By Jacques Kelly, The Baltimore Sun
July 4, 2012
Robert M. Wright, a retired attorney who earned the respect of his peers during his many years in the practice of construction law, died of complications of pulmonary and neurosurgery June 23 at his St. Margaret's home. He was 73.
Born in Natick, Mass., he earned a bachelor's degree at Colby College in Maine in 1961, where he played baseball and was a member of an Air Force ROTC program. He then joined the Air Force and served in Vietnam from 1963 to 1964. He was then assigned to Fort Meade, where he met his future wife, Nancy Lucille Watkins, then a resident of Newport News, Va.
He moved to Maryland and attended the University of Maryland School of Law, from which he graduated in 1968 and was an editor of its law review.
That year Mr. Wright joined the Baltimore law firm of Whiteford, Taylor, Preston. At his death he was a partner in the firm, a post he had held since 1971.
His son, Charles "Chip" Wright of Hebron, Ky., said his father's legal specialty was construction law. He worked for most of his career in engineering and construction contracts and litigation. After leaving the active practice of law, he mediated or arbitrated over 300 cases of dispute.
"He was a wonderful kind of law partner, the kind who got things done" said Richard "Dick" Whiteford, a legal partner who lives in Sherwood Forest in Anne Arundel County. "He would say that it is amazing how much you can get accomplished if you don't worry who gets the credit."
Mr. Whiteford said that Mr. Wright would often lighten tense negotiation sessions. "He employed natural witticisms that were short and pithy, which tended to relieve pressure," Mr. Whiteford said.
Mr. Wright, who worked on legal aspects of the early construction of the Calvert Cliffs nuclear plant, also worked with a company in Bochum, Germany, on a case involving the coking ovens used in steel plants. He also worked on runway extensions at BWI-Thurgood Marshall Airport.
"He was the smartest lawyer I've dealt with in my 39 years of practice," said attorney Gerald P. Sunderland, a former legal associate who lives in Catonsville. "He was a man of few words who knew how to get a complex case settled."
Friends recalled his "clipped New England style of speaking" and his ability to inject humor without telling a joke.
"No matter how complex the problem, he looked at it in a practical way," said attorney Patrick Pike, who lives in Phoenix in Baltimore County. "He was an excellent lawyer, a bright guy with a wide range of interests. Smart and analytical, he would also step out of his normal area as a challenge and cut through statutes and other cases. He was also a gentleman and was thoroughly a nice guy."
Mr. Wright wrote articles in legal journals and was consistently listed as a top attorney in professional journals.
Charles Wright said his father was prohibited from flying while in the Air Force because he was deficient in identifying the color red. But he wanted to fly, and in 1995 he earned a private pilot certificate after being trained at the Bay Bridge Airport in Stevensville.
His son said that he then continued his training, earning his commercial and instrument ratings before becoming a certificated flight instructor. He continued to fly and teach until late 2010. He attained more than 1,500 total flight hours.
Mr. Wright read works on history and enjoyed photography. He also played golf. After he retired, he donated legal services to the members of the Maryland Defense Fund and their families.
A memorial gathering and service will be held beginning at 1 p.m. July 7 at the Barranco and Sons Funeral home, 495 Ritchie Highway in Severna Park.
In addition to his wife of 46 years and his son, survivors include a daughter, Alexandra Wright Caffrey of Malta, N.Y.; and four grandchildren.
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