Dale R. Reid, 62, disability-rights lawyer

August 21, 2005|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

Dale R. Reid, a civil rights attorney who excelled at disability issues, died of muscular dystrophy Thursday at his home in Marriottsville. He was 62.

"He was a freedom fighter extraordinaire, who helped many disabled people get on track," said Gayle Hafner, an attorney and colleague at the Maryland Disability Law Center. "He metamorphosed from a mild-mannered country lawyer who used a wheelchair into a passionate, systems-changing agent."

With a nearly $50,000 grant awarded to him from the Open Society Institute in 2003, Mr. Reid worked with Baltimore's elections board to make all polling places in the city accessible.

After representing a wheelchair user who dragged himself by the arms up stairs to cast his vote, Mr. Reid was well aware of the access problems at city schools, churches and community centers. He soon found more than 100 voting locations that could pose problems for disabled people. By the end of the grant, there were only 11; today, there are none, Ms. Hafner said.

Mr. Reid spent his boyhood in Williamsport, Pa., and graduated from Lycoming College there. After college, he moved to Baltimore, began teaching history at what was then Herring Run Middle School and attended the University of Baltimore School of Law in the evenings.

"It took him seven years of night school, but he always wanted to become a lawyer and do consciousness-raising," said Blair Buppert Reid, his wife of nearly 40 years.

Mr. Reid was diagnosed with a muscle-wasting disease, similar to Lou Gehrig's disease, in 1970.

"But, we kept right on trucking," said Mrs. Reid, a teacher with the Carroll County public schools. "We didn't dwell on his illness, and we stayed active in the community. We used to throw `not dead yet' parties about every six months."

In 1976, the couple and their three children moved to the Marriottsville farm where Mrs. Reid had been raised. Mr. Reid set up his law practice at their home and worked as a consultant for the Maryland Disability Law Center.

"He tackled systemic problems that disabled people faced just trying to get around," Mrs. Reid said. "He never let illness define his life and would always remind everyone, `I am more than my legs.'"

In a 1999 interview with The Sun, Mr. Reid said his main goal was "to be as independent as possible. A lot of us work, lead normal lives and travel alone."

Andrew Levy, a Baltimore attorney, said the man who was once his client and frequently his co-counsel was a consummate professional.

"He was a soft-spoken guy, who did advocacy, not by the volume of his words, but by steady and concerted effort," Mr. Levy said.

Mr. Reid, an avid sailor and member of the Chesapeake Region Accessible Boating program, enjoyed sailing on the bay in the 28-foot skiff he named Osprey.

"He wanted to make sailing available to everyone," Mrs. Reid said. "He loved the freedom of the wind and water, and had sailed up until recently."

Services were held yesterday in Eldersburg. The family and the Maryland Disability Law Center are planning a memorial service at a future date.

In addition to his wife, survivors include his father, Dale Reid of Williamsport; sons Dale R. Reid II of Marriottsville and Timothy A. Reid of Sykesville; a daughter, Meghan Sykes of Edgewater; a brother, Joel F. Reid of Williamsport; and three grandchildren.

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