TO THE HONORABLE, THE JUDGES OF THE CIRCUIT COURT FOR MONTGOMERY COUNTY
The Committee appointed by the Bar Association of Montgomery County to present to your Honors a memorial to our later brother, Frederick Barnard Welsh, submits herewith as its report the attached attribute to his memory presented to your Committee by his son, Barnard Talbott Welsh, Esq., believing that nothing that your Committee could write would be as fitting for this occasion as this intimate appreciation of a son for a father.
And as in duty bound, etc.
Albert M. Bouic
John E. Oxley
William F. Prettyman, Chairman
October 11, 1954
Mr. William F. Prettyman, Attorney at Law
Dear Mr. Prettyman,
You have asked me to give some facts and anecdotes of the life of my father, the late F. Barnard Welsh, to be used at the memorial service to be conducted by the Montgomery Bar Association. I will refrain from writing of his public life, the various organizations to which he belonged, or the titles which he held, as those are only husks and shells and would not tell you of my father as I knew him.
Dad was a timid shy man. Although his companionship was sought by people who held high office, he was derelict in his social duties, and preferred the informal company of his Rockville friends and county lawyers. Although he was essentially warm and friendly, he did not make friends easily. In the last years of his life, he enjoyed gin rummy games with his lifelong friends, Douglas and Emily Blandford, and Evelyn and Darby Bowman. He seemed to have loved most of all the companionship of his two grand-daughters. He used to meet with them at his home and tell them wild and wooly stories of his Texas and Colorado days. He was able to be with them at that magic place where old age, looking backwards, and childhood, looking forwards, can enjoy a timeless fellowship.
He was a reticent man, but he was devoted to his sons. He showed this devotion by the sacrifices which he made while sending one son to college and another son to medical school during the depression of the early 1930s. At one time he actually gave the shirt off his back to me. We had travelled to Columbia Country Club where I was playing in a tennis tournament, and he did not know that a final round match consisted of five sets, with a rest between the third and fourth. After my shower I had no dry shirt so he gave me his and watched the remainder of the match with a towel draped around his naked shoulders.
Dad had a sense of the importance of sports events. He saw Walter Johnson win the seventh game of the World Series. He frequently saw Babe Ruth but against Walter Johnson and he was in Griffith’s Stadium the time Earl McNeely hit the ball that bounded over Fred Lindstrom’s head. He saw Al Simmons and Goose Goslin knock home runs. He bought a crystal radio to hear the Firpo-Dempsey fight and went to Franklin Field to watch the Army-Navy football game. Long, long ago he introduced me to Bill Tilden. Dad also took me to Rockville “He Night”, a Rockville affair to raise money for the Rockville Volunteer Fire Department. He permitted me to watch the boxing and wrestling and to stay in the hall when the widely advertised “Welsh’s Wild Women” responded appropriately to bawdy shouts of “take it off”.
I suppose that Dad had no more trouble with his sons than other fathers. After I had upset his new Essex automobile, he asked me to drive him to work in order to restore my confidence in my driving and he patiently explained that an automobile did not have the recuperative power of a teen-ager. Perhaps his tolerance at that time was a sensible thing.
Dad was fond of the youth of Rockville, but his ideas of recreation would be unacceptable today. He saw the need of an athletic field and went to his friend, Dr. Broome, and asked for permission to build a field on the property of the Board of Education. He devoted one summer to digging out a fifty foot bank and finally constructed a good athletic field. He also constructed a still serviceable tennis court and organized different athletic clubs, personally taking Rockville teams on trips away from home. He did not seem to understand the modern theory of recreation and was fearful that recreation programs sponsored by municipal authorities would privy both parent and child of initiative. Immediately prior to his death, he made caustic remarks concerning the phenomena of increasing juvenile delinquency and increasing municipal sponsored recreation. He said he did not know whether organized recreation was a cure or a contributing cause of juvenile delinquency.
Dad was a religious man but he distrusted organized and formal religion. He felt that he was sensitive enough to feel in touch with God without having someone show him how. Perhaps he lived up to the spirit of the New Testament Commandment of “Love thy neighbor as thyself”. At least such a conclusion would be reached by one who had seen him as the persevering bald-headed, little old man sitting at his office long hours at night, trying to figure some way to help a destitute and down-trodden individual out of the clutches of the law. He frequently loaded his car with pre-teenagers and drove them to Seneca or down to Rock Creek for a swim. Perhaps the Hereafter will not be too hard on a man who felt toward children as he did.
