A judge, a portrait and a toast across time

Descendants, courthouse honor lawyer-soldier 95 years after death in WW I

  • Maj. German H.H. Emory was honored during a ceremony Friday.
Maj. German H.H. Emory was honored during a ceremony Friday. (Karl Merton Ferron, Baltimore…)
November 01, 2013|By Jean Marbella, The Baltimore Sun

In the courtroom where Baltimore Circuit Judge Timothy J. Doory metes out justice, he has a steadfast if silent companion, Maj. German H.H. Emory, a lawyer killed in World War I whose portrait hangs to the right of his bench.

"He's looking at me every day," Doory said, "so we have a relationship."

But it wasn't until this summer that, by accident of jury duty, Emory's relations would come face to face with his portrait. The mix of happenstance and history so delighted Doory that he hosted a gathering in his courtroom Friday to toast Emory on the 95th anniversary of his battlefield death.

"A machine gun bullet pierced his heart and he died almost instantly," The Baltimore Sun reported in an article when Emory was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. The story went on to quote a letter that Emory's commanding officer wrote to his widow: "He showed absolutely no fear — in fact, utter contempt — for the heavy Hun fire."

Before the portrait, showing Emory in his uniform against a cloud-puffed blue sky, his grandnephew Rufus Lusk, 64, joined judges, prosecutors and other courthouse denizens in raising their glasses to the lawyer, who as a 35-year-old volunteered to fight in the war. He was killed in the Argonne Forest in France just 10 days before the armistice.

"There's obviously a bond that ties everyone who serves in uniform and sacrifices to serve their country that transcends history," said Charles Blomquist, an assistant state's attorney, who arrived in fatigues from the drill duties he has this weekend as a lieutenant colonel in the Maryland National Guard.

Blomquist, who has served tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, arranged for a Maryland National Guard bugler, Stan Modjesky, to play taps to open the ceremony. Then, Blomquist and Robert Ross, a homicide detective with the Baltimore Police Department who served in the first Persian Gulf War as a Marine, offered toasts to their fellow citizen-soldier.

"It was a lovely remembrance," said Lusk, who lives in Federal Hill and brought his wife, Jessica Damen, and a group of friends to the ceremony.

Lusk's hobby is ancestry research, and through that, he learned of Emory and his portrait. Lusk's grandmother was the sister of Emory's wife.

Emory was a member of several law firms over the course of his career, and also served briefly as an assistant city solicitor. (Incidentally, the city solicitor during Emory's time in that office, was Edgar Allan Poe — named after his cousin, the famous writer.)

When Lusk and Damen's daughter Joanna, now a senior at Skidmore College, was called to jury duty this summer, he decided it was time to look up Emory, or at least his portrait. Father and daughter visited Room 226 in the Mitchell Courthouse during her lunch break and encountered Doory.

Having been assigned to the courtroom for about 61/2 years, Doory knew something of the portraits that surrounded him. He noted that Emory — his H.H. middle initials stand for Horton Hunt — is the only subject of the more than 85 portraits in the courthouse who is wearing military attire.

Col. Bill Gordon, commander of the 320th Infantry to which Emory's battalion was attached, might also have been from Baltimore. He noted in a letter to the soldier's widow, Lucy Stump Emory, that "mother and father have sent us the clippings from the Baltimore papers referring to the tributes to German," which a chaplain read at the soldiers' Christmas dinner.

"Mrs. Emory, I am unable to express to you even in a very small way how I feel over German's death, and how I feel for you and your dear children," Gordon wrote. "We have all been made better for having known German so intimately, and the example set by men of his type has made America what it is in this war."

Emory, 36 years old when he died, went to public and private schools in Baltimore and Pennsylvania and graduated from the University of Maryland law school in 1903, according to the Maryland State Archives.

A 2003 Sun obituary of Emory's son, Richard, also a lawyer, said the family dated to Colonial Maryland and had an estate, Grey Rock, off Reisterstown Road in Baltimore County. (Richard Emory, a Venable partner, was known for leading the effort to ban slots in the state in the 1960s and helping to integrate the Gilman School.)

Since semi-retiring from real estate investing and a company his family once owned, which maintained a database of real estate transactions, Lusk has had more time to delve into family history.

"I was just so impressed and really moved that the judge absolutely knew [Emory's] story," Lusk said.

The portrait was painted by Thomas C. Corner, a Baltimore artist, in 1919, said Circuit Judge M. Brooke Murdock, who joined the Friday ceremony and, as a former art history major, has researched the courthouse's collection.

According to the Maryland State Archives, when the cornerstone of what is now the Mitchell Courthouse was laid in June 1896, a U.S. senator urged the legal community to honor its leaders with portraits, "that they may excite the rising generation of lawyers to emulate their example."

Doory encouraged the gatherers to never forget the sacrifice of his courtroom companion.

"He's been guiding me for years," Doory said of his reason for holding the ceremony. "It's the least I can do."



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