IN THE CIRCUIT COURT FOR MONTGOMERY COUNTY, MARYLAND
M E M O R I A L S E R V I C E
March 3, 1969
In Memory of:
THE HONORABLE STEDMAN PRESCOTT
THE HONORABLE DONALD A. DeLASHMUTT
HONORABLE PATRICK M. SCHNAUFFER
HONORABLE KATHRYN J. SHOOK
HONORABLE JAMES H. PUGH
HONORABLE RALPH G. SHURE
HONORABLE WALTER H. MOORMAN
HONORABLE JOSEPH M. MATHIAS
HONORABLE JOHN P. MOORE
HONORABLE PLUMMER M. SHEARIN
HONORABLE IRVING A. LEVINE
RICHARD B. LATHAM, ESQ., President, Montgomery County Bar Association
STANLEY R. JACOBS, ESQ., Chairman, Memorial Committee
P R O C E E D I N G S
JUDGE SHOOK: Be seated, please, and come to order.
We will now convene for the Memorial Services and the Court will recognize Mr. Latham.
MR. LATHAM: If your Honor please, we are assembled here today to honor the memory of the distinguished members of the bar who passed away last year. Judge Stedman Prescott and Judge Delashmutt.
On behalf of the Bar Association I present to you the Chairman of our Memorial Committee, Stanley Jacobs.
MR. JACOBS: Your Honor please, each year the bar association pays their respects to the late members of the bar that have deceased during the course of the year.
Today the service is being conducted in memory of the late Honorable Stedman Prescott, Sr., and the late Donald A. Delashmutt.
If the Court pleases, we would like to recognize Mr. Joseph Simpson, Jr., to speak on behalf of the Honorable Stedman Prescott, Senior.
REMARKS BY JOSEPH B. SIMPSON, JR.
MR. SIMPSON: May it please the Court, I rise with a deep feeling of personal sorrow to announce to Your Hoors the death on November 13, 1968 of the Honorable Stedman Prescott, who served for 18 years as a judge of this court and as its chief judge before serving as an associate judge and the Chif Judge of the Court of Appeals of Maryland.
The Bench and the Bar of Maryland knew Judge Prescott as one of the keenest, most analytical and thorough lawyers ever to have practiced in, or to have presided over the courts of this State.
He was an able and conscientious student, a gifted and brilliant orator, a thorough and meticulous digester of any complex factual problem, and an advocate of the greatest persuasion.
Coupled with his tremendous capacity to work, he had the equal capacity to enjoy himself and to bring joy to others. He knew life and he knew how to live it.
Judge Prescott was a member of one of our country’s distinguished families. The Prescotts are the same family as that of Colonel William Prescott who was at Bunker Hill and Samuel Prescott, who rode with Paul Revere.
Indeed, history records that on the night of April 18, 1775, Samuel Prescott, Paul Revere and William Dawes set out to warm the countryside of the British advance toward Concord. Revere was captured on the way, but Prescott got through with the news.
He was born at Norbeck in Montgomery County on August 30, 1896, the son of Alexander F. and Edith Stanley (Kellogg) Prescott. Both of his parents were native Marylanders.
Judge Prescott’s mother was the daughter of Augustus Greenleaf and Betty (Evans) Kellogg.
His early education was at the Rockville High School, where he won the prize as the most popular boy in the school, while at the same time being the captain of the football, basketball and track teams.
Also while still in high school, he was first recognized for his eloquence and won the County-wide Oratorical Contest for High School Students.
He matriculated at the Georgetown University and received the Degree of Bachelor of Laws from the Georgetown University Law School. He was elected three times to the Council of the City of Rockville. He was interested in public affairs and politics and he was his party’s leader.
He was a Democrat, in politics, and before his elevation to the Bench, while active in public and political matters, he was a great force in bringing together dissident factions within his party.
He had the capacity to lead; he led and he led well.
Those at the Bar and Bench who recall him in the court room, recall his great brilliance as a trial lawyer. The people of our State recalls his marked ability both as a speaker and as a distinguished representative of Montgomery County when he served as our State Senator.
This room where we today have this memorial service and the court room which formerly served as the Circuit Court Room in the old portion of the Courthouse, was his forum as one of Montgomery County’s truly great State’s Attorneys.
Judge Prescott married E. Callander Minnick, the daughter of Milford F. and Edith M. Minnick at Rockville on July 14, 1917. They had four children: Stedman Prescott, Mr., Esquire, a distinguished member of the Bar of the Court of Appeals of Maryland and of this Court, Marilyn – Mary, now Mrs. Rosenberger, wife of Dr. Gordon Rosenberger, a prominent physician of Rockville; Calla, now Mrs. E. Worthington Belt; and Mrs. Anne P. Brandau.
