JUDGE SHURE: Mr. Prescott.
MR. PRESCOTT: May it please the Court, I would now call on Mr. James Salter to speak on behalf of Mr. James F. Tomes.
MR. SALTER: May it please the Court –
JUDGE SHURE: Mr. Salter.
MR. SALTER: Survivors of the family, friends of Jim Tomes and brothers of the Bar, I remember a comment Jim made to me once. He said, “I really don’t want to do this. I wish they would ask somebody else. Do you think they will let me get out of it? I am going to make it short and sweet.”
That was four years ago as he jotted down notes to deliver remarks at this meeting on behalf of my father. Now I know what he meant. I didn’t really appreciate it.
This is a very trying experience for all of us to have lost someone as close as Jim was.
He was born in Council Bluffs, Iowa Christmas Day 1926. He was one of three. His two sisters survive us and are with us today.
During his early childhood his family moved to Montgomery County, and during that time he attended several schools and was finished his secondary education. Subsequent to that, he joined the Army and spent two years in the Army in what he described as working very hard to stay in the United States and out of Europe.
Subsequent to that, he went to the University of Maryland Undergraduate School and worked his way through school. Then, he went to Maryland Law School and graduated in 1952. He was one of those persons that when he graduated he was already a member of the Bar, having taken the Bar Exam prior to graduation.
During his law school education, he worked for the old Suburban Title Company searching titles and apparently fell in love with real estate. I think many of us know here today among his many other legal capabilities, Jim was an expert in real estate. He was always a good trial lawyer, as probably many here know better than I, and particularly the Bench here before us. He was eight years an Assistant State’s Attorney and was in serveral partnerships, always in the general practice of law, and some seven years ago now Jim and I – I was very fortunate. Jim took me in, and we became partners, and that was a very enriching experience for me obviously.
Jim was married and is survived by his widow, who is with us today, and four lovely children who are also with us, in addition to the two sisters. He is also survived by many, many, many close personal friends, and many of those are with us today.
Jim and I were preparing for a trial, as a matter of fact, to be tried before His Honor, Judge Mathias, when he suffered a heart attack on Friday, and nine days later, he was taken for us at the ripe age of 49 years old.
I asked myself could I think of words that might describe Jim Tomes. I don’t have to tell the members of this Bar or the Bench what an excellent lawyer he was. Everybody knew that that came up against him. I came up with four words that I thought brought him to mind for me, and that was professional, fair, honest, and of deep character.
Jim was notonly a father and an excellent lawyer, he was a brother to a lot of us. He was a very close friend of many of us and a confidant and compatriot. I was discussing this with someone who knew him very well the other day, and we came to the conclusion secrets given him were safer with him than they were with ourselves. If you told Jim your secret, you were more likely to tell someone else than he would. You could bet that is where it stayed.
He was a hard man to keep up with, but he is much harder to do without. He was a private, a personable and proud and happy man, and that is the way I want to remember him.
I remember two stories, one I heard in actual commission and the other Jim told me that I thought pointed up the character of the man. He started to school at VMI, and they had an honor code oath down there where they ask you to take an oath you will turn on your friend if you catch them in the future. Jim told me he agonized over it for a long time. As a young man even then he came to the conclusion that he couldn’t take an oath to God that he might not be able to keep, and he didn’t know what kind of friendships he was going to develop, and he wasn’t sure he was going to turn someone in any way. So, he refused to sign the oath that was required at VMI.
The last goes to his practice and the character again. We had a youngster in our office that Jim worked closely with, and we were getting ready to execute on a judgment. It turned out the sale was set for some time a couple of weeks prior to Christmas. The lady managed to get all the way back to Jim’s Office, and we knew then we were in trouble because he was hard pressed to say no, and he convinced the lady in front of the young associate this woman had just come up with a very unique point of law, and as a result, the associate was to take the sale off, and the lady left, and Mr. Tomes indicated to her then, they would have to take care of it in January, but everything would be all right for Christmas.
The associate said to him in the hall, and this is where I picked up the story, I heard the associate say, “Well , Jim, I have researched the law. I can’t find that any where.” Jim said, “Steven, you’re not going to find it in the books, and they are not going to teach you that at law school. That is called the law of compassion.”
JUDGE SHURE: Judge Latham will respond for the Court.
JUDGE LATHAM: I first met my good friend Jim Tomes back in the summer of 1949. It became a friendship that extended for a period of 28 years. We rented an apartment over in Baltimore that year, and he and J. Niles and another lawyer and I lived together for two years. The extent of my friendship can best be demonstrated by the fact that I slept with him for two years, which Anita Bryant I am sure would take umbrage to these days.
In our senior year at law school he and I went to law school at night. We dated hopped or night hopped in his old beat up 1929 Plymouth, I think it was. During that time, he began dating Marie.
We both took the Bar exam together. We passed the Bar together and were sworn in together to the Bar in 1952, which Jim Salter has mentioned back in those days we could take the Bar before we graduated, and both Jim and I were fortunate enough to have passed the Bar examination before we actually graduated from law school.
One of the many traits that Jim Salter didn’t mention was the fact that he was the world’s greatest needler. He would never let me forget that he had gotten two points higher on the Bar exam than I had. I would never let him forget if it had not been for me, he would never have passed equity. He was not a great equity student.
When Jim and Marie were married, it was my honor and pleasure to serve as an usher at their wedding, and the following year when Nancy and I were married, except for the fact Marie had decided to have their first child, Jim would have been an usher at our wedding.
It was because of this type of friendship that I had with Jim Tomes that when Tex Ritterpusch called me the night he passed away I was obviously deeply saddened. He was a contemporary. He was only 49 years old at the time, and my first reaction was and still is that he had died much too soon.
The next morning, however – I am a jogging judge – as I was doing my morning jogging, I had an opportunity to reflect upon the many fine attributes that Jim possessed and the many fine things that he had done since I had known him. He had, as Jim mentioned, a lovely family and four children. He had served as an Assistant State’s Attorney here in Montgomery County for eight years, and his service in that post was characterized by his fairness and his objective at all times to see that justice was done.
He has been an active member of the Montgomery County Bar Association since 1952, serving as an officer of the association and also on many general and special committees. He had been associated with Gregg Everngam for many years in Silver Spring, and started his own law firm and, as Jim mentioned, was a senior partner in the firm of Tomes and Salter at the time of his death.
In June of this year, he would have completed 25 years of active practice at the Bar here in Montgomery County. He was an energetic, hard working lawyer. He was an expert on title and real estate matters, and he was always willing to help younger lawyers in connection with that field whenever he was requested.
I saw him just a few days before he died at a cocktail party that my committee to get me reelected was giving for me after no one decided to run against me last year, and as usual since we were very good friends had had something kind to say. He said, “Dick, I see you got reversed again last week.” That was the type of friendship that Jim Tomes and I had.
When President Kennedy was assassintated, a number of years ago one of his aids wrote a book several years after his death which was titled, “Johnny, we hardly got to know ye’.” I know that I speak for the other members of this Bench and the Bar Association members here present that we had gotten to know Jim Tomes well. We had gotten to respect him. We regret that we did not get a chance to have known him much longer.
For myself and for the other members of our Bench here in Montgomery County, we extend to Marie and the children our sincere condolences. We hope and expect that Jim’s loss would be softened by remembering the many contributions that he made to his family, his community, and to his profession during his life time.
JUDGE SHURE: Thank you, Judge Latham.
The Court thanks the committee for arranging these ceremonies, and the remarks will be transcribed on the record of this Court.
If we all rise, we will have the benediction.