Jeffrey B. Smith Sr., retired Baltimore trial attorney, dies

Jeffrey B. Smith, 90, a retired Baltimore trial attorney and a former partner of the old law firm of Smith, Somerville and Case, died June 17 from Alzhemier's disease at the Fairhaven retirement community in Sykesville. The former longtime Sudbrook Park resident was 90.

"Jeff was a very friendly and invigorating kind of guy. He really was a Renaissance man who was always doing some kind of activity or other," said Robert Y. Dubel, former head of Baltimore County public schools who had been a college classmate of Mr. Smith at then-Western Maryland College, now McDaniel College.

"Our wives were classmates at Western Maryland, and our friendship went back to college days where Bob and I played bad football," Dr. Dubel said with a laugh. "We eventually lived near each other, our children were friends, and for more than 50 years we spent every New Year's Eve together."

The son of Frank Hurd Smith, a landscape gardener, and Emma Brouilette Smith, a homemaker, Jeffrey Bordeaux Smith was born in Des Moines. When he was an infant, the family moved to a home on Lennox Street in Bolton Hill.

A 1944 graduate of Baltimore Polytechnic Institute, Mr. Smith served in the Army Air Corps in 1945 and was stationed at Mitchell Air Force Base on Long Island, N.Y., where he completed pilot training.

Discharged at the end of 1945, he enrolled at Western Maryland College and obtained a bachelor's degree in 1949.

In 1948, he married the former Ninita "Nita" Barkman, a classmate at the college.

In 1959, the couple purchased a residence in the 600 block of Sudbrook Road in Sudbrook Park. The house had once been the residence of William Ross Howard III, who in 1943 became the husband of Hollywood actress Dorothy Lamour.

Mr. Smith and his wife lived there for the next 51 years until moving to Fairhaven in 2010.

He obtained a law degree in 1951 from the University of Maryland Law School and passed that state bar exam that year.

Mr. Smith worked as a resident trial attorney for Liberty Mutual Insurance for eight years, then joined Smith, Somerville and Case in 1959, where he was eventually named partner.

"We were law partners and members of the executive committee at Smith, Case and Somerville. Jeff mainly did insurance defense and personal injury work," said Robert J. Carson, who practices law in Havre de Grace. "He was a very good attorney, very careful in what he did."

"He was not overly vivacious with individuals, but if he were upset about something, he'd speak out if he felt strongly about it," he said. "He was a quiet, patient person in the main."

In 1959, he was named president of the Junior Bar Association, and subsequently served as president of the Bar Association of Baltimore City and the state bar association from 1983 to 1984.

Though he retired from practice in 1990, he continued to be active with the Maryland and American bar associations.

He was active in many civic organizations, including the community association of Sudbrook Park and the PTA of the various schools where his five children attended.

An outdoorsman, Mr. Smith enjoyed camping, hiking and canoeing with his family, as well as flying planes and deer hunting. He was a member of the board of the Monocacy Canoe Club.

"One time we flew all the way in his Cessna to the Bahamas. We we went power boating, canoeing and rafting together. He always had some adventure in mind," Dr. Dubel said.

Mr. Smith and his wife made three trips to Alaska in their recreational vehicle.

"Back when people were buying RVs, he converted an old Baltimore County public school bus into a motor home," said a daughter, Holly Smith-Berry of Fulton, Mo.

"He had named the bus 'Puff' — but not after the Peter, Paul and Mary song 'Puff the Magic Dragon,' which some thought was about smoking marijuana," she said, noting that the name did cause some confusion during a family RV trip to New England in 1969.

"We wandered into Woodstock by mistake," she said. "The state police saw the word 'Puff' and pulled my father over and boarded the bus only to find five kids sitting in seats and my mother on a Pullman chair — not a bunch of marijuana smoking hippies," Ms. Holly-Berry said with a laugh.

"Because all of the roads were getting jammed, they helped us find another route and got us out of there," she recalled.

In addition to traveling throughout the U.S., Mr. Smith and his wife traveled to Europe and the Caribbean.

He was a longtime member and served on the board of the Milford Mill United Methodist Church.

"He was known for his integrity and eloquence. His respect for the rules of etiquette and his keen sense of humor never failed him, even during the last decades of his life as he battled Alzheimer's disease," Ms. Holly-Berry said.

A memorial service will be held at Fairhaven, 7200 3rd Ave., Sykesville, at 11 a..m. July 15.

In addition to his wife and daughter, Mr. Smith is survived by a son, Jeffrey B. Smith Jr. of Stewartstown, Pa.; three other daughters, Wendy Phillips of Pikesville, Julie Peatt Cassaday of Westminster and the Rev. Jennifer J.S. Brooks of Columbus, Ohio; and 10 grandchildren.

frasmussen@baltsun.com

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