Resolution of Committee of Bar Association of Death of Judge Urner Filed Jan. 18, 1943.
A Resolution Presented By The Bar Association Of Montgomery County To The Circuit Court In Montgomery County At The Incoming of the January Term, 1943.
It is a privileged duty of the undersigned committee appointed by the Bar Association of Montgomery County to present the following memorial to the late Chief Judge of the Fifth Judicial Circuit of Maryland, the Honorable Hammond Urner.
Born in Frederick on December 4, 1868, of a distinguished father, the Honorable Milton G. Urner, who
was a lifelong member of the Bar in his native County and who was twice elected to represent his district in the Congress of the United States. Judge Urner received a thorough and extensive education in public schools and college and was admitted to the Frederick County Bar at the age of twenty three.
Probably few of our brothers in this room knew Hammond Urner as a practicing lawyer. Those of us who did remember that he exhibited, in that capacity, those qualities of courtesy to all, of consideration for his brother at the Bar, of careful and discriminating study of the law, of clear thinking and inherent sense of justice which bore such ripe fruit in his long judicial career. His annoying ability to cite from the Bench the style and record of authorities bearing upon the legal principle at Bar was not accidental or entirely the phenomenon of an acute mind and accurate memory; rather was it the result of a habit, established in the early days of his professional life, of noting down the principles established by judicial decision and the frequent review of his notes, some of which were invariably carried on his person, on occasions which the average man would have deemed leisure moments.
Elected to the exalted position of Chief Judge of this Circuit in 1909, at what was then deemed a youthful age for such preferment, he brought to the Court of Appeal and to the Circuit Bench a rarely gifted mind already ripened by industrious and discerning study and application of the law in the large and active practice which he had enjoyed until his elevation to the Bench.
He did not permit his duties as a member of the Court of Appeals to abridge his contact with the lawyers of his local Bar. On Mondays and Saturdays when the Court of Appeals was customarily adjourned, he might generally be found in chambers or on the Bench in Frederick.
On many occasions Judge Urner graced this Bench with his presence. He sat in many important cases here and was ready to obey the request of the judges of this Court to share their responsibilities whenever he could do so without neglecting his duties as an appellate Judge. His eminent service in the latter capacity, the soundness and lucidity of his numerous and important opinions, his sure and accurate grasp of the legal questions presented for decision and his understanding of the factual basis for such questions are too well within the knowledge of lawyers here and elsewhere to need more than a passing reference.
Although he served nearly two constitutional terms on the Bench, Judge Urner never suffered himself to be elevated in spirit above his fellows. While he possessed the natural dignity and reserve inherent in a cultured gentleman, his contacts with men of all ranks and conditions were easy and free of affectation. Lawyers appearing before him continued to be his brother of the Bar, co-workers with him in the dispensing of truth and justice whatever shortcomings or derelictions he might find among individuals in the profession, he never appeared to lose his faith in the fairness and the integrity of the lawyer at his bar. If he had a fault as a judge it lay in his revulsion from anything that flavored of severity toward his fellow men. His justice was even tempered with mercy, his dignity with courtesy and kindness.
We respectfully move your Honors to cause this memorial to be spread upon the minutes of this term and a copy thereof sent to the family of Judge Urner.
William F. Prettyman
J. B. Welsh
Remarks of William F. Prettyman, Esq., (Following the presentation of the Resolution of the Bar Association)
May it please the Court:
In moving the adoption of this resolution, may I be permitted to add a word or two from a personal standpoint of my contacts and opportunities for appreciating the remarkable character of Judge Urner as a judge and as a man.
Perhaps there are two outstanding characteristics or habits of his that impressed my memory particularly in his contacts with the profession, and they were the easy and gracious greeting with which they were always received by him, whether it was in chambers or in any other social or professional contact. His known learning was never an embarrassment to lawyers who appeared before him; his gracious courtesy always made one feel that he was sharing his learning and his knowledge with the members of the Bar. On the Court of Appeals he seemed to feel that he was a host to the members of his Bar who visited that high court on professional business. It was his habit always to send a personal message to the lawyer appearing before the Court after the argument had closed, and that lawyer was always invited into the conference room and introduced to the other members of the Bench, where he had a moment to chat with them and make himself feel at home. I have many, very many, gracious personal recollections of that phase of his character. The other characteristic is his confidence in the reliability and in the fairness of the lawyers before him, his open mind to discuss with them any questions that might be involved in the case. He persisted, as I said a moment ago, with the atmosphere of taking us into his confidence even under the formalities of a trial before the Bench; and in the Court of Appeals his questions were always courteous and well pointed, and calculated to stimulate the mind to meet the thought that appeared to be in the mind of that member of the Bench.
