Calman A. Levin, 73, estate lawyer, literary executor of Gertrude Stein

April 12, 2003|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,SUN STAFF

Calman A. Levin, who founded a law firm and represented the estate of writer Gertrude Stein, died Thursday of a heart attack at his Village of Cross Keys home. He was 73.

In 1958, along with partners Stanford G. Gann Sr. and Robert M. Hankin, he founded the firm of Levin, Gann and Hankin, later Levin & Gann. He practiced in the tower of the former Maryland National Bank Building at Baltimore and Light streets.

Mr. Levin specialized in estate planning and administration and remained active in the practice until his death. The firm is now located in Towson.

Born in Baltimore and raised on Park Avenue in Reservoir Hill, he was a 1947 graduate of City College. He earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Maryland, College Park and received his law degree from the University of Maryland School of Law in 1953.

As a young man, he worked with his father, Ellis Levin, who was one of the city's principal criminal defense attorneys. His father died in 1960.

Colleagues said Mr. Levin did not share his father's interest in criminal work and wanted to branch out into civil law. Early in his career, he worked with Baltimore attorney Daniel Joseph in establishing a practice.

"He was a classic gentleman," said Stanford G. Gann Sr., his longtime law partner and a brother-in-law. "As a result, he was a calming influence throughout his relationships. He brought a sense of peace to the table. He was not necessarily the compromiser -- but he possessed a Solomon-like perspective on issues."

About 40 years ago, Mr. Levin became the literary executor of the late Gertrude Stein, an avant-garde writer who once lived in Baltimore but who spent much of her life in Paris. The position meant overseeing approval for use of her works by publishers and theatrical producers.

"Several times a week, he would get a call to use her works," said Bill Gilmore, Mr. Levin's life partner. "He was always fascinated that after so many years, performers and literary professionals from all over the world were continuing to have an interest."

Mr. Levin's legal conference room had a section of books filled with works related to Stein, who died in 1946. He also visited Paris several times to do legal work with the literary estate. He met with Alice B. Toklas, Ms. Stein's longtime companion, who died in 1967.

Colleagues recalled that Mr. Levin was evenhanded, judicious and gave sound legal advice.

"He had a mediator's personality. He was old-fashioned. He had an amazing civility. He always inquired, `How are you?' He knew many, many people from all different communities and had a host of friends," said Randolph C. Knepper, a legal associate and friend

Mr. Levin had a lifelong interest in the New York theater and attended numerous plays and musicals. He also attended the Everyman Theater.

Services will be held at 1 p.m. tomorrow at Sol Levinson & Bros., 8900 Reisterstown Road.

In addition to Mr. Gilmore, survivors include Mr. Levin's sister, Sonia "Suzzy" Gann of Pikesville; and nieces and nephews.

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