Richard Rider Jackson

Richard Rider Jackson Jr. ( )

Richard R. Jackson Jr., a former partner in the Baltimore law firm that is now Ober/Kaler, where he practiced admiralty law for nearly 25 years, died Thursday of a heart attack at his Owings Mills home. He was 77.

"Dick was a close friend. He was a wonderful, caring guy and a great admiralty lawyer, which is a specialized practice," said John A. Wolf, chairman of Ober/Kaler. "He was one of the hardest-working lawyers that I've ever met and a bit of a mentor to me, and a wonderful guiding light to young lawyers. He was just a kindly guy."

The son of Richard R. Jackson, an engineer, and Mary Maccoun Jackson, a homemaker, Richard Rider Jackson Jr. was born in Baltimore and raised in Roland Park.

While a student at Gilman School, Mr. Jackson played varsity lacrosse, football and basketball, and at his graduation in 1955 was awarded the school's Fisher Medallion, which is given to a junior or senior student for the "highest service that can be rendered to the school by leadership based on the influence of character."

After graduating from Gilman, Mr. Jackson entered Williams College in Williamstown, Mass., where he played football and lacrosse.

On the lacrosse field in 1957, Mr. Jackson confronted Syracuse University senior Jim Brown, who became a celebrated NFL running back when he played for the Cleveland Browns from 1957 to 1965.

"Dick was a big athletic guy who played against Jim Brown. He used to say it was one of his great athletic moments," said Mr. Wolf. "He said he was close to Brown at the beginning of the game, and never thereafter."

"I forget what Richard said about who got the better of the two, but I recall that Jim Brown was impressed with Richard," said Donald C. Greenman, his former fellow Ober/Kaler law partner. "The story goes that Brown asked another time, 'Is that guy Jackson still around?'"

After graduating from Williams in 1959, Mr. Jackson attended the University of Virginia Law School, from which he earned his law degree in 1962. From 1962 to 1963, he attended the Navy's Officer Candidate School and Naval Justice School in Newport, R.I.

Mr. Jackson served with the Navy Judge Advocate General's Corps at the naval station in Chicago from 1963 until being discharged with the rank of lieutenant in 1967.

"I finished some graduate admiralty courses in Chicago in 1967 and worked part-time for a Chicago law firm before returning to Baltimore where I was engaged in the full-time practice of law, specializing in maritime and litigation matters," Mr. Jackson wrote in a Williams 50th-anniversary class reunion profile.

In 1967, Mr. Jackson joined what was then Ober, Kaler, Grimes & Shriver in Baltimore. He worked there until the mid-1980s, then went to the firm's New York City office for a year. He returned to Baltimore and worked there until 1991, when he "discontinued a full-time law practice to wind-up my father's business affairs," he explained in the Williams profile.

"Dick had been in the Navy and when he joined the firm, we had 12 lawyers, half of whom worked in admiralty law, and the other in general law. We represented the ships," recalled Mr. Greenman.

"He ended up doing admiralty law, which meant he was going on ships to conduct investigations. He got involved in investigating wrecks, collisions, cargo damage, customs, and other admiralty matters," he said.

Mr. Greenman described his friend and colleague as "a mostly quiet person."

"As a friend of ours said, Dick was one of the last true gentlemen in Baltimore. And he was probably the most honest man I've ever met, and he was a good lawyer," said Mr. Greenman.

"Admiralty law is a close-knit small bar and you always knew the people who were your opponents. It was almost like a fraternal organization," said Mr. Wolf.

"Dick would go to court because he was a trial lawyer. He was intellectual and what he brought to the law was from a sound intellectual level. Everything was always well-thought out," he said.

Mr. Jackson's wife of three years, the former Greer Michel, was killed in 1986 after being run over by a truck in Stevenson. She had been an executive in the R.E. Michel Co. Inc. and a partner in the Michel Real Estate partnership.

After terminating his law practice, Mr. Jackson focused on managing his investments and experimenting with landscaping and botany at his Owings Mills home.

"He never remarried after the tragic loss of his wife in a 1986 roadside accident," said a cousin, Carolyn Boykin of Ruxton.

"Though his life was solitary, he was well-known and respected in his community and the Baltimore area at large," said Ms. Boykin. "He overcame many adversities, including a bout with cancer. He was known for his keen analytical solutions to complex problems as well as his deep personal integrity."

During the late 1960s and early 1970s, Mr. Jackson served on the board of Woodbourne Inc., formerly the Children's Home of Baltimore Inc.

Mr. Jackson was a former member of the Maryland Club and Elkridge Club, and at his death was a member of the Green Spring Valley Hunt Club.

Funeral services will be held at 10 a.m. Thursday at St. Thomas' Episcopal Church, 232 St. Thomas Lane, Owings Mills.

In addition to Ms. Boykin, Mr. Jackson is survived by a sister, Roberta J. Farr of Ocean View, Del.; a stepson, Robert Haines of Chatham, N.J.; a stepdaughter, Elizabeth Holloway of Rye, N.Y.; a half-brother, Christopher L. Jackson of Fort Lauderdale; a half-sister, Patricia J. Jenkins of Ruxton; and many other cousins.

fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com