As most of us know, he filled a number of positions outside of his ordinary judicial duties. He was active in important social and civic affairs in his County. He was appointed, during the last World War, a member of the War Council of Maryland, in which he rendered distinguished service. After his retirement, he was appointed on the commission appointed by the Court of Appeals to revise the Rules of the Court. Those are just a few of the honors that graced him and which he graced in the performance of the duties in those various connections.
The State of Maryland lost a great judge when Judge Urner severed himself from the Bench; it lost a great citizen when he lay down the tools of life and went into a place of higher activity; and I cannot refrain from paying just this personal tribute to the man I knew as a lawyer and as a judge, and I wish to record the high place among the fraternity that this Circuit has enjoyed in the personnel of the Judges who have sat upon our Bench. From them all we have had always courtesy, always discriminating and diligent attention to the cases that were brought by the Bar before the Bench; and there was none more distinguished in any of those characteristics than was Judge Urner.
Remarks of Albert M. Bouic, Esq.
If the Court pleases:
I would like to second the motion that the testimonial to the memory of Judge Urner be recorded among the minutes of this Court. In passing, of course there is nothing I could say that those here do not already know or the records of the Court disclose. We all know that he was a good man and that was a learned judge.
My first recollection of Judge Urner was in 1905. Then he was practicing law, and I heard him deliver an argument to the Court on a legal proposition in an important civil case where on both sides were many eminent lawyers. I was a student at the Bar at that time. I can see him now as he stood before the Court, erect, his voice so modulate, and his reasoning so sound, that after he concluded that argument there was nothing more to be said by anyone. The case was ended and taken to the Court of Appeals, and the views that he had expounded in that argument were sustained by the higher court.
Later on, when he became a judge, there were certain characteristics of Judge Urner that seem to me were outstanding. One of the things that you could not help but pay tribute to was his judicial temperament. I have seen him here often in cases, always important cases. While hearing the trial of an important case, we all went in the Court room; or possibly I might have been interested in one of two of them. I never saw him exhibit the slightest temper or the slightest irritation, no matter how aggravating the case might be, or the attitude of any of the parties or participants, how he could always be so gentle and have that judicial temperament, to me is one of the outstanding traits of Judge Urner.
I recall too, when he was here in the conduct of an important case, presiding, the dignity with which he presided. It was about the time or soon after the Hauptmann case in New Jersey had been broadcast, in which Col. Lindbergh’s child had been kidnapped, a proceeding that, it seem to me, must have been very distasteful to the conservative members of that Bar and that Bench. What happened in this Court was in contrast to the attitude of that Court. In the trial of the case, some very officious newspaper reporter walked into the rear of the Court with a camera and took pictures. Judge Urner spied him, he stopped the proceedings and brought him before the Court, and he was told that this was a court of justice, that that camera picture would be destroyed, and fined him one hundred dollars. It was so in contrast with the proceedings in New Jersey, the proceedings in this Court, over which he took a prominent part, that I say it made an impression on me; and we all know, when he presided, there was dignity here, and there was respect, that it was unusual.
From the records of the cases that he tried, we know that he was very industrious; we know from the records of the Court of Appeals how hard he worked. It seems to me, if the Court pleases, that it is very proper and fitting at this time to stop in these troublesome times and say about him, that he was a good and faithful servant of the people, and I don’t know what else or what more you could say. He never failed to always be interested in the welfare of anyone with whom he was associated. I never saw him that he did not always inquire of the health and welfare of the widow of his associate. And it is a pleasure to me, though distressing, to record these few remarks in tribute to his memory.
Remarks of F. Barnard Welsh, Esq.
May it please the Court:
As a member of the committee, I want to testify to the splendid character of Judge Urner. Judge spent his whole active life in serving this Judicial Circuit; he represented us on the Court of Appeals and on this Bench. I only practiced in his Court for fifteen years, and I want to speak at this time of the three things which impressed me about him.
The first was his friendliness. When I wanted to be admitted to this Bar, Mr. Tom Dawson introduced me to Judge Urner. Judge says, “Meet me at the car in the morning and we will go down together.” Judge didn’t know me then, but that extreme friendliness, which Mr. Bouic has spoken of, one of his outstanding characteristics, prompted him to take me to Annapolis. He introduced me to three or four other Judges of the Court of Appeals, with whom we had dinner. The next morning we had breakfast, and he took me to the Court of Appeals and found a sponsor for me, and I was admitted to this Bar. His friendliness, it seems to me, was one of his outstanding characteristics. I remember on one occasion I addressed the Court of Appeals in a case, and I said to the Court, “If I may be allowed to go outside the record”, and Judge Urner was taking care of me, he shook his head and I knew such a break as that was not going to be allowed by any of the boys he was looking out for. He was a friend wherever we were, and I certainly want to get up here and say so.