And so my father was a timid, shy and non-conforming man. But what kind of lawyer was he? Dad was a trial lawyer. He commenced his practice in Colorado and came East where he joined the firm of Dawson and Dawson in 1921. This firm later became Dawson and Welsh and remained so until Tom’s early death. Tom and Dad were able trial lawyers. Tom Dawson was a persuasive and eloquent speaker and Dad was rough and tough. The tried cases against John Garrett and Stedman Prescott. Those must have been the days of glory, and even now one can sit in our Trial Magistrate’s Court room, which at one time was the old Circuit Court room, and hear John Garrett thundering that Dad’s defendant, who was accused of murder, took the deceased on a ride through hell on a hearse. The partnership fell upon evil days and dissolved, from which time Dad practiced alone until his retirement. He was a product of the rough and tumble school of trial work.
Dad’s early association with the ranchers, Indians and outlaws of Colorado did not soften him. He had abundant courage, a quick mind, a bitter and sarcastic tongue, a mean and penetrating eye, and generally was a dangerous lawyer to cross. He was death on a lying witness. Above all else, he possessed the human touch and could wring from a criminal case the last drop of humanity for his client. He possessed a wide knowledge of the law of Evidence and he had at his fingertips the substantive law of Crime. He could take advantage of a technical defect in the State’s case and was not beyond badgering a judge to gain the sympathy of the jury. He never tried a jury case without someone on the jury who we his client or personal friend. He spent as much time before trial selecting the jurors as he did in sifting the facts and learning the law.
We only tried on case together – his last. He was defending a client on an embezzlement indictment and was ill at the time. He knew that his memory for recent events was not retentive, and he did not trust his strength to try a jury case and so he gave me the responsibility of being chief counsel. After the State had introduced its evidence, Dad prodded me into attempting to introduce a line of testimony, to which the State rightfully objected. Judge Prescott called us to the bench and explained clearly why the testimony was inadmissible and said to Dad “Barnard, you understand that, don’t you?” Dad replied, “Judge, I didn’t understand a thing you said.” Judge Prescott replied, “If you can’t understand that I cannot make it clearer.” Dad turned from the bench and for the last time in his life commenced the long walk from the bench to the chair of the defense counsel. I was startled that Dad couldn’t understand a statement that was clear to me, so when he saw my concern he said, with a gleam in his eye, “When the redhead gets me in a tight spot I always tell him I don’t understand. It makes him mad to think that maybe he didn’t explain it clearly.”
I believe Judge Woodward made a remark to Dad which was taken by Dad as a high compliment with reference to his trial ability. Dad was representing a real estate agent who had a weak case. The case was tried before a jury, which returned a verdict in favor of Dad’s client. The opposing attorney filed a motion for a new trial which Judge Woodward immediately granted, saying to Dad, “And I will continue to grant similar motions as long as you continue to win this case.” Dad was rather proud of that.
Dad reached the peak of his ability in the Hendricks murder case. I believe that his closing argument to the jury was superb. It is still thrilling to recall his closing moments. He stepped before the jury, a frail, stoop-shouldered old man, to address them on behalf of his client, who had pumped six shots into his wife’s body from a single shot pistol. For one and a half hours Dad took the jury with him. It returned a verdict of guilty of manslaughter, but Dad was not happy about that because he thought the defendant was insane. After the defendant received a parole he wounded his mother and thereafter was pronounced insane. The case had a unique aftermath. One rainy day, Dad and I were sitting in the office when the defendant walked in. We were both startled as we did not know that he was released from confinement, and did not know his intentions. It developed that he came into the office to ask Dad to write a letter of recommendation for him. He wanted to go to Harvard and lecture on the Maryland penal system. The letter was not written, but Dad said, “You go ahead. You are well qualified and you will feel at home in Harvard.”
I have mentioned that Dad was death on a lying witness. The following incident occurs to me. He was defending a client who was charged with manslaughter by automobile. The State contended that the defendant had been drinking and offered the testimony of a doctor who had examined the defendant shortly after his arrest. On direct examination the doctor said his examination of the defendant showed his eyes were blood-shot. On cross examination Dad asked the doctor which one of the defendant’s eyes was glass. The doctor said the right eye. The defendant took the stand, covered up his left eye, and read a book to the jury. The name of the book – Hochheimer.