During his lifetime, he was active in the business affairs of the county and served on the Board of Directors of the Bank of Bethesda, the Montgomery Bus Lines and the Maryland City Centre.
During World War I, he enlisted as a private and rose to the rank of First Lieutenant. He was active in the American Legion during his days in practice, served as the Commander of his Post in Rockville and of the Montgomery County Council. He was a past master of his Blue Lodge, Ancient Free and Accepted Masons, a member of the Lions and Rotary Clubs of Rockville. He loved his recreation in boating, hunting and fishing. For many years, he resided on West Montgomery Avenue in Rockville and at St. Helena’s Island near Annapolis.
In 1938, Judge Prescott was elected as a Judge of the Circuit Court for the Sixth Judicial Circuit of Maryland. He served with great dignity, learning and ability on this Bench for 18 years and then for ten years on the Court of Appeals of Maryland. He was retired as the Chief Judge of that Court on August 30, 1966, because of the reaching of the constitutional age limit.
As he and his family were part of the history of this nation, state and county, Judge Prescott took a great interest in the Montgomery County Historical Society and was helpful to the Society in the acquisition of its property.
He was a forceful and gifted Judge. He believed in and upheld the lofty standards and traditions which are a part of and requisite to the appropriate administration of justice.
His name, his fame, his contribution to the quality of the law will stand as long as our system of law stands. The caliber of his work will make it stand as a better beacon of light to those following him. He was truly a great lawyer.
His beloved wife departed this life on June 15, 1968. He left surviving him, in addition to his children who I have mentioned, his sisters, Mrs. Edith P. Alnutt, Mrs. James B. Morrison and Mrs. Gordon William Daisley; and a brother, Mr. William H. Prescott, twelve grandchildren and thirteen great grandchildren.
And now, Your Honors, on behalf of the Bar of this State and of this Court and on my behalf as a personal friend of that distinguished lawyer and judge, I respectfully move that a minute of these proceedings be entered upon the records of this Court in commemoration of the great jurist in who honor we meet, the Honorable Stedman Prescott and I move that this Court, when it stands adjourned, stand adjourned in his memory.
JUDGE SHOOK: Thank you, Mr. Simpson.
MR. JACOBS: In further memory of the Honorable Stedman Prescott, Senior, I would like to call upon John M. McInerney, Esquire.
REMARKS BY JOHN McINERNEY, ESQUIRE
MR. McINERNEY: Judge Shook and Judges of the Circuit Court, I felt tremendously complimented when I was asked to say a word of eulogy about Judge Prescott because I felt that someone might have recognized the deep affection in which I held him as our years increased; and as we gain more years, we gain more grey hairs. We become more impressed with the inevitability of death. It used to be just sort of a phrase when we were younger, but now we begin to understand that there must be some philosophy in life.
And mine has been that there isn’t any human being that has ever been a friend or that has ever been an enemy who hasn’t left some imprint upon my life and I hope in going through the years, I might have left some imprint on my friends because every friendship contributes to the character of the individual as you see them.
I don’t think that I would be out of order if I quote an irish poet. I don’t know of any single writing that has ever been quoted in so many small spots as that of John Donne who said:
No man is an island, entire of itself,
Every man is a piece to the continent, a part of the main
If a cloud be washed away by the sea, Europe, is the less, as well
As if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friends or of
Any man’s death diminishes me because I am involved in mankind
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls
It tolls for thee.
And I know of no man in my own life who had more influence for good on those people that he knew, I know of no man who ever did as much for me.
Judge Prescott was aware of something that very few people were aware of.
I had been in the Navy for five years and I came out here to Montgomery County when I was 41. And he was an individual who recognized my feeling of maturity and my loneliness in the practice of law.
I remember a time when I tried a case here and got a rather high verdict against me – which was the beginning of a series – [laughter] – but he was the judge and when the Court adjourned, the jury had returned the verdict, it was in this court room, the judge’s day completed, he had risen and he had left the court room, and then all the victors had rushed out the other door, and I was rather lonely.
And I looked up and Judge Prescott had come back into the court room with his robe on and he said, “Mac, you realize this could happen – this would happen, didn’t you?”
And I said, “Yes, but it is a little bit difficult to take.”
And he stood there for about ten minutes and talked to me because he knew what a shock it had been.
Judge Prescott was a man who combined his humanness with being a judge.
I remember that my wife and myself went up to Atlantic City to one of the early conventions and there were only a few of the judges that went at that time, and we went out on the beach and took up a position by ourselves.
In a few minutes, Judge Prescott came up and said, now, you folks can be isolated if you wish, if you prefer to be alone, but we have all been staying together in the group, and we wish you would come down and join our party.
And then another time I know of that he would always gather us together, get all of the Montgomery County lawyers around a restaurant in the Sheraton Belvedere.
I feel that he was the most human man that I have ever met.
