M.L. McCampbell, 63, 1st black judge in Balto. County

May 17, 2002|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,SUN STAFF

Judge Michael L. McCampbell, who was Baltimore County's first black judge and served as administrative judge of the county's District Court, died at home yesterday after a seven-year battle with cancer.

He was 63 and lived in Phoenix.

An avid motorcyclist who played tennis, golf and the saxophone, Judge McCampbell served in Vietnam and was a police officer, a prosecutor and a public defender before becoming Baltimore County's first black judge in 1990.

"I've been black a long time," he told The Sun with characteristic humor when he was appointed to the bench by Gov. William Donald Schaefer.

Born in Detroit, Judge McCampbell joined the Navy after graduating from East High School in Cleveland. He served 12 years as an electronic warfare specialist and did several tours in Vietnam before being honorably discharged in 1971.

In 1972, he joined the Howard County Police Department and served five years. While on the force, he studied psychology at the University of Baltimore. He resigned as a corporal in 1977.

He earned a bachelor's degree in psychology from the University of Baltimore in 1978. In 1982, he received a law degree from the University of Baltimore and was admitted to the Maryland State Bar Association.

He was an assistant state's attorney in Baltimore County from 1983 to 1984 and was a public defender from 1984 until Feb. 9, 1990, when Schaefer appointed him to the District Court.

He was appointed administrative judge of the Baltimore County District Court in 1999. Judge McCampbell was a member of the Baltimore County Bar Association.

He enjoyed taking weekend trips on his Harley-Davidson motorcycle with friends and fellow members of the Blue Knights, an international group of law enforcement officers who ride motorcycles recreationally.

"We called him the ridemaster because he could take you on any destination on any back roads and put together a great ride," said Drake Zaharris, a lawyer in Towson who rode motorcycles with Judge McCampbell on weekends.

Mr. Zaharris said Judge McCampbell cared deeply about his work but never took himself too seriously.

"He had a great sense of humor and was really passionate about the law," he said.

He said Judge McCampbell fought a valiant battle with cancer that began when he got his diagnosis seven years ago.

"You'd ask him how he was doing, and he'd say, `It's OK. I have it under control,'" Zaharris said. "That's all he would say."

Maryland District Court Chief Judge James N. Vaughan said McCampbell was one of 12 administrative judges in the District Court system.

"They set up the dockets, assign the dockets to the judges, make sure all courts are staffed adequately, and control vacations," Judge Vaughan said.

Judge Vaughan said Judge McCampbell, who supervised 12 judges, handed in his retirement papers just yesterday.

"He was popular with everybody. The clerks loved him. The other judges loved him, and the other lawyers out there respected him," Judge Vaughan said.

Towson District Judge Alexandra N. Williams credited Judge McCampbell with making the District Courts a good place to work.

"We're really feeling a huge sense of loss in the office today, and that was because he was so well-liked. We all loved him," she said.

Judge Williams said she learned a lot from him.

"He felt very strongly about judges being independent entities who treat people fairly and courteously and about cases being tried expeditiously," she said.

A memorial service will be held at 6 p.m. Tuesday at the Grand Lodge of Maryland, 304 International Circle in Cockeysville.

He is survived by his wife of 22 years, Atifeh McCampbell of Phoenix; a daughter, Veida McCampbell, who lives at home; two sisters, Wendy McCampbell of Cleveland and Cathy McCampbell Vance of Washington; a brother, Dr. Edwin McCampbell of New Jersey; and several nieces and nephews.

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