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Memorial--Dawson, Walter W.
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Walter W. Dawson
February 5, 1901 – February 12, 1968 



March 11, 1968

Walter W. Dawson

Charles W. Prettyman

J. Grahame Walker

Jack Finkston

Hyman Nussbaum

Jack Marshall Stark

Before the Full Bench

The Honorable Kathryn J. Shook, Presiding Judge

Stanley R. Jacobs, Presiding for the Bar Association


Richard B. Latham Esq.,

Stanley R. Jacobs, Esq.

Judge Thomas M. Anderson

Glen J. Goldburn, Esq.

Robert C. Heeney, Esq.

Judge James H. Pugh

David E. Betts, Esq.

Joseph B. Simpson, Jr., Esq.

Alger Y. Barbee, Esq.

Judge Ralph G. Shure

David C. Bastian, Esq.

John M. McInerney, Esq.

Judge Joseph M. Mathias

James F. Fitzgerald, Esq.

Arthur K. Crocker, Esq.

Judge John P. Moore

Dale L. Button, Esq.

Stanley R. Jacobs, Esq.

Judge Irving A. Levine

William B. McDanald, Esq.

William J. Rowan, III, Esq.

Judge Walter H. Moorman

Judge Kathryn J. Shook



Judge Shook: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. 

     The Circuit Court for Montgomery County convenes to hold a memorial service for the deceased members of the Bar for the past year.

     The Court recognizes the Vice-President and President Elect of the Montgomery County Bar Association, Richard P. Latham, Esquire.

Mr. Latham:     If your Honors please, we are gathered here today for the purpose of conducting memorial services for six members of the Bar who passed away this past year. The members whose memory we will honor today were: Hyman Nussbaum, Jack Pinkston, Jack Stark, J. Grahame Walker, Walter Dawson and Charles Prettyman.

     On behalf of the Bar Association of Montgomery County I would introduce to the Court and to the people here assembled Mr. Stanley R. Jacobs, Esquire, of Silver Spring, who is Chairman of our Memorial Service Committee.

Judge Shook:   Mr. Jacobs.

Mr. Jacobs: May it please the Court, Judge Shook, Judges of the Full Bench, distinguished guests, fellow members of the Bar, relatives and friends: in my position as the Historian of the Bar Association of Montgomery County it is my sad duty to suggest to the Court the passing of six of our fellow members of the Bar: Walter W. Dawson, Charles W. Prettyman, J. Grahame Walker, Jack Pinkston, Hyman Nussbaum, and Jack Marshall Stark.

     Present with us today to memorialize their passing are the friends and relatives of the deceased, and we are pleased to have them join with us in this ceremony.

     We are gathered here today to speak of the contribution which each of these individuals has made both to the Bar and to his community. In keeping with this occasion I should like to recite LIFE SCULPTURE, by George Washington Doane:

                                 Chisel in hand stood a sculptor boy

                                With all his marble block before him,

                                And his eyes lit up with a smile of joy,

                                As an angel-dream passed o’er him.


                                 He carved the dream on that shapeless stone,

                                With many a sharp incision;

                                With heaven’s own light the sculpture shone, --

                                He’d caught that angel-vision.


                                Children of life are we, as we stand

                                With our lives uncarved before us,

                                Waiting the hour when, at God’s command,

                                Our life-dream shall pass o’er us.


                                If we carve it then on the yielding stone,

                                With many a sharp incision,

                                Its heavenly beauty shall be our own, --

                                Our lives, that angel-vision.


Each of these individuals has indeed carved a sculpture, in our minds and in our memories, which we shall never forget.

     I should now like to recognize certain members of the Bar Association of Montgomery County who wish to speak in behalf of our deceased brothers.

     In memory of Walter W. Dawson, I would like to call upon The Honorable Thomas M. Anderson, Judge of the Special Court of Appeals for the State of Maryland.

Judge Anderson: May it please Your Honors, when I was asked some time ago by Mr. Jacobs on behalf of the Bar Association to take part in these memorial exercises and say a few words in memory of a dear and devoted friend, Walter W. Dawson, I told him I should deem it an honor to do so.

