Robert D. Sellers, 50, attorney, helped singer Amos early in career

April 05, 2003|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Robert D. Sellers, a Towson attorney and musician, died of a brain tumor Wednesday at Gilchrist Center for Hospice Care. He was 50.

Mr. Sellers, who was born in Baltimore, was the son of educators. His father, Robert M. Sellers, had been principal of Francis Scott Key Elementary School, and his mother, Elizabeth Dolle Sellers, taught in city public schools.

He was raised in Milford Mill and after graduating in 1970 from Milford Mill High School, he attended Western Maryland College, where he earned his bachelor's degree in 1974.

As a youngster, he learned to play the guitar and piano, and for many years taught guitar at Randallstown Music. He also composed and recorded music, and one of his songs, "Going Down to Chestertown," is still occasionally heard on local radio, family members said.

He also organized bands and in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and played piano with the Villa Novas.

"We played folk-rock," said former band member Don Coburn, whose friendship with Mr. Sellers dates to their teen years in Milford Mill. "He also played guitar and bass. He was a very talented musician and had a good voice. He was good at whatever he did." He later formed the Jim Sellers Band with another friend, Jim Allison, which toured nationally.

Mr. Sellers attended Epworth United Methodist Chapel on Liberty Road, where the pastor was the Rev. Edison Amos.

Mr. Amos was also the father of Tori Amos, the Baltimore-raised child prodigy and rock pianist, who entered the Peabody Preparatory program at the age of 4.

"I've known Bob since he was 12, and he's always been an outstanding young man," said Mr. Amos, who lives in Potomac. "He has always been a man of character and kindness and never met anyone for whom he wouldn't do a favor."

In addition to teaching Amos' son guitar, Mr. Sellers also helped in the early days of Tori Amos' career, including her first demo tapes.

"Bob encouraged her in her music. He worked on her song `Baltimore' and `Walking With You.' One of the things Tori did when she learned of Bob's illness was to send him her latest CD, Scarlet's Walk," he said.

With the CD, Miss Amos included a note.

"Your dedication as a musician, when I was little, was an inspiration and has always stayed with me," she wrote.

Five years after graduating from college, Mr. Sellers decided to give up his musical career and go to law school. He earned his law degree from the University of Baltimore Law School in 1982.

A sole practitioner, Mr. Sellers established his law practice in Towson where he continued to work even after a brain tumor was diagnosed in November. Known as a "workingman's attorney," he eagerly sought out clients who otherwise might not have had representation.

He was also an expert in zoning law and land preservation, and his legal advice was sought out by the Reisterstown, Owings Mills and Glyndon Community Association, the Falls Road Community Association and the Valleys Planning Council.

He was also a longtime member of the board of the Valleys Planning Council.

Jack Dillon, executive director of the Valleys Planning Council, a private land-preservation group, praised Mr. Sellers' devotion to land preservation issues.

"Bob always had a strong interest in the mission of the VPC and land preservation. He was a strong ally when it came to such issues in Baltimore County," Mr. Dillon said.

"He was a very quiet and thoughtful kind of guy. He wasn't an in-your-face type of individual. He was slow and methodical, and that's what you want," he said.

"He was a formidable advocate and believed strongly in protecting the valley. He was gung-ho in everything he did," said Helen Delich Bentley, a former congresswoman.

Mr. Sellers was married in 1978 to the former Sarah Lynn Fleischer, a local radio station personality, who survives him.

An accomplished woodworker, Mr. Sellers enjoyed building furniture in the basement workshop of his Worthington Valley home. "He also refinished the entire basement and did everything except the plumbing," his wife said.

He also enjoyed surf fishing with friends on annual trips to Ocean City and the Outer Banks.

Services will be held at 11 a.m. today at the Haight Funeral Home, 6416 Sykesville Road, Sykesville.

In addition to his wife, survivors include two daughters, Katelyn E. Sellers and Meredith M. Sellers, both of the Worthington Valley; a sister, Elizabeth Dolle Sellers Brown of Westminster; and eight nieces.

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