Gary Huddles, former Baltimore County Council member

Gary Huddles, who served four terms on the Baltimore County Council and was once viewed as a candidate for statewide political office, died Wednesday of Alzheimer’s disease at Arden Court in Pikesville. He was 78.

“Most of his friends thought he would be Baltimore’s County’s first Jewish county executive,” said a son, Kirk Huddles of Baltimore. “He became embroiled with Jeffrey Levitt, and that derailed his political career.”

Levitt was a key figure in Maryland’s savings and loan scandal of the 1980s.

Born in Baltimore and raised in Ashburton, Mr. Huddles was the son of Paul Huddles, a Russian immigrant who founded a Venetian blind business, and Esther Huddles.

He was a graduate of Forest Park High School, where he was a popular figure and was a top-scoring basketball player. He then earned a bachelor’s degree at the University of Maryland, College Park, and degree from the University of Maryland School of Law.

He served as an assistant Baltimore County state’s attorney and was called in to Baltimore after the 1968 riots. He worked with those who had been arrested and were held temporarily at the downtown Civic Center.

He ran for a seat on the Baltimore County Council in 1970 and won, with 43,313 votes, running on a ticket with County Executive Dale Anderson. Mr. Huddles was re-elected three times. When he sought re-election in 1974, he said the keynote of his campaign would be the “confidence and integrity of government.” In 1975, he served as chairman of the council.

“Gary had charisma,” said television newscaster Richard Sher, a longtime friend. “He was the man who all his mostly Jewish friends wanted to look like and their wives wanted to date. He was friendly and outgoing. He was the kind of guy we all thought would be governor of Maryland one day. He didn’t dress to the nines — he dressed to the 10s and 11s.”

Herb Kasoff met Mr. Huddles at Forest Park High School and remained his closest friend for more than 60 years.

“I followed his court appearances as a young prosecutor,” said Mr. Kasoff. “You would not want to go up in front of him before a jury. He was smart, knowledgeable of the law and made a nice appearance. … He was always one of the guys despite being an icon. We called him ‘The Hud’ — a term meaning you were good looking and had it all.”

Mr. Huddles was ultimately absolved from his first round of trouble in 1985, after Old Court Savings and Loan collapsed and left the state of Maryland to right much of its financial damage.

“It was revealed that Huddles had received a $60,000 unsecured loan in 1982 from a subsidiary of a thrift controlled by his friend, Jeffrey A. Levitt, whose later thefts from Old Court Savings and Loan contributed to the collapse of the state's S&L system,” said a 1997 Baltimore Sun article. “Huddles quickly repaid the loan, plus $24,900 in interest. But in August 1985, the FBI announced that it was investigating whether a link existed between the loan and Huddles' vote granting apartment density zoning to Levitt-controlled property in Pikesville. Two years later, the FBI cleared Huddles, but the political damage had been done. Huddles announced that he would never again seek elective office.”

A 1987 editorial in The Sun said, “We are pleased that Mr. Huddles has emerged with clean hands. He had a positive influence on the County Council and deserves the return of his good name.”

In 1989, he announced that he was donating $90,000 of unused political campaign contributions to charity.

In 1997, Mr. Huddles pleaded guilty to illegally handling $840,000 in a monetary transaction of illegally derived property.

“His hands clasped behind his back, Huddles stood in a federal courtroom in Baltimore and said he should have known better,” according to The Sun article at the time. “ ’I would just like to say I have done many things in my life of which I am very proud. I did not read the danger signals that should have been evident. For this, I stand before this court.’ "

He was given a two-year sentence and was ordered to forfeit $586,500 to the federal government.

“He came back from prison camp and had to overcome adversity,” said his friend, Mr. Kasoff. “He held his head high and overcame that trouble. His friends stuck by him.” Mr. Kasoff said that as part of his probation, Mr. Huddles worked with Bea Gaddy to feed Baltimore’s poor.

“He did his community service and returned to Bea Gaddy’s kitchen because he thought it was a cause that was worthy and wanted to do more,” Mr. Kasoff said

“My father was a great man who loved politics because it gave him an opportunity to help people,” said his son. “That was the allure. He was far from perfect, but any mistakes he made were out of selfless love. You always left my father feeling great.”

Services will be held at 11 a.m. Sunday at Sol Levinson and Brothers, 8900 Reisterstown Road.

In addition to his son, survivors include another son, John Huddles of Los Angeles; and two grandchildren. His marriage to Linda Schwartz ended in divorce.

jacques.kelly@baltsun.com

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