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Elliott A. Brager, lawyer and fundraiser

Trials and ArbitrationMedical ResearchSocial MovementsJustice SystemLaws and LegislationHIV - AIDSUniversity of Maryland, College Park

Elliott A. Brager, an attorney who was an accomplished fundraiser for HIV treatment and research, died of heart failure Monday at his Mount Washington home. He was 72.

Born in Baltimore and raised in the Park Heights area, he was the son of Philip Brager, a wholesale shoe inventory control specialist, and the former Hilda Levitz, an executive secretary who also worked in the shoe business.

He attended Robert E. Lee School No. 49 and was a 1959 City College graduate. He earned a bachelor's degree at the University of Maryland, College Park and was a graduate of the University of Maryland School of Law.

As a young lawyer, he worked for attorney Abraham L. Adler in his office in downtown Baltimore.

"I thought Elliott was a fine associate. He was conscientious, hard working and he was a student of the law," said Mr. Adler. "He was punctual and well prepared when he went to court. In later years, he was an aggressive pursuer of his clients' interests. He could be relentless in pursuing their interests, too."

Nearly 30 years ago, Mr. Brager opened his own practice on Liberty Road. Friends recalled that Mr. Brager worked as a single practitioner.

"He was known for his work in debt collections. He was also known as being aggressive," said his brother, Paul E. Brager of Lewes, Del. "One day, a judge admonished him for being so aggressive in court. My brother thanked the judge."

More than 35 years ago, Mr. Brager became an advocate for the Baltimore Gay and Lesbian Community Center and for the Baltimore chapter of the Gay and Married Men's Association.

"Elliott was a lawyer at a time when openly supporting Baltimore's gay community could have been a detriment to a successful law practice. It didn't stop him," said John C. Love, a retired attorney and former president of the Baltimore Gay and Lesbian Community Center who now lives in France. "He was nice guy, and he had the ability to bring people together."

"When Elliott decided to back a cause, he was passionate about it," said Bonnie Serpick, a friend who lives in Towson. "He would give it his all. He was amazing. He seemed to know everybody and had people's phone numbers and addresses. He'd say, 'You need to be involved. You need to buy tickets to events.'"

Friends recalled that Mr. Brager attended Baltimore Symphony Orchestra pops concerts and often had dinner in the Mount Vernon area afterward. He mixed with patrons at the old Gampy's and Harvey House restaurants, where he talked up the fundraising events he sponsored.

"If you didn't buy a ticket, he'd hound you to death," said Steve Shavitz, a friend of many years who lives in Baltimore. "He was there at the beginning of the openly gay social movement in Baltimore."

Mr. Shavitz recalled that Mr. Brager gathered the gay community for a fall fundraiser and a spring brunch.

"If there were 1,000 tickets, Elliott sold 900 of them," Mr. Shavitz said.

In the 1980s, as AIDS took the lives of many of his friends, Mr. Brager became an advocate for the Chase Brexton Health Center and AIDS Action Baltimore, among other organizations.

"He was a pillar of the gay community in Baltimore," said a friend, Stacey Alsop of St. Louis. "He had a heart of gold. He was a thoughtful man who never missed your birthday with a card."

He joined with organizers of an annual charity, Lifesongs for AIDS, to raise funds for medical research. He sold tickets for events at the Lyric and Meyerhoff with performers such as George Burns, Eartha Kitt, Joel Grey, Tony Bennett, Tom Jones and Liza Minnelli.

Colleagues said that Mr. Brager helped expand awareness of the AIDS crisis beyond the gay community and reached out to people who then supported scientific research.

"Elliott was able to go into different communities," said Gail Kaplan, a friend and Classic Catering People executive. "He made you feel good and welcomed."

Mr. Brager also enjoyed putting together large theater parties and often bought blocks of tickets at the old Mechanic Theatre and at the Hippodrome.

"He loved baseball and he knew it inside-out," said Mr. Shavitz. "He never really took a vacation. Maybe he'd go away for a few days, but he never really relaxed. His relaxation was his work."

Services were held Wednesday at Sol Levinson and Bros.

In addition to his brother, survivors include a son, Barry Brager of Atlanta; a daughter, Laurie Auerbach of Rockville; and two grandchildren. His marriage ended in divorce.

jacques.kelly@baltsun.com

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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