Konstantine J. 'Gus' Prevas, attorney, dies

He had specialized in labor and immigration issues and also worked at his family's Broadway Market stall

  • Konstantine J. Prevas
Konstantine J. Prevas
March 28, 2011|By Jacques Kelly, The Baltimore Sun | Baltimore Sun reporter

Konstantine J. "Gus" Prevas, an attorney who specialized in immigration issues and set policy to integrate the Baltimore City Fire Department, died of heart disease Sunday at his Towson home. He was 86.

Born in Baltimore and raised on Patterson Park Avenue, he worked alongside his parents, who were immigrants from a village near Sparta, Greece. They ran a Broadway Market business — a soda fountain in the summer months, a confectionery store with fruits and nuts in the pre-Christmas months, and chocolates and Easter candies in the spring.

His father died when he was 11 and Mr. Prevas began putting in more time at the market. Family members said his principal at Polytechnic Institute arranged for him to complete his courses and graduate while working full time.

Mr. Prevas was drafted into the Army during World War II and was selected to train in the Army Air Forces. He then joined a bomber crew as a waist gunner. His B-1 crew flew 28 missions over Germany between December and March 1945. He returned to the U.S. aboard the Queen Mary, a converted troopship.

Mr. Prevas returned to work in the Broadway Market at the family business, which had been converted into a luncheonette. He earned a degree at the old Mount Vernon Law School and passed the Maryland Bar in 1955. He practiced law and simultaneously ran the lunchroom with his family.

"I met him at the lunch counter," said H&S Bakery owner John Paterakis, who relied upon Mr. Prevas for legal advice. "He was still going to school. He served the Greek community very well over the years. If he was your friend, he was your friend. If he were your enemy, watch out."

Family members recalled his ability to be a lawyer and serve hot dogs at the family's popular lunch spot.

"He would sometimes have to change clothes from his suit back into his market clothes several times a day. Judges frequently cited him for having traces of condiments on his shirt," said his son, Dr. William P. Prevas, an obstetrician who lives in Lutherville.

His son said his father's law practice flourished in the 1960s as he focused on immigration issues. "He spoke Greek fluently and successfully acquired citizenship" for many immigrants, Greek and non-Greek, his son said. "He was praised for his practice of evaluating a case, forming an opinion of the client's likelihood of prevailing and advising the client not to waste his money if his chances were poor."

In the late 1960s, Mayor Thomas J. D'Alesandro III asked him to serve as a member of the Baltimore City Fire Board.

"He was a strong man who was smart and intelligent and believed in the things he believed in," the former mayor said Monday. "He did an outstanding job on the fire commission and really brought the modern-day Fire Department into being. He believed in racial integration and pushed for it throughout the department."

His son said his work with the Fire Department was a proud achievement. "At the time, the Fire Department, like many other institutions, was dealing with questions of race relations in the workplace," his son said. "He along with fellow board member [the] Rev. Marion Bascom stood shoulder to shoulder in effecting changes in the Fire Department that corrected for years of disadvantage."

Mr. Prevas was honored in later years by the Vulcan Blazers, an association representing the African-American firefighters of Baltimore.

His family said his politics were shaped by his experiences watching the treatment of immigrants and minorities, and he fought fiercely against mistreatment of these groups. He supported the Democratic Party and only rarely supported a Republican. One exception was a fellow Greek, Spiro T. Agnew.

His son said he scored a legal victory when he represented the owners of the Tio Pepe restaurant on Franklin Street when the business opened in 1969.

"The owners were attempting to buy and move a liquor license to the Franklin Street location. The law only allowed for transfers of liquor licenses within one mile, and the license in question was a few hundred feet beyond the distance," his son said. "My father was able to formulate the legal argument that the law didn't specify whether it was referencing a statute mile, an aerial mile or a nautical mile, and since the distance in question satisfied the longer of the three distances that it should be allowed. His argument prevailed, and the business was able to open."

Family members said Mr. Prevas once defended himself in court for failing to wear his seat belt while operating a vehicle.

"He entered evidence of having flown 28 missions over Germany in bombing missions during World War II. He told the judge that when he was flying those missions as waist gunner, he was not seat-belted into the plane and frequently envisioned his potential fate should the plane encounter anti-aircraft fire," his son said. "Whenever he attempted to put a seat belt on, he would have flashbacks and become so anxious as to be dysfunctional as a driver."

The judge ruled in his favor and told a police officer to apologize and thank Mr. Prevas for his service to his country, his family said.

Mr. Prevas practiced law at his firm, Prevas and Prevas, until late last year.

Services will be held at 10:30 a.m. Thursday at the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Annunciation, 24 W. Preston St., where he was a member.

In addition to his son, survivors include his wife of 22 years, Georgia Antonopoulos Prevas; two other sons, Stephen L. Prevas of Baltimore and Peter A. Prevas of Towson; 11 grandchildren; five step-grandchildren; and a great-granddaughter. Another son, Baltimore Circuit Judge John N. Prevas, died in 2010. His wife of 40 years, Carol Larios Prevas, died in 1985.


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