Robert P. Mann, 76, lawyer, art collector, gallery owner


Robert Paul Mann, an art collector and lawyer who during his four-decade career specialized in criminal and malpractice cases, died of respiratory failure April 6 at his Ruxton home. He was 76.

Mr. Mann was born in Pittsburgh and moved to Baltimore with his family in 1931. Raised in the city's Arlington neighborhood, he was a 1947 graduate of City College. He earned a bachelor's degree in 1951 from the University of Maryland, College Park and a law degree in 1953 from the University of Maryland School of Law.

He was admitted in 1954 to the Maryland bar and later to the federal bar. He began handling cases in U.S. District Court in 1965 and the U.S. Tax Court in 1976.

Mr. Mann began the private practice of law in 1956 and served as a trial magistrate from 1957 to 1959.

Through the years, he maintained offices in the Loyola Federal Savings & Loan Association Building and Jefferson Building, both in Towson, and later on York Road in Lutherville.

He retired in 1996.

"I've known Bob 50 years. We took the Maryland bar exam together, and he introduced me to my wife," said Lewis L. Fleury, a semiretired Towson lawyer, who said Mr. Mann's life was defined by three loves: his family, the law, and art collecting.

"He was a real smart guy and very, very thorough. You could always see his office light burning late into the night. He was hard-working and had a great reputation," Mr. Fleury said yesterday.

"Bob always took his client's position very seriously and pressed it. He was also very well thought of in the field of malpractice, and in fact, was an expert at it," he said.

Mr. Fleury praised his friend's erudition, which was accompanied by a wry sense of humor and an easy amiability.

"He easily expressed his positions to juries, and he did it very well. The main thing was that he talked on their level so they could understand a case. It's a wonderful ability to have, and he had it," Mr. Fleury said.

"He was a very, very nice fellow who did his job without any flair. He was a lawyer who worked very hard every day and did his job," said retired Circuit Judge John F. Fader II.

One of Mr. Mann's celebrated malpractice cases involved a Turners Station woman who was paralyzed after an operation in 1981 that stapled her stomach for weight loss. In 1988, a Baltimore Circuit Court jury awarded the woman $7 million in damages.

"It's a very drastic procedure because you're going against nature," Mr. Mann told The Sun in an interview at the time. "However, the procedure is used and done as the only alternative after a person has done everything to lose weight."

"The Ida Sober verdict of $7 million was the largest in the state at that time," said his daughter, Robin Duvall Francik of Cockeysville.

For many years, Mr. Mann represented United Steelworkers of America Local 2609.

He and his wife of 52 years, the former Dorothy Neeld, who survives him, were world travelers and art collectors, who donated artwork from their collection to the Baltimore Museum of Art and the National Gallery in Washington.

During the 1970s, the couple owned and operated Helios, a New York City art gallery known for its photography and whose exhibitions were regularly reviewed by art critic Hilton Kramer of The New York Times, according to family members.

"We had to be in New York each weekend, and eventually it became difficult because we were raising our children and it was important to be home in Baltimore, so we closed the gallery in the late 1970s," Mrs. Mann said.

Mr. Mann was a past president of Friends of Artists Equity and a member of Friends of the Towson Library and several wildlife organizations.

He was a communicant of Trinity Episcopal Church in Towson.

Plans for a memorial service were incomplete yesterday.

Also surviving are a son, Stewart Neeld Mann of Hampstead; a sister, Phyllis Gilbert Hahn of Winter Park, Fla.; and four grandchildren.

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