Bernard J. Medairy Jr. dies at age 89

Baltimore County lawyer and state legislator maintained a lively interest in genealogy and Maryland history

September 08, 2010|By Frederick N. Rasmussen, The Baltimore Sun | Baltimore Sun reporter

Bernard John "Jack" Medairy Jr., a retired Baltimore County lawyer and former member of the Maryland legislature who wrote a history of his family, died Friday of heart failure at his Rodgers Forge home.

He was 89.

Mr. Medairy, the son of a lawyer and an educator, was born in Baltimore and raised in Charles Village. He attended Polytechnic Institute for three years and graduated in 1940 from City College.

In 1941, he was working as a hull draftsman for the shipbuilding and repair division of Bethlehem Steel Corp. in Sparrows Point and, with the outbreak of World War II, enlisted in the Navy. He served in the South Pacific, the Philippines and China as a combat photographer's mate with the 7th Fleet. He was discharged in 1946.

After the war, he enrolled at the University of Maryland, College Park, where he earned a bachelor's degree in economics and government. He earned his law degree in 1952 from the University of Maryland School of Law.

Mr. Medairy, who was also a licensed real estate appraiser and a member of the Baltimore County Appraiser's Society, began practicing law in Towson in 1952. In addition to estate planning, he frequently represented the attorney general of Maryland in real estate matters and condemnation cases.

For several years, he was also a part-time assistant state's attorney, supervising seven District Court prosecutors.

During his 53-year legal career, Mr. Medairy argued cases before both the Maryland Court of Appeals and the Maryland Court of Special Appeals.

He retired in 2005.

"When I first came out to Towson to hang up my shingle in 1968, I leased an office at 204 Courtland Ave. from Jack, who was my landlord. The building is no longer there," retired Baltimore County Circuit Judge John F. Fader II said Wednesday.

"My rent was $50 a month, and the telephone was $12.48. He charged Vernon Boozer [who became a state senator] more because he had bookshelves. Jack called me a whiner because he said I was always [complaining] about the 15-watt light bulbs," Judge Fader said with a laugh.

"Jack was a character and a most pleasant and amicable fellow. He loved to laugh and have a good time," said Judge Fader, "and like his father handled a lot of wills and estates."

Mr. Medairy, who had been active in Democratic circles, made his first foray into politics in 1958 when he ran unsuccessfully as an independent candidate for the state Senate.

Four years later, Mr. Medairy was elected to the House of Delegates, where he "established a reputation as an outspoken conservative," he wrote in a personal sketch.

In 1964, Mr. Medairy introduced legislation for the purpose of creating a state lottery, which was intended to assist in the financing of education.

At the time, it was estimated that the lottery would generate $25 million a year, while opponents said it wouldn't yield more than $3 million and were successful in killing the bill.

"Time passed. Many legislators, who had been blinded by scary newspaper editorials opposing a lottery, finally regained their sight, and in 1973, the Maryland lottery became a reality," Mr. Medairy wrote in a 1979 Evening Sun op-ed piece.

"The lottery has been good for Maryland. It has produced considerable revenue for the state, without the necessity of stinging tax bites; it has created jobs; and it has provided the poor with a legal means of satisfying their natural gambling habits, a lawful means, which the more affluent have always enjoyed through speculation in the stock market, and playing at the race tracks," he wrote.

He added: "But most important, the lottery has diverted millions and millions of dollars from organized crime."

After the close of the legislative session in 1964, Mr. Medairy was a leader in the opposition to Baltimore County's proposed Urban Renewal Commission, and after the defeat of the bond issue by voters, he sponsored state legislation that took from the county the right to acquire private property for urban renewal purposes.

"Jack was very outspoken, interesting and not afraid to take the floor to discuss issues," said former state Sen. Julian L. Lapides.

"He was very colorful, forceful and articulate. He was interested in issues and not partisan politics," Mr. Lapides said. "Even if you were on the other side of an issue, you couldn't help but like Jack because he was never nasty."

In 1966 and 1970, Mr. Medairy was an unsuccessful candidate for state Senate.

"I've known Jack since the 1970s. We used to eat lunch together at the Towson House," said Sherlock S. Gillet Sr., president of the Peoples Water Services Co. in Towson. "He loved talking about politics and current events, and was very astute at getting to the core of a matter."

Mr. Gillet said that Mr. Medairy didn't confine his interests to local issues.

"He'd talk about politics in general and the welfare of the country," he said. "And he always did it with a great sense of humor."

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