R. C. Coleman, 75, maritime lawyer


Randall C. Coleman, a maritime lawyer and avid sportsman, died Tuesday of heart failure at the Keswick Home. He was 75.

A partner in the Baltimore law firm Ober, Kaler, Grimes and Shriver, he specialized in defending maritime insurance, shipping and tug companies until his retirement in 1989.

"Ran Coleman had an uncanny mutual understanding with juries. In his prime, there was no finer trial lawyer, here or elsewhere," said Senior U.S. District Judge Alexander Harvey II.

M. Hamilton Whitman Jr., a maritime lawyer with the law firm, said, "His expertise was in the personal injury field involving crew members and longshoremen."

Mr. Coleman's partner Jervis S. Finney said that "to all his endeavors he brought a unique combination of intellect, enthusiasm, unflagging determination and unbounded integrity, all wrapped in complete courtesy with an infectious sense of humor."

Mr. Coleman argued cases before federal appeals courts and the U.S. Supreme Court. Notable local cases that he participated in during the late 1960s and early 1970s included the collision of the aircraft carrier Saratoga and the German-flag cargo ship Bernd Leonhardt, and the collision between the freighter Heering Lotte, and a pilot launch in the Chesapeake & Delaware Canal at Chesapeake City, which resulted in a bay pilot's death.

A resident of the Orchards in North Baltimore, Mr. Coleman was born and raised in Lynchburg, Va., and was a graduate of St. Paul's School for Boys, where he was an all-Maryland athlete in lacrosse, basketball and football.

He began his college studies at Drexel University in Philadelphia but left with the outbreak of World War II to enlist in the Navy.

He was a signalman aboard a destroyer transport that was sunk at Guadalcanal in 1942. Severely injured, he spent several hours in the water before being picked up. He received a Purple Heart and returned to active duty.

After the war, Mr. Coleman entered the University of Virginia, from which he earned his bachelor's degree in 1948 and a law degree two years later. While in law school, he formed and coached the university's lacrosse team.

In 1950, he came to Baltimore. He became a partner in his law firm in 1957.

Mr. Coleman turned to the mountains and water for relaxation. He preferred Squam Lake, N.H., and scuba diving. He was the Atlantic spear fishing champion in 1965 and 1967.

A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Monday at the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer, 5603 N. Charles St., Baltimore.

He is survived by his wife of 15 years, the former Caroline Abell; a son, Randall C. Coleman III of Houston; a daughter, Cecelia M. Coleman of Baltimore; a stepson, Timothy G. Ellis of Boone, Iowa; two stepdaughters, Elizabeth E. Moran of Wilmington, Del., and Amanda L. Washburne of Boston; two grandchildren; and eight step-grandchildren.

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