      Walter W. Dawson was born on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota on February 5, 1901. His family is among the oldest in Montgomery County; and the little village of Dawsonville, which lies between Darnestown and Poolesville, was named after the Dawsons who lived in that community. In 1882 his father, Henry A. Dawson, left Montgomery County and moved to South Dakota. He went to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation as government agent and owned and operated the Indian store on the reservation. During the time he spent in South Dakota he acquired large land holdings outside fo the reservation and was actively engaged in the cattle business.

     While living in South Dakota, Mr. Dawson married Fannie K. Williams from Illinois, and all of his children were born in South Dakota. There were four children born of the marriage: Lawrence, now deceased, Rose K., Henry A., Jr., known as “Joe,” and Walter, who was the youngest.

     In 1911 Mr. Dawson sold his vast holdings in South Dakota and moved his family back to Montgomery County, where he purchased a large tract of land just south of the Town of Rockville where he built the beautiful and spacious home where the family now lives.

     The Pine Ridge Reservation was the home of the Sioux Indian tribe, and while there Mr. Dawson acquired a truly remarkable Indian collection which is now on display in the room known as the “Indian Room” at the home. During his early years Walter attended the Indian school on the Reservation. He learned to ride bareback like an Indian and could rope a steer with all the skill and art of a real cowboy. When the Dawsons came East they brought their horses with them, and I remember so well the beautiful and spirited black horse that Rose used to ride through Rockville.

     I first became acquainted with Walter when the family returned to Montgomery County, since we both attended the Rockville public school. Both Joe and Walter were extremely skillful with a lariat and during recess the boys would play a game in which one would run by one of the Dawson boys, who would rope him.

     His father later sent Walter to the Bethlehem Preparatory School in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and after graduation he attended Lehigh University. Upon his return from Lehigh he studied law at the Georgetown University School of Law and later at the National Law School, both in Washington, and graduated from the National Law School in 1925.

     After passing the bar examination and becoming a member of the bar he spent a brief period in the law offices of his uncle, Thomas Dawson, and his cousin, Thomas L. Dawson, then practicing under the name of Dawson & Dawson. Shortly thereafter he opened his own office in Rockville which he maintained until his death.

     It was only after I came to the bar in 1927 that I really became well acquainted with Walter. We were both Republicans, and in those days Republicans were scarce indeed. We developed a warm personal relationship that never changed. In 1930 we both ran for public office on the Republican ticket, he for the House of Delegates and I for State Senate.  He was the only Republican elected to any office that year and served as a member of the House of Delegates for the next four years. During that time he made an enviable record although serving in the minority party.

     In 1941, when World War II was declared, although then forty-one years of age he entered the United States military service. Almost four years of this time was spent in Italy during the Italian Campaign, where he was attached to the Air Force. He was mustered out of the service in 1945, and in 1946 was elected to the Office of State’s Attorney for Montgomery County, the second Republican in the history of Montgomery County to be elected to that important office.

     I had the privilege of serving as his assistant during those four busy years and can truly say that no State’s Attorney in my time was more diligent in carrying out the duties of his office. Unrelenting in the prosecution of those who deserved punishment, he was kind and compassionate to those whose misfortunes had led them into trouble. In 1950 he was re-elected State’s Attorney and served with great ability and diligence until his term expired in 1954. I remained in his office until 1953, and during all those years our association was the closest.

     Politics was one of his great loves, and in 1936 he was elected to the Republican State Central Committee for Montgomery County and served on the Committee until 1966, during much of which time he was its chairman. He and his sister, Rose, made up the most potent and powerful Republican team in the history of Montgomery County.

     One of the newspaper articles written after his death was titled: “Walter W. Dawson Was a Great Guy.” No words were ever more truly written. He was a “great guy” in every sense of the word. A man with the highest personal integrity and honor, he was absolutely fearless; and with it all he had a kindness and compassion that endeared him to all who knew him, young and old. During my close association with him I never heard him say an unkind word about anyone. Plagued by ill health during his later years, he was never heard to complain. He always had a smile for everyone and if asked how he felt said “Fine.” He was truly one of Nature’s noblemen. To quote from the article I just mentioned:

                                “Walter W. Dawson’s contributions were great, He will be missed very

                                much by all of us. But his life will serve as an inspiration for all who

                                are interested in politics, people, and Montgomery County.”