His friendliness was one characteristic, but combined with that was his dignity. I practiced before several Judges, and I know of no Judge who had the Bar so much in the hollow of his hand as did Judge Urner. There were some right strong persons at this Bar when Judge Urner was a Judge. I never saw any lawyer who could in any way impose on his Court; he had a firm fairness and friendly way which just made you know your place. I never knew a lawyer that was dissatisfied with one of his decisions. I have heard the decisions of other Judges criticized, but I have never heard any member of this Bar find fault with any decision Judge Urner made.
And, of course, his third outstanding characteristic is learning. I have no idea how many opinions Judge Urner wrote, but I always felt, and I believe all of the members of this Bar felt, when Judge Urner gave his opinion that he really knew. He was not only learned, but everybody knew it and just felt that Judge Urner was right. I certainly enjoyed practicing before him. He was a lovable and lovely character. He gave all of his active life to our service and I am proud to second the adoption of this resolution.
Remarks of George H. Lamar, Esq.
Members of the Committee, and Your Honor, please:
Time is too short for me to undertake to say all that is on my heart today in reference to Judge Urner, and, as the oldest member of this Bar, I will content myself with this short statement, which I think we can all subscribe to:
“In the passing of Judge Urner, the Sixth Judicial Circuit has lost one of its most distinguished and useful citizens, and the Bench a just and upright judge. We of the Montgomery County Bar shall ever cherish his friendship and revere his memory.”
Remarks of Bowie F. Waters, Esq.
May it please the Court:
I have listened with great interest to the memorial and the very suitable remarks that have been made, and I second all of them. I second the memorial; I think it is splendid and well stated.
I knew Judge Urner from the time he came upon this Bench; I knew of him before, because he ranked with the best lawyers of Western Maryland, and of the State for that matter. As I recall, he was elected to succeed Judge Glenn H. Worthington, who had been appointed Chief Judge of this Circuit by Governor Edwin Warfield to succeed Chief Judge James McSherry, who had died. As the election for the fifteen-year term came along afterwards, Judge Urner and Judge Worthington were the opposing candidates, both very popular men, and Judge Urner won, as I remember – I may be in error but I do not think so – by between one hundred and two hundred votes; that is way back some years and I don’t recall everything.
Judge Urner, as has been said, was a kindly spirit; he had an engaging smile; it was a pleasure to meet him. He not only exhibited these very desirable traits upon the Bench, but it was evident and showed itself always whenever he came in contact with people; and I know of nothing that endures and helps an official more than the exhibition of such traits. He will be missed not only upon the Bench, but he will be missed by the host of friends and people he had confidence in through this Juridical Circuit and the State of Maryland. And I myself have felt his loss, not only as far as judge is concerned, I miss the man and miss his smile and kindly greeting. He was an eminent lawyer, a distinguished judge, and a Christian gentleman. What more could be said, what greater monument than the feeling that those things are true. And I wish to say that a great man has fallen, a useful man, and well may we say, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant; enter thou into thy reward.” And let us say to ourselves, “Let us do our work as we travel the unseen and the seen; and make our house, where we may dwell, as beautiful and clean.”
Remarks of Clifford H. Robertson, Esq.
If your Honors please:
I find that what I had intended to say would be mere repetition at this time, and, therefore, I must discard what I intended to say, and say something else.
I am impressed at this time with the thought that a lawyer, when he thinks of Judge Urner, should be proud of his profession. When we recall seeing him and knowing him as we did, and how that he practiced his profession, how that he treated the lawyers who were associated with him and who were on the other side with him in cases, and how he lived as a lawyer, as a Judge, as a member of the community in which he lived, we ought to be proud that we were associated with him.
I want to recall just a few little incidents. Some years ago there was a case in this Court, Gardner vs. Kefauver. I think Mr. Lamar was in the case, and I think Mr. Prettyman was in the case, I am not certain. That case was referred to me under special order of the Court, as the Court Auditor, and we spent weeks in taking testimony and studying that case. It was very complicated, and I must admit that at times I felt absolutely lost in my attempts to solve it. Finally, however, when the case came before the Court, Judge Urner wrote the opinion. I will never forget the simple, pure English he used in writing that opinion, and how the impression was made upon my mind of what a clear legal mind Judge Urner had.
