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Alan D. Yarbro, former general counsel for Mercantile Bankshares Corp. and partner at Venable LLP, dies

Alan D. Yarbro, former general counsel for Mercantile Bankshares Corp. and partner at Venable LLP, dies
Alan Yarbro

Alan D. Yarbro, former general counsel for Mercantile Bankshares Corp., died July 20 from Alzheimer’s disease at Gilchrist Center in Towson. The longtime Ruxton resident was 77.

“Alan was a partner at Venable, Baetjer and Howard which was our law firm,” said H. Furlong Baldwin, former longtime CEO of Mercantile Bankshares Corp. who lives in Cross Keys. “We were looking for an in-house counsel and he came over to work with us. He did wonderful work for us. He was precise and accurate.

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“He was a very decent and quiet man who was very effective.”

“He was simply one of the most gifted lawyers in the firm. He was both resourceful and bright and a great securities lawyer,” said George W. Johnston, a former partner in what became Venable LLP, He worked alongside Mr. Yarbro on the firm’s operating committee.

“Alan wore an intellectual hat that was quite unique. He was sought after because he had great wisdom, counsel, and judgement,” said Mr. Johnston, a Guilford resident. “He was also a superb athlete who was both funny and wise.”

Alan David Yarbro, the son of John Yarbro, a French professor at the Naval Academy, and his wife, Bernice Yarbro, who taught French at Annapolis Junior High, was born in Huntington, West Virginia, and raised in Annapolis.

He attended Annapolis high School until the 10th grade when he transferred to the Gilman School. A talented athlete, he played shortstop on Annapolis Little League teams, and continued playing baseball and basketball.

Frank Deford, a fellow Gilman student and friend who later became a Sports Illustrated writer, described Mr. Yarbro during their student days as the “best athlete on our basketball team.”

When Mr. Deford died in 2017, Mr. Yarbro told The Baltimore Sun, “He had so many good things you could talk about. He was a good basketball player, but the real Frank Deford, I guess, had tremendous outlooks on the world. He could do just about everything. He was a great writer in many, many ways.”

After graduating from Gilman in 1958, Mr. Yarbro was scouted by the Detroit Tigers but turned down an offer to train with them in order to enroll at Harvard College. He pitched for the varsity baseball team and was a magna cum laude graduate in 1962.

During his sophomore year, he met and fell in love with the former Lee Merryman Myers, a student at Pine Manor College in Wellesley, Massachusetts, whom he married his senior year.

Wile studying at Harvard Law School, Mr. Yarbro supported his family by working in the Harvard News office and as a bartender at the now closed Club Casbalanca, a noted Harvard Square bar located in the basement of the Brattle Theater.

After graduating cum laude in 1966 from Harvard Law School, he returned to Baltimore. When he sat for the Maryland Bar that year, he finished in the top five.

Mr. Yarbro joined what was then Venable, Baetjer and Howard in 1966, and was named a partner six years later. Between the 1970s and 1990s, he served on the firm’s management committee, was head of the corporate finance group and counsel to the firm. He also served as counsel to most of the city’s major investment firms.

James L. Shea, of Owings Mills, former Venable chairman who had chaired the University System of Maryland Board of Regents, highlighted two of Mr. Yarbro’s deals.

“In 1986, he was the underwriter’s counsel in the Alex Brown’s offering and company counsel to Jiffy Lube’s initial public offering,” Mr. Shea said. “He also represented NCR Corp. in its contested takeover battle with AT&T, at the time, the $7.4 billion deal was the largest technology deal in mergers and acquisitions history.”

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It was said that whenever the legendary H. Vernon Eney, a senior Venable partner and Maryland constitutional scholar, encountered a difficult legal problem, he’d say: “Get Mr. Yarbro.”

Stanley L. Mazaroff was a longtime Venable colleague who shared a love of basketball with Mr. Yarbro.

"We were partners at Venable for around 30 years, said Mr. Mazaroff, who lives in Bolton Hill. “First of all, there is no question that Alan was one of Venable’s most distinguished lawyers in corporate law, and something else I admired most about him was that he personified the highest ethical standards when it came to the practice of law.”

He added that Mr. Yarbro mentored many young lawyers at the firm.

“When we were playing basketball Alan was fierce in his honorable intention to win, and he’d say, ‘We need to win in an honorable way,’ and he applied that to the practice of law. It had to be ethical, and everything he did was measured," Mr. Mazaroff said.

In 1996, Mr. Yarbro left Venable when he became a senior executive and general counsel at Mercantile Bankshares Corp. During this time, he played a significant role in the design and passage of Maryland’s 1999 takeover law.

Mr. Yarbro trained his replacement at Mercantile that was eventually acquired by PNC Financial Services Group Inc. in 2006. He returned to Venable in 2002, where he continued working until retiring in 2014.

In his civic work, the former Guilford resident who moved to Ruxton in 1986, served as president of the W.S. Baer Corp., which is the holding company for Children’s Hospital. He had served as a trustee of the hospital from 1986 to 1999. He was a member of the board of Baltimore’s Park Heights Street Academy from 1986 to 1989.

He had served on the boards and committee of LifeBridge Health, Children’s Hospital at Sinai Hospital, and was chair of Northwest Hospital from 2013 to 2014, when he stepped down because of failing health.

Throughout his life, sports continued to play a central role. When he returned from Harvard, he pitched for Spring Grove, a semi-professional baseball team for a few years.

Years later, he coached the Roland Park Little League’s Cavaliers with close friends Jim Wright and Harvey Clapp. The team was “greatly diverse in talent, from the bottom of the league to a thrilling championship win,” his wife wrote in a biographical profile of her husband.

When living in Guilford, he would walk to the old Memorial Stadium to take in Orioles games.

In recent years, as his health failed, Mr. Yarbro enjoyed taking long walks on Circle Road in Ruxton with his wife, watching “Doc Martin” on PBS, and Ken Burns and Henry Louis Gates Jr. documentaries. He also liked listening to music.

A celebration of life service for Mr. Yarbro is planned for 11 a.m. Sept. 7 at St. James Episcopal Church, 3100 Monkton Road, Monkton.

In addition to his wife of 57 years, Mr. Yarbro is survived by three daughters, Jennifer Yarbro of Ruxton, Wendy Ponvert of Potomac and Caroline Yarbro of Centennial, Colorado; and four grandchildren.

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