Louis G. Close Jr.

The prominent trial attorney served as managing partner for the law firm of Whiteford, Taylor & Preston.

October 10, 2008|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com

Louis G. Close Jr., a prominent trial attorney and former managing partner of the law firm of Whiteford, Taylor & Preston, died Sunday of complications from Alzheimer's disease at his home. The longtime resident of Homeland was 73.

Mr. Close was born in Muskegon, Mich., and moved to East Joppa Road in Towson with his family in 1941.

He was a 1953 graduate of Loyola High School and earned a bachelor's degree in economics from what is now Washington and Lee University in 1957.

During his college years, he met Mary Nice, and they were married in 1957.

After graduating from Washington and Lee, Mr. Close attended law school at the University of Maryland School and then worked as a law clerk for Judge Joseph Carter of the old Superior Court for Baltimore City.

After law school, Mr. Close worked briefly for Liberty Mutual Insurance Co. before joining Whiteford, Taylor & Preston in 1964, where he practiced law for 33 years, until retiring in 1997.

In 1989, Mr. Close became the managing partner of Whiteford, following in the footsteps of Wilbur D. "Woody" Preston Jr.

During his six-year tenure as managing partner, Mr. Close solidified the growth that occurred under the leadership of his predecessor, which saw Whiteford change from a small insurance defense litigation firm to a full-service law firm involved in new areas, including estates, labor and securities law.

Mr. Close worked as a trial lawyer defending a large variety of tort cases in front of juries thoughout Maryland and participated in more than 100 jury trials.

He became involved in asbestos defense practice, which included, at times, as many as 15,000 lawsuits.

Mr. Close also managed on a national basis the defense of asbestos claims for Porter Hayden Co., which involved more than 10,000 cases.

He litigated a number of them in front of juries and was well-known among those in the legal community as a prepared, tough and effective trial lawyer.

"Lou was the consummate trial lawyer. He was a formidable adversary in the courtroom but was always a model of courtesy and respect," said U.S. District Judge William M. Nickerson, a friend of 50 years and law school classmate.

"He was a gentleman in every respect of the word, and when he came to court, he was always 110 percent prepared," Judge Nickerson said.

In 1984, Mr. Close was inducted as a fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers, a national organization of prominent trial attorneys.

He was also a member of the Maryland and American bar associations; the Metropolitan Baltimore Association of Defense Trial Counsel, where he served as president from 1973 to 1974; the International Association of Insurance Counsel; and the Maritime Law Association of the United States.

After a fire in 1976, Mr. Close played an instrumental role in relocating Roland Park Country School, a private girls school, from its old campus in the 800 block of W. University Parkway to Chestnutwood, the former Roland Avenue estate of Charles Joseph Bonaparte and later Dr. Alfred R. L. Dohme.

Mr. Close, who served as a trustee of the school from 1980 to 1984, also helped establish stable fiscal policies that allowed RPCS to grow and thrive in its new home, which opened in 1980.

"He was a longtime friend and trustee of the school, and we're going to miss him," said Jean Waller Brune, who has been head of school since 1992.

Mr. Close served for many years as an officer in the Maryland National Guard and was called upon to assist in restoring peace during the 1968 riots in Baltimore after the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

Mr. Close enjoyed golf, tennis and fishing, and vacationing at his beach house on North Carolina's Outer Banks. He was a member of the L'Hirondelle Club in Ruxton.

He was a lecturer, usher and Eucharistic minister at the Roman Catholic Cathedral of Mary Our Queen, where he also taught Sunday school and religious studies.

A memorial Mass will be offered at 11 a.m. today at St. Ignatius Roman Catholic Church, 740 N. Calvert St.

"My parents attended either church depending on their mood," said his son, Louis G. Close III of Phoenix, Baltimore County.

In addition to his son and his wife of 51 years, Mr. Close is survived by three daughters, Elizabeth B. Close and Deeley Ann Middleton, both of Homeland, and Julia V. Sweeney of Brookeville; two sisters, Constance V. Close of Timonium and Barbara C. Coulson of Rialto, Calif.; and 12 grandchildren.

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