One thing that makes an impression on me, and I think it has on all of the lawyers who knew him – and this is repetition – on one occasion when our local Judges were unable to sign an order in the case in which I was interested, I went to Frederick City and I arrived there, because of some automobile trouble, after the hour of appointment. Judge Urner left his home and came to the Court House on Saturday afternoon and signed that order. You don’t find many Judges who will do that.
I have often walked into this Court Room, and in the Frederick Court Room, when the three Judges were on the Bench, and invariably, during some little interval in the taking of testimony in the case, Judge Urner’s eyes would rove around over the Bar, and as his eyes would meet mine he would smile a greeting from the Bench. I remember one occasion, when the Court of Appeals was in session, an important case was being argued and some of us went over to hear that case. I was sitting in the rear of that Court of Appeals room, and Judge Urner’s eyes roved around the room, and, when he saw me, he smiled and nodded. Gentlemen, are there any of you who will forget that Judge Urner set a precedent for us all to follow, not only as lawyers but as citizens of this community? His whole life, to me, can be summed up in these words: His life was gentle and the elements so mixed in him that one might stand up and say to all the world, “This was a man”.
Remarks of Robert Peter, Esq., President of the Bar Association
With the Court’s permission:
I think this probably ends the tributes which have been paid to Judge Urner other than the Court’s response and, briefly passing. I would like to add my tribute too, because I had the opportunity of practicing law under Judge Urner for approximately eighteen. For almost ten of those years my father was associated with Judge Urner on the Bench, and during that time Judge Urner was frequently in our home. My father and myself made our homes together there, and, unless they were discussing court business that was none of mine, I would often sit and listen to them talk. I can remember many of the things I heard them discussing, and it was a real privilege for any young lawyer to be able to listen in on discussions such as that.
As Mr. Welsh has so vividly said, when he went to Annapolis in a case in the Court of Appeals, if you went over to Annapolis the night before and if Judge Urner saw you, you were always invited to have dinner with such members of the Court as were then in Annapolis, and, if he saw you again at breakfast, the same thing; and, if the case happened to run over the lunch period and the Judges went to that little restaurant across the street, it would be the same thing.
It is really a sense of great personal loss I feel in Judge Urner’s passing. He was a very great man and a very great judge, and even after he arrived at his three score years and ten and he was retired from the Court, when it was seen that the Justice of the Peace system was obsolete in Maryland, it was the Governor who called Judge Urner to do what he could to set up the smaller courts under the Constitution. And there, again, I had the privilege of seeing and listening to Judge Urner, and I can tell you that I never saw anybody who appeared before the Judicial Proceedings Committee of the Maryland Senate that was given more respect than Judge Urner. He was a great man and a great judge.
Judge Woodward, Ladies and Gentlemen of the Bar:
It was not my happy privilege to serve upon the Bench with the gentleman who memory we are now honoring. His services as a Judge ceased nearly one month, to the day, before mine began. I can, however, remember him since early childhood when he would grace our home by dining with my father.
Of course, I do not remember him as an advocate. His career, as such, was almost prematurely determined by his elevation to the Bench at the age of 40 years. I am informed, as a lawyer, he was preeminently fair and candid in debate; took no petty advantage; stooped to no unworthy methods; avoided personal allusions; rarely, if ever, appealed to prejudice; and did not seek to influence passion. He had a quick eye for the strong point of his adversary, and would state his opponent’s side with such amplitude of fairness and liberality of concession that his adherents often complained he was “giving his case away”. But this very fairness often proved his strongest weapon, and the record discloses he was a powerful and influential lawyer, at a very early age.
