Thomas B. McCarty, 56, lawyer who represented needy, known as listener

July 05, 1999|By Rafael Alvarez | Rafael Alvarez,SUN STAFF

Thomas Bowie McCarty, a popular Catonsville lawyer who represented almost anyone who needed help and often neglected to bill them, died of a heart attack Wednesday at his summer home on Grays Creek in Anne Arundel County. He was 56.

Two months ago, Mr. McCarty's longtime Catonsville home on Frederick Avenue was destroyed in a fire.

Known as "T," Mr. McCarty's specialty was trial and business law, which he practiced for 34 years with the Catonsville firm of McCarty and McCarty, founded in 1952 by his father, the late Thomas H. McCarty.

"He was one to stay up nights and worry about his clients. Money was the last thing he talked about when people came to him, and he didn't always follow-up with billing them," said Ruth Finch, a sister-in-law and attorney who claimed Mr. McCarty as a mentor. "Out of all the lawyers I've known, Tom was quite the gentleman in the courtroom. When lawyers would be attacking each other, he'd say: `Don't pay attention to barking dogs in the alley.' "

Mr. McCarty -- a big man with a warm smile and low-key manner -- was counsel to the Catonsville Community College Alumni Association and served as campaign treasurer for former Catonsville Del. Louis P. Morsberger. While in the Army during the 1960s, he served as an attorney in military courts in New Jersey.

"He used his law degree for many people's benefit rather than for his own personal gain," said longtime friend Bill Higgins, owner of Bill's Music House in Catonsville. "He was totally honest and forthright, even to the opposition. With Tom, there was no subterfuge."

One of the things that most impressed Mr. Higgins about his friend was how much patience he had for listening to people's troubles.

"Even if he'd never met you, he'd listen," said Mr. Higgins. "He could make you feel like you were the most important person in the world. Not everybody can do that."

Added Mrs. Finch: "He handled some very difficult, very emotional people. He had more patients than any therapist I know."

The Fourth of July -- highlighted by the Catonsville parade and fireworks -- was Mr. McCarty's favorite holiday.

Friends who expected to be enjoying a cookout with him yesterday were heartbroken by their sudden loss.

A lifelong resident of Catonsville, Mr. McCarty graduated from Catonsville High School and earned his bachelor's degree from the University of Maryland. He graduated from the University of Maryland School of Law in 1965 and began his practice that year.

His passions were rock 'n' roll from the 1950s and '60s -- particularly Creedence Clearwater Revival -- and antique cars. He owned a Model A Ford, a vintage Jaguar and a 1953 MG. He also loved Schnauzer dogs.

He was a member of Catonsville Presbyterian Church, the Jaycees and the Boy Scouts. He enjoyed boating, collecting classic motor cars, and music.

Services for Mr. McCarty will be held at 1 p.m. today at Russell C. Witzke Funeral Home, 1630 Edmondson Ave., Catonsville.

Survivors include his wife, the former Vida Marlina "Dollye" Finch, whom he married in 1970; and his mother, Virginia Bowie McCarty of Catonsville.

Sun staff writer Frederick N. Rasmussen contributed to this article.

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