He was a tremendous scholar. I remember him saying one time that he didn’t understand why people would make make-believe stories when they could read history and when they could read law.
And to him legal research was no work. It was always a pleasure, and I am most happy to have had the opportunity to express my undying affection for Judge Prescott.
MR. JACOBS: If the Court pleases, that will be our speakers for Judge Prescott.
THE COURT: Mr. Christopher is on our list.
MR. JACOBS: Mr. Christopher was not well enough to speak earlier.
MR. CHRISTOPHER: Your Honor please, I hesitate to say anything because I am in the peculiar position of having lost the best friend that I ever had in my life, and there is nothing that I could say that would possibly pass on the tribute that I feel for Judge Prescott.
In 1936 when I had just been admitted to the bar shortly before and had a license to fool the public into believing that I was a lawyer, Judge Prescott invited me into his office, and then I began to learn what I should have learned in law school. I started to become a lawyer.
Every day, even though he was State Senator, Chairman of his party, one of the busiest men in this country, he was never at a loss for time to try to get me straightened out and to try to teach me something. I would say to you that this Bar, this Bench, and particularly I have lost the best friend that we will ever have.
He was a man who was absolutely dedicated to his profession. Anything that marred the professional standing of lawyers he abhorred.
Anyone who did not completely believe in and took an interest in the law – he could not understand. We have seen a lot going forward in this court room with him on the bench. And with him on the bench this Bar had a complete friend and a staunch advocate.
I know of nothing that I can add to what has already been said other than the fact that I am very emotional today with having had the opportunity to pay this tribute to the greatest friend I ever had.
JUDGE SHOOK: Is there anyone else present who would like to say anything at this time on behalf of Judge Prescott?
JUDGE SCHNAUFFER: In response on behalf of the Court I only wish that I was partially endowed to some small extent with the ability to express myself in the manner of the man that we are here today to honor, could do.
Although we often dislike the use of adjectives because sometimes they are flowery and unappreciated, however, anyone who knew Stedman Prescott had to respect his ability, not only as a jurist which in my humble opinion he was one of the greatest to ever live, but also as a friend and a citizen.
Yes, he had a sense of determination but who do you know that ever amounted to anything that did not have a sense of determination. Some of my colleagues on the bench here with me today knew him longer than I did, but I doubt if any knew him better. As a friend, there was no truer.
He held out a helping hand at all times. To this day, in giving my instructions to a jury, after being on the bench for over 26 years, I primarily rely upon the opinions and advice that he gave me when I began my career.
In 1967 I was interviewed for the purpose of an article that appeared in the local papers of Frederick County. At that time I remarked concerning the fact that every man in his walk of life had someone who he admired in the field that he was participating in, and I referred to Judge Prescott, meaning to me as a jurist what Babe Ruth meant to many boys during his prime as a baseball player. His proven ability was established and he was honorably discharged from the armed forces in 1918 as a lieutenant, having enlisted in 1917.
He graduated from Georgetown University Law School in 1917, but he did not take the bar examination at that time, and upon returning from the armed forces he was employed in the post office in Rockville, Maryland.
Some years after that, upon the persuasion and suggestion of a friend, they took the Maryland bar examination and he passed it with one of the highest grades ever given.
Anyone engaged in the practice of law, and likewise my associates sitting with me on the bench here today realize having been out of law school for the period of time that he had and then to take the bar examination and pass it and be one of the highest in his class certainly established his ability beyond question.
How one man can round out so many things in life is hard to conceive, but the amount of time required of him in his duties as Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals of Maryland – not only was he required to preside over the court and write opinions but he had the administrative end to take care of as well, but no matter what subject you desired to speak on, whether it be flowers or whether it be birds, whether it be bees, fish, animals or anything, you soon found out that he was well versed in any field.
One of his great hobbies was reading history. He often expressed to me that one of the great reasons for his love for history was the fact that he could sit down and within a few hours or within an evening he could live the life span of another person or another century.
It is very regretful that by his untimely passing he did not have the opportunity to write a history, even if it would have been a local one of Frederick and Montgomery Counties or Western Maryland or even greater it would have been for him to offer some authority, some legal textbook and passed on the great knowledge to those who followed in the progression at a later time.
Though he as times suffered physical pain he did not look for sympathy not attempt to pass his worries on to his friends like many of those in this room that he suffered severely with the gout.
I have seen him when his foot was so swollen it hurt me to look at it, he would pass it off in a joking manner and simply would say, isn’t that a beauty?
Speaking of a joking manner, he maintained throughout his life time a great sense of humor, which was appreciated and enjoyed by all of his friends.
I want to point out one more instance in his life which disturbed me very greatly. Together with other friends he took a course in navigation, known as the power squad. It was a group of men who took this course to make safer the waterways for small craft.
