Lucy A. Garvey

She Was The First Woman To Serve As A Baltimore Assistant State's Attorney And Master Of Chancery

May 07, 2009|By a Baltimore Sun staff writer

Lucy A. Garvey, the first woman to serve as an assistant state's attorney in Baltimore and who became the first woman appointed to the post of master of chancery for what is now the Circuit Court for Baltimore City, died Sunday of cancer at Stella Maris Hospice in Timonium.

She was 86.

Lucy Ann Garvey, the daughter of Irish immigrants from County Clare, was born in Baltimore and raised on South Morley Street in Irvington.

Master Garvey was a 1940 honors graduate of Western High School, where she was awarded the Peabody Award.

After graduating from high school, Avrum K. Rifman, who later became a Baltimore Municipal Court judge, hired her to work as a secretary in his law firm.

At his insistence, she began studying law at night at the University of Baltimore in 1943. She had planned to study law at the University of Maryland but was told the "quota" for female students was filled.

"I wouldn't go there after that for anything," she told The Evening Sun in a 1983 article.

She earned her law degree in 1948, after having had the highest average in her class. After passing the bar that year, she began practicing law in Judge Rifman's firm.

She continued taking night classes at the University of Baltimore, where she studied labor legislation, history of law and administrative law, and also began working toward a bachelor's degree in business administration at Loyola College of Maryland.

A lifelong Democrat, she was an unsuccessful candidate in 1950 for the General Assembly from the 5th District, but did manage to beat another aspiring young politician, William Donald Schaefer.

During the campaign she stated, "I'm no feminist," but in an interview at the time with The Evening Sun said, "Indeed, I do not believe that women can do everything better than men - nor that men can do everything better than women."

Master Garvey added that "both points of view" are needed for a "well-balanced legislature."

In 1957, she was appointed by then-State's Attorney J. Harold Grady, who later served as Baltimore mayor, as the first female assistant state's attorney in the history of Baltimore and the state of Maryland. She was assigned to the family court section of the state's attorney's office.

"I'm something of a pioneer for my sex, so it won't be enough for me to do a good job. I must do a better than good job." she told The Evening Sun at the time of her appointment.

She was named a court master for the domestic relations division of the old Supreme Bench in 1966.

"I got to know her when she was a member of the Women's Bar Association, back in the days when women weren't allowed to be members of the Baltimore Bar Association," retired city Circuit Judge Elsbeth Bothe recalled yesterday.

Retired Circuit Judge Bonita J. Dancy was an associate and a longtime friend.

"I came to the court in 1982, and Lucy Garvey was the one domestic relations master and I was the second," said Judge Dancy, who retired in 2006.

"She was doing a monumental job in the face of dockets that were unbelievable, and she became a wonderful mentor for me," Judge Dancy said.

"Lucy had a deep knowledge of the law, which she willingly shared with me. She also ran a no-nonsense courtroom and realized the seriousness of her cases, which were about family relationships."

Judge Dancy described her friend as a "bright and funny woman."

When Master Garvey retired in 1990, a Circuit Court resolution stated that master of chancery was a position where her "intellectual discipline, judicial temperament and human compassion congealed perfectly."

During her career, Master Garvey served as chairwoman of the advisory board to the state Department of Parole and Probation and chairwoman of the Governor's Commission on the Implementation of the Equal Rights Amendment.

She was a longtime active communicant of the Roman Catholic Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

At the Basilica, she served on restoration committees and had been a board member and trustee of the Basilica Historic Trust.

She was also a member of the Archdiocesan Urban Commission and co-chairwoman of the Affirmative Action Committee.

She was also an active member and a former president of the St. Thomas More Society of Maryland, which draws its membership from the Catholic judicial and legal community in the state. It presented her with its prestigious Man for All Seasons award in 1983.

A Charles Plaza resident since 1965, Master Garvey enjoyed collecting recipes, playing Scrabble and traveling to Ireland.

A Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 10 a.m. Thursday at her childhood church, St. Joseph Passionate Monastery Roman Catholic Church, Old Frederick Road and Monastery Avenue, Irvington.

Surviving are a brother, Vincent D. Garvey of Ellicott City; a sister, Mary W. Light of Rosedale; and several nieces and nephews.

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