Ridgely Melvin Jr., 82, Special Appeals judge

October 13, 1999|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Retired Court of Special Appeals Judge Ridgely P. Melvin Jr., who was on the judicial panel that recommended the disbarment of former Vice President Spiro T. Agnew, died Saturday of heart failure at his Annapolis home. He was 82.

In November 1974, Gov. Marvin Mandel elevated Judge Melvin from Anne Arundel County Circuit Court to the Court of Special Appeals, the state court that is second to the Court of Appeals in legal authority in Maryland.

Colleagues described Judge Melvin as a moderate.

"He was very learned in the law, took it very seriously and had a sterling reputation," said Chief Judge Robert M. Bell of the Court of Appeals.

Appointed to Anne Arundel County Circuit Court in 1966 by Gov. J. Millard Tawes, Judge Melvin was on a three-judge panel in 1974 with Judges Shirley B. Jones of the Baltimore Supreme Bench and William H. McCullough of the Prince George's County Circuit Court that considered the former vice president's disbarment.

The judges recommended that Mr. Agnew be disbarred because of his "deceitful and dishonest" conduct that "strikes at the heart of the basic object of the legal profession" and made him "unfit to continue as a member of the bar" in the state.

"He was an outstanding trial judge before going on the Court of Special Appeals. He was a hard worker and a superb judge who had good sense," said Judge Charles E. Moylan Jr., a member of the Court of Special Appeals since 1970.

"He had the same qualities as a judge that made him an outstanding trial lawyer," said Judge Moylan.

Judge Melvin was born and resided nearly his entire life in the Melvin Point home overlooking the north bank of the South River. His father, Judge Ridgely P. Melvin Sr., built the home in 1912.

Ridgely Melvin Jr. was a 1936 graduate of Episcopal High School in Alexandria, Va., and earned his bachelor's degree from Princeton University in 1940. He earned his law degree from the University of Maryland School of Law in 1947 and began his career with the Annapolis law firm of McWilliams, Evans and Melvin in 1948.

From 1954 to 1962, he served in the House of Delegates, where he had been chairman of the House Judiciary Committee and chairman of the all-Democratic Anne Arundel County delegation during his second term.

During World War II, he served in the Navy as a fire control officer aboard the battleship USS Washington, which helped attack the Japanese fleet during the battle for Guadalcanal.

An avid yachtsman whose love of the water and ships began as a child, Judge Melvin kept framed pictures of the USS Washington and his sailboat in his chambers. He won the Triton Class National championships in 1971 and 1972.

He was married in 1945 to Mary McNeil, who died in 1982. In 1983, he married Lucy Searby Cooper, who also shared his love of sailing.

In 1985, they sailed their 40-foot sloop Song across the Atlantic. For the next eight years, they lived aboard their boat while sailing through Europe. He was a member of the Annapolis Yacht Club, the Sailing Club of the Chesapeake, the Cruising Club of America and the South River Club.

He was a communicant and former vestryman of St. Anne Episcopal Church, Church Circle, Annapolis, where a memorial service will be held at 4 p.m. tomorrow. In addition to his wife, Judge Melvin is survived by three daughters, Jane M. Amsbaugh of York, Pa., Elizabeth M. MacKenzie of Annapolis and Mary Ann Slocumb of Corpus Christi, Texas; a brother, John B. Melvin of Annapolis; a sister, Elizabeth M. Patterson of Towson; two stepsons, Peter Fairfax Schmidt of York, Pa., and Thomas Carson Schmidt Jr. of Pensacola, Fla.; a stepdaughter, Drusilla Schmidt-Perkins of Baltimore; three grandchildren; and seven step-grandchildren.

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