Edward O. "Ned" Thomas, a retired District Court and Circuit Court judge for Worcester County who was a Baltimore native, died of congestive heart failure March 20 at his home at Buckingham's Choice in Adamstown. He was 94.
Raised on Englewood Road in Roland Park, he was the son of Oscar B. Thomas and Josephine Reindollar. His father was an owner of the Thomas & Thompson Co. drugstores, and as a boy, Judge Thomas worked summers at the business. He attended Roland Park Country and Roland Park Elementary schools and was a 1936 graduate of City College, where he was class valedictorian.
He attended the Johns Hopkins University, with a scholarship to cover the $300 tuition that had been established at City College to support a "scholarly gentleman," according to a biographical sketch prepared by his family members.
They said that during his sophomore and junior years at Hopkins, he felt he would like to pursue art. He enrolled in night school classes at the Maryland Institute College of Art. He initially took painting classes and by chance enrolled in a sculpture course.
"He told me his teachers said he was a mediocre painter, but 'they think I'm a genius in sculpture,'" said his sister, Mary Jo Campbell of Cockeysville. "He was hardworking and studious and gregarious. He loved people."
While at MICA, he met Katherine "Kitty" Merle-Smith, who was also an art student. Some 67 years later, they would marry.
Family members said he was advised against a career as an artist. He earned a prelaw degree at Hopkins and enrolled in the University of Maryland School of Law.
He studies were interrupted by his military service in World War II. Judge Thomas was commissioned in the Army Air Forces and assigned to bases throughout the South. He left active military service in 1945 and remained active in the Air Force Reserve. He retired as a lieutenant colonel, family members said.
He received his law degree in 1948 from the University of Maryland and then practiced law in downtown Baltimore at the firm of Harley, Wheltle and Victor. He later practiced in Snow Hill until his appointment to the bench in 1971.
He was among the first judges appointed in 1971 to Maryland's newly formed District Court. He served under Chief Judge Robert F. Sweeney and heard cases in Snow Hill and Ocean City.
He was later appointed a judge for the 1st Judicial Circuit, in Worcester County, where he served until retiring in 1984, family members said.
In 1955, he married Alixandra Doupnik and became a stepfather to her two sons. In the 1980s, they designed and built a retirement house in Frederick County. He retired from the bench in 1984 and continued to hear cases as a substitute judge. His wife died in November 1984.
Family members said that after his retirement, Judge Thomas had the time to paint. He also resumed sculpture and worked in clay and bronze.
"He became an accomplished and respected painter and sculptor," said stepson Forrest Russell Doupnik of Baltimore. "His dynamic figure sculptures attracted wide admiration."
Judge Thomas created a bronze bust of Judge Sweeney that stands in the offices of the state District Court in Annapolis. He also made a sculpture of Jesus' entry into Jerusalem that is displayed at the Roland Park Presbyterian Church.
After the death of his first wife, Judge Thomas married Mary Ann McCosh of Baltimore. The couple moved to Buckingham's Choice in Adamstown. She died in 2002.
In 2005, Judge Thomas married Katherine Merle-Smith, whom he had first met at the art school in 1938.
A memorial service will be held at 10:30 a.m. April 14 at Roland Park Presbyterian Church, 4801 Roland Ave.
Survivors include his wife, his stepson and his sister.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun