Brig. Gen. Philip Sherman, a Baltimore attorney and Sherlock Holmes fan whose career with the Maryland National Guard spanned more than four decades, died of heart failure yesterday at Levindale Hebrew Geriatric Center and Hospital. The longtime Pikesville resident was 80.
General Sherman was born in Baltimore, the son of Abe Sherman, a well-known newsstand and bookstore owner, and Ann F. Sherman, a homemaker. He was raised in the Easterwood Park neighborhood and graduated from Polytechnic Institute in 1945.
He briefly attended the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point, N.Y., and entered the Army in 1946, where he served for a year with the Signal Corps.
He earned his associate's degree in 1949, and his law degree from the University of Baltimore in 1953.
General Sherman maintained a general law practice in the Blaustein Building for years, and even though he had limited his practice somewhat after heart bypass surgery in 1982, he continued working until his death.
"Phil knew more about legal history, military matters and Sherlock Holmes than anyone I ever met. For 30 years, Phil Sherman was my closest friend," said U.S. Bankruptcy Judge James F. Schneider yesterday. "We met through our work with the Bar Association of Baltimore City, and together we founded the Museum of Baltimore Legal History in the Clarence Mitchell Courthouse in 1984."
For many years, General Sherman enjoyed leading tours through the building and organized the annual memorial ceremonies in honor of the deceased member of the bar.
He was also the longtime historian of the Maryland State Bar Association and edited its newsletter, which he titled Pearls of Wisdom.
General Sherman joined the Maryland National Guard in 1944 at age 17 and during the ensuing 43 years held numerous command and staff assignments.
"When Phil retired from the Maryland National Guard in 1987, Gov. William Donald Schaefer arranged for the ceremony to be held at Levindale, where his father, Abe Sherman, a veteran of World War I and II who had landed at Normandy on D-Day, lived," Judge Schneider said. "He pinned the gold star on his son and Phil always considered it one of the highlights of his life."
After retiring from the Maryland National Guard, he served as state director of the Selective Service from 1987 to 1998.
One of the great passions of his life was the study of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's fictional detective, Sherlock Holmes, who lives at 221B Baker St. in Victorian London, and his sidekick, Dr. John H. Watson.
"His love of Sherlock Holmes began when he was a kid when someone gave him a copy of the stories," said his daughter, Lynne Sherman Lyon of Ruxton.
"I think Doyle gives you a broader picture of Victorian England than Dickens," General Sherman told The Evening Sun in a 1980 article. "If you read Holmes, you have the Victorian Age."
So steeped was General Sherman in Sherlock Holmes lore, that for years he kept a replica of Dr. Watson's black medical case, a black tin dispatch case labeled in white: "John H. Watson, M.D., Late of the Army Medical Department, Cox's Bank, Charing Cross," and an antique gasogene, a Victorian-era device that was used to make club soda, in his law office. He was also a member of the Six Napoleons, a Sherlock Holmes society.
"He was the heart and soul of the Six Napoleons for years, and he instituted the annual Sherlock Holmes weekend at Pratt and an essay contest in schools," said William J. Hyder, a retired Sun reporter and copy editor, who is also a member of the Six Napoleons.
In addition to Baltimore's Six Napoleons, General Sherman was a longtime member of the Baker Street Irregulars in New York City, and was a founder of The Sign of the Four, another Holmes' organization, which fittingly has four members and meets at the Maryland Club.
General Sherman also maintained an active interest in numerous other cultural and civic organizations. He had served as president of the Jewish Historical Society and was a board member of the Jewish Museum of Maryland and the Patriots of Fort McHenry.
He was a member of the Baltimore Bibliophiles, the Ancient and Honorable Mechanical Society of Baltimore and the Baltimore Round Table of American Military History.
"Phil knew so many people and had connections everywhere," said Judge Schneider, who lunched regularly with General Sherman at the Woman's Exchange until it closed, and lately at Chef Paolino, a South Charles Street pizza parlor.
"I'd suggest we go and do something and he'd say, 'I've got to get back to the office.' He was so busy with his many organizations and civic work," he said.
His former high school sweetheart and wife of 43 years, the former Helene Siegel, died in 1992.
General Sherman was a member of Temple Oheb Shalom, 7310 Park Heights Ave., where services will be held at noon tomorrow.
Also surviving are his wife of seven years, the former Bette Miller; a son, Mark L. Sherman of Jerusalem; a brother, Lee M. Sherman of Wilmington, N.C.; and six grandchildren.