John J. Sweeney Jr.

Retired attorney was decorated World War II veteran and helped revive Baltimore's St. Patrick's Day parade

May 14, 2010|By Jacques Kelly, The Baltimore Sun

John J. Sweeney Jr., a retired attorney and city school board member who flew 18 bombing missions over Germany during World War II, died Monday of complications after surgery at St. Joseph Medical Center. The Timonium resident was 85.

Born in Baltimore and raised on East Biddle Street and in Govans, he attended St. John the Evangelist and St. Mary's schools and was a 1942 Loyola High School graduate.

Mr. Sweeney entered Loyola College in September 1942 and joined the Army Air Forces at the end of his freshman year. He received his wings and second lieutenant's commission in September 1944 at age 19. He trained with B-17 Flying Fortresses and then departed for Europe in December 1944, where he flew missions targeting Berlin, Dresden and Munich. He survived a crash landing in France.

Mr. Sweeney was awarded the Air Medal with two Oak Leaf clusters and three Combat Stars for participating in the campaigns of Ardennes, Rhineland and Central Europe.

Still wearing a military uniform, he returned to Loyola and earned a bachelor's degree in 1947. While at Loyola, he was president of the student body and was elected to Alpha Sigma Nu, the Jesuit National Honor Fraternity.

He earned a degree at the Georgetown University Law School and was a staff member of the Georgetown Law Journal and had several articles published.

Mr. Sweeney was admitted to the Maryland bar in 1949 and practiced law until his retirement in 2009. His office, in the Fidelity Building, was earlier known as O'Conor and Sweeney and later Sweeney and Zacharski. He worked in estates, litigation and corporate work.

"He was one of the most professional, smart and dedicated attorneys I have ever known," said retired Baltimore County Circuit Judge John F. Fader II. "No one I know savored honesty and integrity more than Jack Sweeney. He always had an ear for everyone. He was there to listen and give advice. And what a smile."

Mr. Sweeney served as president of the Loyola College Alumni Association from 1956 to 1957 and was awarded the school's Carroll Medal, given to "distinguished alumni."

In 1962, Mayor J. Harold Grady named him to the Board of School Commissioners, where he chaired the Building Committee.

He was a past president of the St. Thomas More Society of Maryland, a local group that concerns itself with the ethical and religious principles of the practice of law. He received the group's Man for All Seasons Award in 1981.

Mr. Sweeney was active in Irish activities and was state president of the Ancient Order of Hibernians from 1954 to 1956. He was a national director of the same group from 1958 to 1960.

In the mid-1950s, Mr. Sweeney felt that Baltimore should revive its St. Patrick's Day parade, which had ceased about 1910. In a 1963 Evening Sun article, he said he worried there would be a scant turnout. Instead, there were 40 units and a bagpiper's group in 1956.

In 1967, he was awarded Loyola High School's Rev. Joseph M. Kelly Award.

Cardinal Lawrence J. Shehan named him to the Archdiocesan Urban Commission in 1967. Mr. Sweeney was also chairman of the commission's Race Education Committee.

Mr. Sweeney was appointed a Knight of St. Gregory by Pope Paul VI in 1970, the same year he was named "Irishman of the Year" by the Hibernian Society. He was an early active member of the Emerald Isle Club.

Mr. Sweeney was active for many years in the civil rights and anti-abortion movements. Family members said he was proud of his attendance at the August 1963 March on Washington and at the annual Right to Life marches, also in Washington. He also picketed to help desegregate Gwynn Oak Park.

A Mass was offered Friday at St. Joseph's Roman Catholic Church in Timonium.

Survivors include his wife of 62 years, the former Rosewin Tewey; three daughters, all of whom became attorneys, Judge Kathleen M. Sweeney of the District Court of Baltimore City; Administrative Law Judge Eileen C. Sweeney of Lutherville; and M. Rosewin Sweeney, an attorney in the Venable firm of Baltimore; a brother, William B. Sweeney of Towson; a sister, Patricia S. Wolfe of Timonium; and seven grandchildren.

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