Dad had courage in the trial of a case. One time he was appointed to defend a negro who was charged with murder. At that time he was about sixty-five years old and when exposed to cold weather after a heavy meal was apt to have a heart attack. Court had recessed at 5:00 p.m., to reconvene at 7:00 p.m. for closing arguments. We drove to the courthouse and parked in back of the old police station. He got out of the car in the cold weather and had a heart attack. I carried him up to the third floor of the courthouse where he walked into the courtroom and made a convincing argument to the effect that it was justifiable homicide for a hard working colored man to kill his wife with a shotgun because she wouldn’t give him hot dogs for dinner. Of course, he didn’t say it like that, but in any event the negro did not hang.
Dad was generally liked by the lawyers and clients who visited him. He had the gift of being able to give. He used to sit at his over-sized desk with his feet propped up on the corner, his outrageous gray hat perched on his bald head at a rakish angle, twirling an unlighted Camel cigarette between his thumb and forefinger with a volume of Poe or the Code in his lap. There was something about him the man – maybe it was his little sidewise grin, or the devilish twinkle in his eyes, or his quick and graceful movements. One was attracted, but yet confused by his actions, which revealed boyish traits in a man of years and at the same time wisdom in a man of boyish traits.
Dad was a Republican in a county at a time when being one was similar to being a Communist now. He was defeated by Judge Prescott for State’s Attorney and by Judge Woodward for Judge. He re-bounded fast and twice helped organize a Fusion Charter Party and then retired from politics with the parting comment that the air was too pure in the County Building to suit him. He remained a little bitter about the pay for his job as County Attorney, as compared with the payroll of the present County Attorney’s Office.
Dad’s secretaries liked him. Nancy Diamond, Mrs. John Bowman now, helped him over some rough years. Ruth Pratt was with him during World War II, and when she was forced to leave he felt her absence keenly. Lee Miller was one of his favorites. He encouraged her to attend law school and was happy when she became a member of the Maryland Bar. Dad once complained about a Declaration that came from the Miller office to which he had to plead. He said, “It’s perfect and I taught her the form.” Betty Tennery, now Mrs. Newton Butts, joined him in 1946 and was with him during his finest political and legal hours. She watched him decline from the height of his power into his feebleness. She was followed by Zaidee Tennery who had the bitterness of seeing Dad only in his declining days. Dad felt very close to both Betty and Zaidee Tennery.
His retirement was a peculiar thing. He never felt he would retire but he overestimated his strength. His retirement was foretold by dizziness and an increasing inability to recall names when addressing the jury; yet even then he was resourceful enough to turn his weakness into a strength, for when his memory failed he would create a fictitious name. He did this with devastating effect when he referred. Before a jury, to a pompous and hostile physician as “Dr. Feeney”. As his forgetfulness increased he became increasingly sensitive. He considered the practice of law a matter of great trust and did not want a client to mistakenly repose confidence in him. Therefore, he picked up his gray hat, flipped it on his head, took up his cane and walked out. At first he revisited the office frequently, but as time passed, the sorrow of seeing old comrades and of re-living old times brought too many tears into his eyes.
Perhaps you members of the Bar would like to know who among you he loved best. There were those you who reserved some special place in his heart beyond the high esteem in which he held all of you. Dearest of all to him was his old boyhood friend, Albert Bouic. Dad and Jim Pugh shared mutual devotion stemming from their association in many cases. He loved Don DeLashmutt because he was, as Dad said, “A good and kindly man while on the bench”. He respected and admired John Oxley because he, like Dad, had a hard time getting started in Montgomery County. He called all lawyers less than fifty years of age “kid lawyers” and was devoted to them, for he felt that they, like himself, had so much to learn. He thought the world of you, Bill, and respected your integrity and the principles by which you live. He had unswerving confidence in the word of one man – J. Vinson Peter.
Now that he has gone, it seems a shame that the new members of our Bar cannot now know the man who considered the trial of a case to be a real art; who first of all turned to Poe and the Code, who practiced law with his heart, who did not seek wealth through the practice of law but to whom security came, and who, even unto that last evening, retained an interest in Rockville and the legal profession. He wished you all well – he bore no one malice – and, now that he has left us, there are those among us who loved him and miss him deeply.
I hope that his letter is appropriate. It is the best that I can do with thoughts that are tender and painful to me.
Barnard T. Welsh