     Known throughout the county as “Mr. Republican,” he died on February 12th, Lincoln’s Birthday. With his passing I knew that I had lost the best friend of all my mature years. It was a friendship that was fast, enduring and undimmed. There came to me the words of Henry Esmond when he visited the grave of his brother in Flanders, which I shall paraphrase:

                                “May he rest in peace – may he rest in peace:

                                and we, too, when our struggles and pains are over!

                                For the earth is the Lord’s as the heaven is; we are

                                Alike His children here and yonder.”

Mr. Jacobs: In further memory of the late Walter W. Dawson, I would like to call upon Glen J. Goldburn, Esquire.

Mr. Goldburn: Mr. Jacobs, Your Honors, ladies and gentelmen: It is a sad occasion here today, but as Judge Anderson was speaking I was thinking about some notes I had made. Even though I had not spoken with Judge Anderson, we both, and apparently all of us, think the same thing: that Walter Dawson was kind and compassionate and truly a wonderful individual.

     I had the good experience of having been associated with him for about fifteen years. He was loved by one and all, I think we can say because he was an honest an true individual. Regardless of political affiliation he was loved by both parties, and if he lost or his party lost we all know that Walter never held a grudge against anyone. He never held any animosity against anyone, and he respected the views of the other side whether it be in this courtroom or in the political arena.

     I think one of his greatest attributes was his honesty. If he appeared before this court or the grand jury and there was insufficient evidence against a defendant, he was the first one to say, “I don’t think the State has a case”; and to the grand jury “I don’t think you should indict”; or to Your Honors, “The case should be dismissed.”

     He had no vindictiveness in his heart at any time. He was always ready to help his friends also, as we all know, whether it be a financial need or any other type of assistance.

     He loved animals.  He loved the farm, because he was raised on the farm. Even in his last illness just as recently as October he was with me in Poolesville helping me to load my animals; he had a great time, just right before they got on the truck he hit them in the rear with a pitchfork. He could not do much else because he had been very ill; but he enjoyed animals and liked to be around them.

     This is the best place for him to remembered, all of the cases that he tried in this courtroom standing before this jury box. I know he did not like long speeches, I will not say too much. But instead of just the loss of Walter Dawson we have, I think we have, the loss of an era in this county, an era that began when he and his brother would get on their horses and drive cattle through the streets of Rockville, which they did, to Gaithersburg to be loaded on a train and sold to Herman Rabbitt.

     Throughout his life he showed what truth and honesty can do and he will be sorely missed by all of us.

     Thank you.


Mr. Jacobs: In further memory of the late Walter W. Dawson I would like to call upon Robert C. Heeney, Esquire.

Mr. Heeney: May it please the Court: out of the great mass of humanity that a lawyer meets in his lifetime there are usually only a few that make their marks indelibly. Such a man was Walter W. Dawson, a human being. His intimates knew him as “Whaley” or “Uncle Duck.” He was a most respected lawyer, an orator of the Old School, an outstanding member of our community and a most humorous but humble man. I knew him well, and I and my family have benefited greatly from his having passed through our lives.

     He was one of the better State’s Attorneys of our county and a most vigorous prosecutor, but his prosecutions were never for glory but for justice; never for personal gain. As a matter of fact I can still remember the day that “Judge Tommy” was sworn in downstairs. Clayton Watkins was administering the oath, and the tears of joy that were running down Whaley’s face when he saw his good friend being made a member of the Court.

     To the neophyte lawyer and probably to the layman he was tough, hard-shelled and crusty: but beneath that shell was the warmest and most sympathetic heart I have ever known. I was his assistant, for instance, and I was going on vacation. He gave me a check to take the kids for a ride on the beach, but the check was big enough for the entertainment of the whole family for several weeks.

     I first met him when Judge Prescott appointed Harold Smith, Sr., and me to represent a man accused of rape of a nine-year-old girl. We tried it right in this courtroom. Judge Anderson also was one of the prosecutors. And Whaley’s closing argument – incidentally, it was my first capital case – went something like this. He pointed to our client and said: “I have no animosity toward this man. Give him the benefit of every reasonable doubt. But while you are deliberating, remember the scar that is going to be on that little girl for the rest of her life.”

