Roger W. Brown Sr.

The Baltimore Circuit Court judge developed a reputation for compassion and principle

March 28, 2009|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com

Roger W. Brown Sr., a retired Baltimore Circuit Court judge who earlier had been an assistant state's attorney and a lawyer, died Tuesday of pneumonia at Sinai Hospital. The Mount Washington resident was 68.

"He was a friendly and kind colleague who possessed a keen intellect and was able to balance the tough demands of the job with grace, wisdom and dignity, making him one of the most beloved judges on the bench," State's Attorney Patricia C. Jessamy said in a prepared statement.

Baltimore Circuit Judge David W. Young recalled how judges, lawyers and courthouse workers inquired about Judge Brown's final illness. "Every day lawyers would ask to approach the bench and ask me, 'Judge, how is Judge Brown today?'" he said.

"He was such a wonderful human being, and when his death was announced, I saw something in my 25 years on the bench that I'd never seen before," Judge Young said. "Lawyers were coming into the courtroom crying. He was loved and respected by all because he loved and respected all."

Judge Brown was born in Baltimore and grew up on Francis Street. Orphaned at 13, he moved in with an older married sister in Cherry Hill.

He was a 1959 graduate of Douglass High School and earned a bachelor's degree from what is now Morgan State University in 1965. He was a caseworker for the Baltimore City Department of Social Services from 1965 to 1970, and then served as the agency's personnel officer until 1974.

While attending the University of Baltimore School of Law, Judge Brown worked nights at a Baltimore restaurant. "In order to support his family while he was in law school, he worked at the Eager House first as a dishwasher, and then moved up to a line cook, and then assistant chef," said his daughter, Andrea G. Brown-Gee of Reisterstown.

Judge Brown, who graduated in 1973 and was admitted to the Maryland Bar the next year, worked as an assistant state's attorney for two years before entering private practice in 1975. He was a partner at Brown, Owens and Thompson.

Judge Brown was appointed to the city District Court by Gov. Harry R. Hughes in 1985, and two years later, Gov. William Donald Schaefer appointed him to the Circuit Court, replacing Judge Marshall A. Levin, who had retired.

Retired Baltimore Circuit Judge Ellen M. Heller became acquainted with Judge Brown at the time both were appointed to the court. "It was a case of instant respect and affection," she said. "He had a very warm and inclusive manner that everyone respected and liked."

Judge Heller recalled his sense of fairness. "Litigants knew he'd be fair and would listen. He was a very compassionate and a highly principled man who had overcome enormous challenges in his life to succeed," she said.

Attorney Gregory L. Lewis said, "Judge Brown would be willing in circumstances to give a person a break, but if they came back in his court a second time, there would be no break, only time."

Judge Brown retired in 2002. "Even though he retired, he was still hearing cases and very much enjoyed it," Mrs. Brown-Gee said.

He was an avid collector of Tuskegee Airmen and Buffalo Soldier memorabilia, family members said. He was also restoring a 1968 Mustang.

Judge Brown was an active communicant of St. Ann Roman Catholic Church, 2209 Greenmount Ave., where a Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 11 a.m. Monday.

Also surviving are his wife of 46 years, the former Patricia Dorsey; a son, Roger W. Brown Jr., of Silver Spring; and five grandchildren.

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