Together with his friends he received his diploma from the power squad course, but they gave an accelerated course which required a knowledge of trigonometry and geometry and after more than thirty years from school – probably the only place he studied the subjects were in high school here in Rockville – he went into Washington and purchased books on geometry and trigonometry. He went on to take this course, this accelerated course and again he finished high in his class and even higher than those who had recently made studies of these two particular subjects.
I speak of this only to reiterate his great ability.
In closing, may I say those of you who knew him lost a real and true friend and society in general witnessed the passing of a man of great ability and resources.
Now, do you want to say anything?
JUDGE SHOOK: I cannot let this occasion pass without adding my word. I know we have a lot of lasting memories but I also know that persons live in other people’s memory and as far as I am concerned, Judge Prescott won’t die as long as I live.
I came on the bench when he was the Chief Judge of this Court, and many, many lawyers considered me quite an oddity, but Judge Prescott never did.
I first sat with him at his invitation so I would feel comfortable on the bench. I sat that first spring, and it was almost fourteen years ago now, in a series of rape and sex cases, probably some of the most reprehensible ones we have had in this Court.
I remember after sitting with him in the first case, trying to keep the poker face, when we got back in the robing room he said, “Kathryn, come with me, I have got some books you have just got to read.”
So in every instance, as Judge Schnauffer said, he immediately gave me his list of instructions to the jury which I used for many years.
He was helpful whenever I could turn to anyone to ask advice. I always knew he was there. I don’t think he would let this occasion go by without perhaps chuckling if he were here – I remember him being asked in Atlantic City on the occasion of his having almost reached his 70th year how it felt to be 70 and he said, “Well, considering the alternative, pretty good.”
So, I trust and hope that in all of our memories of those who loved him that we will remember him as a kind, understanding, true Maryland gentleman.
JUDGE PUGH: Of course I have had somewhat similar experiences with Judge Prescott. I always felt more or less related to him. I was so close to him throughout my career here, practicing law right in this court room.
I succeeded Judge Prescott as State’s Attorney in 1934. He was elected to the Senate and from 1934 until 1939 I served as State’s Attorney and Judge Prescott was the most outstanding, capable defense lawyer that ever practiced law in this court room. And he taught me the hard way how to become a State’s Attorney.
He was very efficient, forceful and able defense counsel.
It was also my good fortune prior to 1934 of having been practicing law for a short time before I was elected in 1934 during which period Judge Prescott was the State’s Attorney.
He was an able, outstanding and fearless prosecutor. When he was elevated to the bench, Judge Prescott, along with Judge Woodward, in my humble opinion, were the cause of keeping out of this county the gambling influence that was in full force and effect in our bordering county.
They were the ones that were responsible for keeping this county clean by the manner and the severity with which they dealt with gamblers.
It was only this morning that I had the privilege of convening a new grand jury, and on every occasion that I have convened a grand jury I have referred to the fact that our county has been clean and that we have been blessed by good judges.
Judge Prescott and Judge Woodward led the way to keeping this county a clean county.
Everything that has been said about Judge Prescott of course is true, but more than that, Judge Prescott was dedicated to the profession of the law.
He was a dedicated lawyer when he was practicing. He was a dedicated prosecutor when he was prosecuting. He was a dedicated judge when he was presiding in this Court on the trial level. He was a dedicated Chief Judge of this Court, and he was a dedicated Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals of Maryland.
I made the remarks to him upon his retirement – I said to him, “Nippy, if there ever was a man who had reached the goal that he sought during his life time or who had accomplished the ambition of his life, you are that man.
He wanted to be chief judge of the Court of Appeals to such an extent that I am certain that he was burning up with the desire to get to be Chief Judge not because of the honor upon which that office bestowed him or was bestowed upon him, but because it was the leader of the profession in this state.
He was a great Marylander. He was a great county man.
No matter what is said about Judge Prescott, he will go down in history as one of the greatest, if not the judge, lawyer and Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals in Maryland’s history.
His opinions reflect that. His able and outstanding opinions on the Court of Appeals reflect the type of man he was.
He was a student of the law and he was dedicated to his profession.
And he had accomplished in my opinion the height of the profession and he well deserved it.
JUDGE SHURE: Judge Schnauffer and members of the Prescott family and people in attendance today, I won’t attempt to say much because I emotionally would not be able to.
As the other people were talking I was enjoying within myself some of the recollection of days gone by, so many pleasant memories with Nippy.
Some of you may remember the times when Judge Schnauffer and Judge Pugh and I and later John McInerney used to go to Atlantic City together and there has been very little said about Nippy’s priceless sense of humor but these were among the things that made me love him so much.
We didn’t always agree on everything, but whatever has been said in this court room about his ability, about his integrity, about his standing in the profession cannot be over-emphasized.
This county and this state have lost a very great man and it is an old cliché, but it is never more appropriate than now to say that upon Nippy’s death we all lost a great friend.