during an exchange with a Venetoulis aide that it broke and sent the head flying across a shocked meeting room.

After his retirement, Mr. Gallagher became active in genealogical research, which led him to Sts. Stephens and James Evangelical Lutheran Church in South Baltimore. There, the Rev. Lowell S. Thompson said, Mr. Gallagher became an active member, using his tools to convert two vacant lots next door into flowering gardens.

Familiar with poverty

Born April 11, 1935, in Baltimore, Mr. Gallagher grew up in a poor family. He said in a 1985 interview, "I know what it's like not to have enough money to buy a carton of milk, or to go to school with holes in my shoes."

He graduated from Calvert Hall College high school and, in 1953, married his childhood sweetheart, AnnRay Newberger. He worked two and sometimes three jobs as his family grew to four children. He took college courses by correspondence and at night, and in 1968 landed a job working on satellites at Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab in Howard County.

He was appointed to fill a vacancy in the Maryland House of Delegates in 1970, then ran for the seat but lost that same year. He was elected to the County Council four years later.

He retired from his position at the Hopkins lab in 1995.

He was cremated yesterday. A memorial service will be held at a date to be announced.

In addition to his wife, survivors include his parents, Eugene D. and Martha V. Gallagher of Bethany, Del.; a brother, Daniel J. Gallagher of Rockville; three sons, John Christian Gallagher of Columbia, Mark J. Gallagher of Baltimore and David M. Gallagher of Kingsville; a daughter, Robin Ann Richards of Wilmington, Del.; and two grandchildren.

The family requests that, in lieu of flowers, donations be made either to the Maryland School for the Blind or the Salvation Army.

Pub Date: 9/02/98

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