On July 18, 2007, Joseph R. Whaley, Esquire, died from heart failure. Joe had been battling cancer for over a year, and he appeared to be increasingly successful in that struggle. Then, unexpectedly, he was diagnosed with a heart condition that prematurely ended his life. He fought a brave fight, never giving up, always looking to the future.
Joe was born in Lafayette, Indiana, to Randall and Miriam Whaley. He attended Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio, graduating in 1968, with a Bachelor of Arts degree. He served in the Peace Corps in the Philippines as a volunteer teacher/trainer from 1969 to 1971. Upon his return to the United States, Joe attended law school at Catholic University of America, where he received his J.D. in 1975. While at Catholic, he was a senior staff member of the Catholic University Law Review, 1974-1975. He was admitted to practice in Maryland and the District of Columbia, and was a member of the Montgomery County Bar Association and the Bar Association of the District of Columbia.
He was known to be a brilliant and thorough attorney. He was a skilled litigator who knew when to attack and when to withdraw. In The Art of War, Sun Tzu perfectly expressed the leadership Joe possessed as a lawyer, “When you are going to attack nearby, make it look as if you are going to go a long way; when you are going to attack far away, make it look as if you are going just a short distance. Draw them in with the prospect of gain, take them by confusion.”
In one case, a client described Joe’s humble courtroom manner as “the Forrest Gump approach.” He could, she said, fool opposing counsel by appearing to be confused or disorganized, dropping papers and musing during proceedings, all the while carrying out a carefully planned strategy designed to lull the opposing side into assuming he was not attending to the proceedings. They usually lost if they made that assumption.
Joe was wise and discerning. Mentor to more attorneys than he was even aware of, he shared his knowledge with anyone willing to listen and learn. He was a lawyer, but his strongest skill was that of teacher by example. Even as a great listener, he could also be a stern taskmaster, but once he taught a lesson, it could never be forgotten. He could sum up a situation and clarify it, always applying logic to facts. “Words have meaning,” he said more than once, “. . . use them precisely.” The attorneys who had the honor and privilege of working with Joe over time gained a priceless advantage in the practice of law.
The depth and breadth of Joe’s knowledge was not limited to the law, however. His interests knew no boundaries. His travels and unceasing research fueled his concerns for making this world a better place for everyone, and he sought solutions to problems affecting the human condition, both locally and globally. He had a thorough understanding of science, economics, politics and how the world works. He was a prolific reader, and what he read, he understood and remembered. He could weave together disparate concepts to make a coherent and precise analysis, usually astounding those listening. He loved to argue, and could take any position and, more often than not, prevail in debate. He had a wonderful sense of humor, by turns wacky and ironic, always with a little smile.
Of all his many good qualities, however, none affected so many so profoundly as his dedication to the integrity of truth, knowledge, logic, infinite compassion and the process that binds it all together. There are many people who profess to live by ethics or morality, but when their lives are closely examined, their virtue is nothing more than facade. In every aspect of his life, Joe lived by what he believed was right. More important, he had a mighty and kind heart. He had more compassion in the tip of his little finger than ten men have in their entire bodies. You could count on him. He lived his life holding these essential qualities in wonderful balance. "Stay alert, stay aware of the facts as they are arising . . . have the end in view."
What Joe loved most were his children and his family. Joe was, and is, dearly loved, and will be forever missed. He is survived by two children, David and Alison Whaley, by his sisters, Lis Braun and Suzanne White, and by a wife, Lois.
A memorial service in honor of Joe Whaley was held at the Montgomery County Judicial Center, 50 Maryland Avenue, Rockville, Maryland on Friday, August 24, 2007, at 5:00 p.m., in Courtroom 1 of the Circuit Court for Montgomery County, Maryland. Friends and colleagues of Joe Whaley were given the chance to say a few words if they wished to honor him.
A scholarship fund is being arranged for Joe’s children, David and Alison Whaley. If you wish to donate to the fund, contact the email address listed above and note in the "re:" line "Scholarship Fund."