John W. Spurrier, U.S. marshal

Long-serving U.S. marshal took Vice President Spiro Agnew into custody in the 1973 political corruption scandal

November 13, 2009|By Jacques Kelly

John W. Spurrier, a retired federal marshal to whom Vice President Spiro Agnew surrendered amid a political corruption scandal, died Tuesday of complications from pneumonia at Atlantic General Hospital in Berlin. The longtime Original Northwood resident was 88.

Born in Baltimore and raised on Augusta Avenue in Irvington, he attended St. Joseph's Monastery Parochial School and was a 1939 Mount St. Joseph's High School graduate. As a young man, he worked for the Donut Corp. of America until he was drafted into the Army during World War II. He was assigned to a medical division in Europe and accompanied wounded soldiers to hospitals.

After the war, he earned a bachelor's degree in business administration at Loyola College, where he played sports and was baseball team captain.

He worked for the old Baltimore Transit Co. for a time and then joined the office of the U.S. Treasury at Fort Meade. In 1955, he became the chief deputy U.S. marshal for the District of Maryland and was responsible for federal courtroom security, serving subpoenas and arrest warrants and transporting prisoners.

A 1959 Sun article noted that as part of his duties, Mr. Spurrier took command of a 10,000-ton ore carrier in the Baltimore harbor after its crew filed a petition in federal court seeking back wages.

Mr. Agnew, a former Maryland governor who became vice president under Richard M. Nixon, surrendered to Mr. Spurrier in 1973 after Mr. Agnew accepted a plea agreement to resign his office.

Family members said that Mr. Spurrier played tennis in later years with Mr. Agnew, but the two never discussed the surrender.

He also did undercover work in savings and loan mail fraud cases in the 1950s and 1960s.

Mr. Spurrier held the deputy marshal post until President Nixon appointed him chief marshal for Maryland in 1974. He was reappointed by President Jimmy Carter and became the longest-serving marshal in the state, according to Department of Justice data. He retired in 1990.

"My father was an exemplary public servant who never put his own needs above his responsibilities," said a son, John Fitzpatrick Spurrier of Baltimore. "Though he was eligible for a take-home vehicle, he opted to commute by bus for most of his years. He was proud to have never used a single hour of sick leave in his 35-year career with the U.S. Marshals Service."

Active in the Catholic Youth Organization, Mr. Spurrier received the Cardinal Lawrence Shehan Medal of Honor for "outstanding work" performed while he served on the CYO's board of directors.

Mr. Spurrier was a past president of the Mount Washington Country School Parents Association and was a past secretary of the Catholic Benevolent Society. He was also a past president of the Maryland Law Enforcement Officers Association and the Maryland chapter of the Federal Criminal Investigators Association. He was also a member of the Maryland Chiefs of Police.

He enjoyed playing tennis as a member of the Valley Country Club, Orchard Tennis Club and Clifton Tennis Club.

In retirement, he played golf and was a member of the Ocean City Golf and Yacht Club in Berlin, where he moved in 2001 after residing for many years on Roundhill Road.

Services will be held at 11 a.m. today at Villa Assumpta, 6401 N. Charles St.

In addition to his son, survivors include his wife of 49 years, Jacqueline Wagner; two other sons, James Ridgeway Spurrier of Lutherville and Joseph Edward Spurrier of Baltimore; a sister, Sister Mary Roseanne of the School Sisters of Notre Dame; and two granddaughters.

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