     Of course we lost our case, you might say.

     The with that remark he would crack his three fingers on the counsel table and pound. Hodge Smith, who succeeded Judge Anderson as his deputy, called him the “finest three-fingered State’s Attorney we ever had in this county.”

     He was as everyone knows an excellent orator, and at times he spoke things so well and with such feeling that he actually would bring a laugh from the jury when he did not intend one. He was also a well-known bachelor. That reminds me of the story when Judge Woodward was on the bench and he was prosecuting a woman who was charged with the manslaughter of a very young child. In making his point to the jury he said: “Well, I have no children to speak of.” With that the whole jury started to laugh, and the courtroom, and Judge Woodward got a reaction too.

     He could tell more stories about himself; I hope someone will record those stories for posterity because we can’t tell them all here today, but they tell the stories about his great humanness. “I am what I am” would be how he would probably describe himself.

     He was so honest about himself that when he would talk of things that involved him it would give all of us pleasure. He especially could laugh at himself and make those of us around him extremely happy to be doing so.

     Whaley respected everyone and would never be unkind. We loved him for frankness; and if there is a life hereafter I am sure they are all gathered around him right now listening to his stories.

     Some of his stories were irreverant. He kidded me, for instance, with being Irish and told me he was reminded about the Irishman drunk sitting around the fireside speaking to his dog who was looking up at him with his head nestled between his legs. He claims the Irishman said: “You damn dog, when you’re dead you’re dead. When I’m dead I got to go to hell yet.”

     Whaley expressed his feelings with a tough way; no simpering. When we last met him he knew and I knew that he was going to die. But no sentimentality; just “See you.” And with that a great man passed through all of our lives.

Judge Shook: The Honorable James H. Pugh will respond for the Court.

Judge Pugh: These memorial proceedings are for the purpose of recording in this court for everybody the “legal” life of a member of the bar of this court. All that has been said about Walter Dawson is not only true but it does not include all of his legal accomplishments, because no memorial proceeding could do that.

     I could speak of many, many experiences that I had with Walter Dawson. I knew him all my life, and it was in this very courtroom, on the morning of November the 5th, 1934, where we were engaged in the official counting of an election between us when we both were running for State’s Attorney. Right at the table where Dick Latham is, Walter was seated and I was right beside him. There was an adding machine on the table. His sister Rose Dawson was beside us. It was 4:30 in the morning. And that election was very, very close. It was my fortunate experience to have won that election, by a majority of forty-six votes. It was a Democratic year; had it not been a Democratic year I would have been defeated.

     Later on Walter ran for State’s Attorney twice and was elected both times.

     Walter Dawson’s most outstanding – I would not say “accomplishment” – but his most outstanding attribute was his friendliness, under pressure or not under pressure. He was always a gentleman.

     He was always a strong advocate either as prosecutor or as defense counsel. He never gave an inch on either side that he was as a member of the bar, as a member of this court.

     I can recall many many cases tried in this court when was State’s Attorney and Judge Tommy Anderson at his side as the Deputy State’s Attorney. That was a team that was hard to beat.

     Walter Dawson was an outspoken prosecutor; he was an outspoken jury lawyer. His professional integrity was always the highest. He always held the administration of justice in high esteem. His reference to the court and to the litigants was outstanding. It is regrettable that all of us members of the bar today have not experienced some of those fine occasions that we had in this courtroom with Walter Dawson on one side or the other.

     Quoted in that same article that Judge Anderson referred to in the newspaper of recent date was the statement attributed to Walter in a murder case. It just so happened that I was on the opposite side, defending that woman for murder. She was charged with murdering her husband, and the article quoted Walter as arguing to the jury: “We don’t have open season on husbands as yet, do we?” I recall that remark very, very well.

     Walter Dawson was an able, outstanding lawyer. This memorial should record among the minutes of this court that he was friendly, able, a gentleman in every respect, and one who respected the administration of justice as a lawyer should and which came to him naturally.

     I regret his passing as I know all the members of this Bench regret his passing.

     But Walter Dawson was always friendly up until the few weeks before he died. He always will be remembered in the court as a friendly advocate in the administration of justice.