Anthony L. Brennan Sr., longtime Baltimore lawyer, dies

Anthony Ladd Brennan Sr., a Baltimore attorney who had a reputation for helping those in need — and for accepting creative payments from clients without money — died Oct. 24 from complications of a stroke at Gilchrist Center in Towson. The resident of Armagh Village was 80.

“I knew Tony from the Baltimore Equitable Society — where we both were members of the board — and as a [University of Maryland, Baltimore County] parent,” said Dr. Freeman A. Hrabowski III, president of the university since 1992.

“He was a good thinker, knew how to ask great questions and could tell great stories,” said Dr. Hrabowski. “He brought a spirit of hope when it came to solving problems. He encouraged people and had a great sense of humor.”

“Tony was a breath of fresh air. When you were around him, you knew you were in for a few good laughs,” he added.

“He was a remarkable and a very competitive person — but in a very nice way,” said Richard O. “Rick” Berndt, a senior partner at the Baltimore law firm of Gallagher Evelius & Jones LLP.

“Tony was one year ahead of me at law school,” said Mr. Berndt. “He had a love of Baltimore and state history, which he was able to bring to life, and was very interested in the insurance business.”

Born in New York City in 1938, he was adopted by Joseph Turenne Brennan II, a senior partner in the Baltimore law firm of Niles, Barton and Wilmer, and Florence McGarry Brennan, a homemaker.

He was raised in Ruxton and graduated in 1956 from the Gilman School. He attended Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Va., where he played lacrosse and wrestled, and obtained a bachelor’s degree from the University of Maryland, College Park.

After graduating, he served in the Army Medical Corps, attaining the rank of sergeant.

After being discharged, he obtained a law degree from the University of Maryland School of Law and was admitted to the Maryland Bar in 1966.

“He wanted to be a surgeon because he liked working with his hands, but it was his mother who said he would become a lawyer and work in his father’s firm,” said a daughter, Katherine “Katie” Brennan of Hampden.

His first job after law school was serving on the staff of Maryland Sen. Charles McC. “Mac” Mathias Jr. in Washington. After that he returned to Baltimore and joined the law firm of Niles, Barton and Wilmer. Family members said one of the clients he represented for years was Dr. Robert S. Ledley, who invented the whole-body computerized tomography (CAT) scanner in 1973.

Mr. Brennan later established a solo general law practice on Charles Street that also specialized in estate and maritime law.

“He was proud of many of the other experiences of his career — of Don Quixote-like challenges to authority and corporate greed, defending family and clients across the United States and down in the Caribbean,” another daughter, Susanna Brennan, of Parkton, wrote in an autobiographical profile of her father. “The latter was the source of stories about key limes and guns that became well-polished over the dinner table.

“He was a talented and ferocious attorney, yet a terrible bill collector with a soft heart. He would pull out all of the stops for a client, land a miraculous outcome and accept a pool table or a dilapidated car in trade,” she wrote. “Once, he even accepted African beads as part of a fee.”

Havre de Grace resident Pam Michalski, a longtime client, said Mr. Brennan “was instrumental in helping me, my friends and colleagues in business. He was always fighting for the underdog.”

“He was kind and gentle, but a pit bull when it came to legal matters,” Ms. Michalski said.

Mr. Brennan volunteered with the West Baltimore Boys Club, mentored male teens in city neighborhoods and assisted with initiatives led by Bea Gaddy. When CSX’s Howard Street Tunnel caught fire in 2001 and stranded hungry summer campers at the Arena Players Theater, Mr. Brennan decided it was his duty to feed them.

“He took it upon himself to drive to every chicken restaurant in town and bring back enough fried chicken to feed every camper and then some,” Ms. Brennan wrote. “He took great pride in being able to talk his way in and out of the blockaded area in order to feed all of the hungry and worried campers.”

Mr. Brennan served on the board of the Baltimore Equitable Society for 34 years before retiring in 2009. Mr. Berndt, who was chair of the society, recalled that “Tony had a certain Old School manner. He loved people, his community and history.”

Mr. Brennan also served on the board of the Oldfields School and was a past chair of a district advisory commission of the Small Business Association.

In his younger years, he had played rugby as a member of the Chesapeake Rugby Football Club. He was an accomplished woodworker and an expert fly fishing tyer.

Earlier this year, family members said, he learned through Ancestry.Com the identity of his birth father, the late Harold Joseph Depp, a glass company worker. He also learned of a sister, Judith Depp Ahrens of Honesdale, Pa., who came to Baltimore and stayed with Mr. Brennan and his family.

Mr. Brennan was still a practicing attorney at his death.

“He was working up until the day he had the stroke on Oct. 5, and was still calling clients from his hospital bed,” Susanna Brennan said in a telephone interview.

He was a member of Chestnut Grove Presbyterian Church in the Phoenix neighborhood of Baltimore County.

A memorial service for Mr. Brennan will be held at 3 p.m. Sunday at Roland Park Presbyterian Church, 4801 Roland Ave.

In addition to his two daughters and sister, Mr. Brennan is survived by his wife of 22 years, the former Susan Hepner Howard, a retired Baltimore County public schools psychologist; two sons, Anthony Brennan of Hampden and Alexander Howard of Washington; and several nieces and nephews. An earlier marriage to the former Judith Stone Sopher ended in divorce.

fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com

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