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Edwin H.W. Harlan Jr., 84, district judge in Harford County


Edwin H. W. Harlan Jr., a retired Harford County District Court judge and former state's attorney, died Tuesday of Alzheimer's disease at Charlestown Retirement Community in Catonsville. He was 84.

Born and raised in Bel Air, Judge Harlan had descended from a Harford County family involved in the law. His father was a Bel Air attorney and his grandfather had been a Harford County judge.

After graduating in 1940 from Episcopal High School in Alexandria, Va., he enrolled at Washington & Lee University in Lexington, Va., where he completed his freshman year before enlisting in the Army in 1942.

He served with an airborne infantry division and fought in the New Guinea, Leyte, Luzon and Okinawa campaigns. He was stationed in Japan during the occupation. He attained the rank of captain and his decorations included a Bronze Star, Purple Heart, Distinguished Unit Badge and Combat Infantryman's Badge.

After the service, he returned to Washington & Lee, where he earned a bachelor's degree in geology in 1948, and his law degree from the University of Maryland School of Law in 1952. After passing the state bar examination in 1952, he clerked for a year for Judge Hall Hammond of the Maryland Court of Appeals.

In 1953, he returned to Bel Air, where he began practicing law and was attorney for the Harford County Liquor Control Board. He had been a prosecutor in the county state's attorney's office for 22 years, beginning as an assistant state's attorney in 1956.

A Democrat, Judge Harlan was elected state's attorney for four terms - unopposed each time - and served in that capacity from 1963 to 1978. He was appointed to the District Court by then-acting Gov. Blair Lee III in 1978, and remained in that role until retiring from the bench in 1989.

"He was a tough opponent because he was my brother-in-law," said T. Carroll Brown, a retired attorney who practiced in Bel Air for 40 years. "He was a fellow of considerable integrity who was very considerate of people and well-respected in the community. He may have appeared to have been hard-shelled on the outside but was a real softie when you got to know him.

"And when you were in his court, he wanted you to get right to the point. He didn't like losing a lot of time. And he rendered decisions that held up on appeal," Mr. Brown said.

William J. Kunkel, former Harford County sheriff who retired as chairman of the state parole commission, added: "He stuck to the law and didn't let his heart control his actions. He was a stern but fair judge."

Judge Harlan had been a member of the Lion's Club of Aberdeen, the Bel Air Rotary Club and the Bel Air post of the American Legion. He was a former president of the Harford County Bar Association and Maryland State Bar Association. He was also a member of the Susquehanna Law Club and a licensed real estate appraiser.

Since 1992, he and his wife, the former Charlotte Brown, lived at the Catonsville retirement community. They were married 55 years.

A fitness enthusiast, Judge Harlan enjoyed swimming, running and playing tennis.

He was also a lifelong student of ancient history and had accumulated a large library devoted to the history of Greece, Egypt and Italy.

Judge Harlan had been a member of Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Bel Air for many years, before converting to Catholicism in 1994.

A memorial Mass is to be offered at 11 a.m. today at Charlestown's Our Lady of the Angels Chapel, 715 Maiden Choice Lane.

In addition to his wife, Judge Harlan is survived by a son, Edwin H. W. Harlan III of Roseville, Calif.; three daughters, Anne Harlan-Fortucci of Kahuku, Hawaii, Patricia Sanders of Falls Church, Va., and Mary-Margaret Records of Seaford, Del.; and nine grandchildren.

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