JUDGE MATHIAS: I call upon Robert A. Jacques to speak in memory of Water Fields.
MR. JACQUES: Father Brown, distinguished jurists, family and friends. I speak today on behalf of the most recent gentleman to have passed away from the ranks of a very distinguished group that we are honoring here today, unfortunately only three days over another close friend of mine. Mr. Fields died February 26 of this year at the age of seventy-eight.
I’m not personally familiar with his distinguished record of government service during the war years, not indeed his career after the war but I thin it tells something of a man if I may perhaps take the liberty of relating some anecdotes concerning Walter and his character because I think they often tell more about a man than the facts of his biography.
I first met Walter about twelve years ago and he used to send me cases from time to time. Not great cases. As he said, if they were great cases I wouldn’t get them. And after a while when I took his cases and he would call me up and occasionally ask me to volunteer to be a softball coach, of all things, for the CYO teams in the St. Mary’s Parish area – well, I’m not much of an athlete to put it mildly and in fact as a kid I would often be asked not to turn out for the team so I found this rather strange and I told Walter this and he said, well, you mean well. It’s true you’re probably clumsy and slow and all that and I said, well, Walter, I just can’t do it. I’d be embarassed. But he kept after me and it was always for the good of the CYO and St. Mary’s and all of this. Finally, a couple of years ago in a burst of exasperation I said, Walter, it’s obvious that you are running for Monsignor in the next election or perhaps Archbishop of Washington for all I know and frankly I suspect you would be running for Pope if there was an opening in the Vatican. Walter laughed of course and I didn’t quite see that it was all that funny until I found out at the time of his death that he was a lifelong Protestant.
Walter was a very sensitive man but he loved to tease people. I recall in one election in which I was successful in 1974 and I was hyper about everything. Some of you will share that feeling with me. And I remember accosting Walter on the street and grabbing him by his lapels and said, Walter, you’ve got to talk to your neighbors and tell them to vote for me and all that and he very seriously looked at me and he said, Bob, I just don’t think I’m going to vote for you myself. Now, some of you from the remarks you’ve heard know something about politics. You can tell a candidate that you don’t like him or you don’t agree with him but to tell him you are not going to vote for him is a fate worse than death and I must have looked totally stricken because Walter walked over and put his arm around me and said, Bob, I do have some personal reservations about you but I will vote for you and I’ll get my friends to vote for you. So we were very good friends after that.
There are two things I’d like to close with. There is an old Shaker Hymn that Aaron Copeland made famous in his very famous ballet suite Appalachian Spring which starts, It is a gift to be simple, it is a gift to be free, it is a gift to come down where a man ought to be, and Walter Fields was a man of simplicity and freedom and I think very much is a man who has come down where he ought to be and I’d like to close with the very famous words of the 90th Psalm that man’s days are like leaves of grass, the sun rises and they flourish and then the wind blows and they are scattered. So although Walter’s days are scattered and gone forever, the memory of this warm, kind and generous man lingers with us.
JUDGE MATHIAS: Thank you, Mr. Jacques.
Judge John McAuliffe will respond for the bench.
JUDGE McAULIFFE: Ladies and gentlemen, it was my pleasure to know Mr. Walter Fields during the time that we were both in practice here in Montgomery County and I had the pleasure of being in several cases with him. I found him to be the absolute gentleman, pleasant, kind, understanding. A man whose word you could accept without any necessity of requiring that it be put to paper.
I didn’t know a great deal about Mr. Fields’ background. I found out subsequently that he received his law degree in 1925 and was admitted to the Florida Bar in 1927, the District of Columbia the year after, and Maryland in 1932. He was the grandson of an oysterman. He was himself a master boatman and he was very much interested in the history of the Eastern Shore. He spent sometime researching the history of the Eastern Shore.
In his representation of his clients in addition to the commendable quality of being so pleasant to deal with he always protected his clients’ best interests.
I believe that Walter Fields was himself a staunch believer in the admonition that of those under whom much is given much will be expected because while much had indeed been given to him in terms of his abilities, in terms of his intellect, his knowledge, his achievements, he in turn was willing to give a great deal to others. He gave very generously of his time and his talent.
He is well known to the staff of the Montgmery County Bar Association for the volunteer services that he has given to the Association over the number of years that he has been with us here. When I spoke to some of the staff people there about their dealings with him he was so active in Judicare, he was so active in a number of other things, helping out wherever anyone was needed that they simply told me he is best described by the words a born volunteer. He gave his time to, as Mr. Jacques has indicated, to the CYO, to the Rockville City League Softball. He was coach of the year so named by the Archdiocese in 1971. He served as Vice President of the Parent-Teachers Student Association at Walter Johnson, 1969 to 1972.
It is always a pleasure to know a man of the quality of Mr. Fields and we shall miss him a great deal both in the courtroom and out of the courtroom.
JUDGE MATHIAS: Thank you, Judge McAuliffe.
These remarks will be spread upon the Minutes of this Court in memory of Mr. Fields.