I heartily concur in the beautiful and sincere expressions of admiration and eulogy of his long and useful term upon the Bench. In stating his encomiums, it is not necessary, as oftentimes it is, to stretch the bare facts, and attribute or justify the same to the fact he is now deceased. While, as stated, concurring in all that has been said, I cannot without repetition add to those sincere and splendid expressions of his deep, profound and comprehensive learning and scholarly deportment upon the Bench with these possible exceptions: Ever courteous to the old and the new – he was a gentleman of the old school himself, and he believed, and displayed the fact, that he believed a member of the Bar was a gentleman. The burden was very strongly upon him, who asserted to the contrary – practically to the point that it had to be proved beyond all reasonable doubt. His long and useful term of office ended shortly before the adoption of the new rules; so he never “charged” a jury. But during his entire service as a Judge, I never heard it said, that by word, action or demeanor did he ever manifest his own leanings or feelings to a jury. One more incident that illustrates his inherent fairness, and his search for pure and unalloyed justice. In the case of Bank vs. Harper, 151 Md. 359, a confessed judgment note was placed of record against a man and his wife. The wife asked that this judgment be stricken out on the ground that her signature was a forgery. The judgment was stricken, and the wife, through an oversight of counsel, filed general issue pleas – you will note the grounds stated in the motion to strike. Issue was joined. Thereafter, with leave of court being first had, an additional plea was filed alleging the forgery. Motions were made to strike out the leave to file the last plea, and not to receive the same. These were overruled and the case proceeded to trial. The jury found the note had never been signed by the defendant. An appeal was taken and a full Bench of eight judges heard the same. This Court reversed the lower – holding that under the statute the signature must be denied in the next pleading, and the lower court had no right to permit the additional plea. This ruling involved a construction of the statute, and most assuredly it was tending to allow a technicality to prevail, rather than what was right and proper – the jury having already found that a forgery had been committed. There was only one dissent against this ruling – Judge Urner felt so keenly concerning it, he not only dissented – but in the easy, lucid and logical style habitually employed by him wrote a powerful and learned dissenting opinion. Had he contributed no more than that one opinion, it would have shown his untiring search for justice and his desire for right to prevail.
Being retired from the Bench at the statutory age in perfect health, the vigor of his active and helpful mind and his great storage of unlimited experience were pressed into service by the people of the State. He headed the committee who drafted and had placed upon the statute books our present Trial Magistrates system. He aided in a great measure in the preparation of vital and substantial parts of the new rules. While I mention only these two, he was active and most useful in many other lines of civic endeavor.
His whole life was a picture of domestic harmony and marital bliss. He and his wife had an abiding and mutual love and affection for each other, seldom displayed by humans. In manifesting his usual deep and thoughtful care for her welfare, he was staying in the City of Baltimore to be near her while she was confined in the hospital. Upon his failure to make his regular call to her bedside, investigation was made at his hotel room. He was found in perfect repose, in his bed, deceased. Thus ended the career of a great lawyer, an outstanding jurist, a beloved father and husband. May I borrow the words of John Randolph and say – it would probably be inaccurate to say there will never be another man like Hammond Urner, because what has happened may happen again; but it is certainly accurate to say there is no Judge Urner today.
I heartily concur in all that Judge Prescott and you gentlemen of the Bar have said about Chief Judge Hammond Urner, and share with the judges, the Bar and the citizens of this Judicial Circuit their feeling of irreparable loss in his passing on September 27, 1942.
I not only had the privilege of practicing before him but I had the honor of serving with him in the Circuit Court for something over six years. We learned that he was a judge of great patience, of uniform kindness and courtesy at all times, and that he possessed a subtle, delicate and delightful sense of humor.
He was at all times and under all circumstances serene, calm, and dignified. His long service on the bench may have given some people the impression that he was somewhat distant, and that he did not care to be too “close” to anyone. But my association with him and a few lines that he repeated on several occasions convinced me that he loved people and that he greatly desired the affection and close friendship of his associates and members of the Bar. The verse that disclosed this desire in his nature ran something like this:
My mother calls me William,
My sister calls me Willie,
My father calls me Will,
But the fellows, they all call me Bill.
He served the people of the State of Maryland faithfully and brilliantly for twenty-nine years. He dealt fairly and justly with all litigants. I never saw him exhibit the slightest trace of bias or prejudice against any person appearing in his Court.
He was possessed of unusual mental attainments, with a keen and penetrating intellect, and a great capacity for work and industry. His opinions as a member of the Court of Appeals are found, beginning with 111 Maryland and running through 175 Maryland. His opinions are clear and concise, written in an easy, flowing style, and exhibiting throughout a gift of accurate expression and straight thinking. They paint a picture of a judge of great legal ability, a deep and thorough student of the law, and a master craftsman at his trade. His opinions will be read and studied and cited as long as lawyers read law. It is hardly possible for any man to have a more enduring heritage to the people of his state and nation.
My service with him and my association with him brought me great profit and pleasure. He was a constant source of inspiration to me.
We are sure that it will be many, many years, before a lawyer or judge is found in this Circuit strong enough to attempt to, “draw the bow of Ulysses”.
To perpetuate the esteem in which he was held and our loss in his death, the motion presented by the Montgomery County Bar Association and all that has been said, will be spread upon the minutes of the Court, and a copy of the resolutions will be sent to the family of Judge Urner by the Clerk.
Charles W. Woodward