James J. Cromwell
February 19, 1935 - October 30, 2012
Jim Cromwell was the epitome of a gentleman and scholar, but more important it was the way he conducted these talents that set him apart. As a colleague once said to me:
Notwithstanding his exceptional intelligence, if just being a nice guy counted toward a lawyer’s greatness, Jim would be at the very top of the list.
Another colleague commented about Jim, he said:
He applied and combined his intellectual and analytical ability with old school charm and charisma. He never got angry, rarely raised his voice, and used good natured humor to deflect his opponents’ attacks.
As a young prosecutor in the State’s Attorney’s Office these characteristics served him well when presenting a case. Jim’s smile and congenial manner were such that at the end the poor defense attorney was shocked to find his client was smiled into prison for a long term.
Jim handled many different legal problems in his career. Once asked what his specialty was, he said, “I specialize in the legal problems of my clients”. That was true. As a great trial lawyer he was elected a Fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers. As an expert in estates and trust, he was elected as a Fellow of the American College of Estates and Trusts. In business law, he represented banks, hospitals, and every other kind of business. He was on the board of banks, hospitals and his school. In our profession, he held many important posts, including President of our Bar here, and a member of the Executive Committee of the State Bar. He received requests from the State of Maryland through its governors and chief judges. As a result, he served on the Commission to Reorganize and Re-codify the Annotated Code of Maryland, on the Commission on Law Enforcement in the Administration of Justice, Chairman of the Commission on the Future of the Maryland Courts, Chairman of the Maryland Appellate Judicial Nominating Commission, and the Attorney Grievance Commission of Maryland. Recognizing his many contributions to our law and courts he received the highest honor awarded by the Maryland State Bar, the H. Vernon Eney Award for contributions to the Administration of Justice. In Montgomery County, he received virtually every award the county Bar gives, The Century of Service Award, the Professionalism Award, and Honorary Life Bar Leader.
I could not discuss Jim Cromwell, however, without talking about his love for golf. He played it frequently. On the golf course he was always friendly, funny, and a person you simply enjoyed to be with. The thought that he might become upset, was simply unheard of.
He had his own set of rules. The best known was the beast rule. This rule is that if your opponent sees a terrible shot you just hit and declares it a beast, you get to take it over. The corollary to the rule was that you could not get the ball you miss-hit, you had to leave it for someone else to find.
He also had the Salter rule, which he named after our colleague Jim Salter. If your ball is stymied behind a tree, you were given an option, you could either move the tree or the ball.
Every one of his rules involved a laugh, a joke, and fun during a golf outing.
I remember another example when Jim, John, and I were playing with Chief Judge Robert Murphy at a State Bar Meeting. The Chief was there because he enjoyed Jim’s company, which made a relaxed afternoon that a bad golfer could enjoy as much as a good one. The Chief hit a bad shot and it went into some high rough. He could not find it, but Jim found it for him but before he told the Judge where it was, he put the ball on a long green tee. When the Judge came up to the ball, he just looked down, hit it, and walked off. We always joked among ourselves as to whether he knew his ball was on the tee. We never learned the answer.
Jim was also famous for his poker parties, where his friends enjoyed his invitation to play. It was not the fun of gambling, it was the fun of being with Jim and having an enjoyable evening.
Whether he was in law, or in socializing with us, Jim Cromwell was always the essence of a great guy.
James Julian Cromwell, Past President and long-time member of the Bar Association of Montgomery County, MD, passed away on Tuesday, October 30, 2012.
Beloved husband of Louise Matthews Cromwell and the late Barbara Betts Cromwell. Father of Elisabeth Lawrence Cromwell, James Julian Cromwell, Jr. and David Cluskey Cromwell. Brother of Dr. Stephen C. Cromwell and Phyllis E. Cromwell. Mr. Cromwell is also survived by his 8 grandchildren.
Memorial Service to be held on
Nov. 10, 2012 ~ 2:00 pm
Christ Episcopal Church
107 South Washington Street, Rockville, MD 20850
In lieu of flowers memorial contributions may be made to the National Rehabilitation Hospital, 102 Irving Street, NW, Washington, DC 20010 or to the Suburban Hospital Foundation, 8600 Old Georgetown Road, Bethesda, MD 20817.