George Beall, the U.S. attorney who led the investigation and prosecution that ended with the resignation of Vice President Spiro T. Agnew in 1973, died of cancer Sunday at his home in Naples, Fla. He was 79.
"George Beall was a legendary federal prosecutor, an exemplary public servant and a lawyer of unsurpassed integrity," Maryland U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein said in a statement. "Although George Beall's family was politically active and Vice President Agnew was a member of Beall's own political party, Beall did not hesitate to pursue the case. His commitment to justice serves as an example to us all."
Born in Frostburg, Mr. Beall was from a prominent political family. His father was U.S. Sen. J. Glenn Beall, who served from 1953 to 1965. His brother, J. Glenn Beall Jr. also served in the U.S. Senate, from 1971 to 1977.
Mr. Beall attended Phillips Exeter Academy and earned a bachelor's degree from Princeton University. He was a graduate of the University of Virginia School of Law. A paratrooper, he served in the Army and belonged to the Maryland National Guard.
Mr. Beall served as a clerk for chief Judge Simon E. Sobeloff of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court in 1963-1964, He then joined Smith, Somerville & Case, a Baltimore law firm.
Mr. Beall was named U.S. attorney for Maryland in 1970 and was head of the office when reports of corruption in Baltimore County came to his attention. The investigation, which initially focused on local officials, including County Executive Dale Anderson, soon led to Mr. Agnew, a former Baltimore County executive and Maryland governor. Richard M. Nixon selected Mr. Agnew as his vice president in 1968.
"We stumbled across the evidence against Agnew, and George Beall had the courage not to stop the investigation, even as he was getting calls from Nixon's White House to end it," said Barnet D. Skolnik, one of Mr. Beall's assistants and chief of the office's public corruption unit.
"He didn't take the easy way out. He said, 'Keep me posted and you've got a green light.' What became a thin case against the vice president became a very strong case. George Beall was a man of courage and moral strength."
Mr. Skolnik recalled that throughout the summer of 1973, as the Agnew investigation continued, Mr. Beall drove him and other attorneys to meet with U.S. Attorney General Elliott Richardson in Washington.
"George drove us to Washington, and we got stopped for speeding twice on the highway. George showed his credentials, and the trooper said, 'Have a nice day,'" Mr. Skolnik said.
At one point, Mr. Beall and his staff had issued more than 500 subpoenas in the case. Mr. Agnew ultimately pleaded no contest to one count of tax evasion and resigned the vice presidency at the old Calvert Street federal courthouse in downtown Baltimore in October 1973.
"George Beall was the best boss I ever had," said Ron Liebman, another member of the team of federal prosecutors. "He never asked my pollical affiliation when he hired me. It was an overwhelming case against Agnew, and [Mr. Beall] never batted an eye when we presented the case. ... He was with us all the way, from Day 1."
Others recalled Mr. Beall's ability to work with others, including other federal agencies.
"He was man who had pride, but he also had very little vanity," said Russell T. "Tim" Baker Jr., who went on to serve as Maryland's U.S. attorney from 1978 to 1981. "Ego didn't get in his way. He was very good at working with the Internal Revenue Service. Their agents, who were outstanding, found the needles in the haystack, the canceled checks — the ammunition that made the political corruption cases."
Mr. Baker also recalled how Mr. Beall invested his agency's time in complicated investigations aimed at exposing political corruption.
"We heard rumors, but we did not have any allegations," said Mr. Baker, who was also part of the original investigative team. "We had to find the evidence. Nobody brought it to us. The man had guts."
Stephen H. Sachs, who preceded Mr. Beall as Maryland's U.S. attorney and later served as state attorney general, said, "Party lines were never a profound concern for George. He understood compromise and he had patience. In the Agnew case, he never flinched."
As Maryland's top federal prosecutor, Mr. Beall also investigated James "Turk" Scott, a member of the Maryland House of Delegates who was charged with selling heroin. Mr. Scott was killed in Bolton Hill before his case could be tried.
Mr. Beall served as U.S. attorney until 1975. He then joined the Baltimore law firm of Miles and Stockbridge. In 1988, he opened the Baltimore branch of Hogan & Hartson, a District of Columbia-based firm. He served as the managing partner of the Baltimore office for a decade.
"George always took pleasure in other people's success and conveyed it with a complete sense of equanimity," said Stephen J. Immelt, CEO of what is now Hogan Lovells. "George was the senior partner, but he genuinely took pride and pleasure in the accomplishments of others. He was curious and driven, but he knew how to enjoy life. He allowed the people around him to be comfortable, too — and to enjoy themselves.
Mr. Beall enjoyed the outdoors. He had homes in Baltimore County, Florida and Wyoming.
For part of his career, he represented the Baltimore Ravens and often sat alongside former team owner Art Modell at home games. After he retired, Mr. Beall played golf three times a week. He was a former Maryland Club president and competed in squash games there.
No funeral is planned.
Mr. Beall is survived by his wife of 37 years, Carolyn Campbell; a daughter, Rebecca Beall Di Sabato of Summit, N.J.; two stepsons, Jamie Alban of Baltimore and Nicholas Guy Alban of Nashville, Tenn.; a stepdaughter, Tobey Frederick of Easton; 16 grandchildren; and a great-granddaughter.