Arthur Machen

Arthur W. Machen Jr., a retired attorney who was also the chancellor of the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland and a legal advocate for the poor, died of congestive heart failure Wednesday at Gilchrist Hospice Care. The former Ruxton resident was 92.


"His range was enormous," said a legal colleague, Alan Yarbro of Ruxton. "He was a Renaissance man who could do practically anything. He trained young lawyers wonderfully well and had a great imagination. He was a perfect corporate lawyer who had a deep understanding of others. He was also very kind."

Born in Baltimore, he was the son of Arthur W. Machen, an attorney, and Helen Woods, who did volunteer work. Raised in Ruxton, he was a 1938 Gilman School graduate. He earned a bachelor's degree at Princeton University, where he was named to Phi Beta Kappa. He was also a Harvard Law School graduate.

"My father was a lifelong Democrat, a tradition that started with his father," said his son, John P. "Jack" Machen, a member of the Baltimore City law department. "He recalled going with his father to Franklin Roosevelt's inauguration in 1933, where he heard the 'We have nothing to fear but fear itself' speech."

On his 21st birthday he enlisted in the Navy and was commissioned an ensign in late 1942. He served aboard the USS Massachusetts in the North Atlantic and South Pacific and participated in seven major engagements. He left military service as a lieutenant.

Mr. Machen was admitted to the Maryland bar in 1948. According to an autobiographical sketch, he was the third generation of lawyers to bear the name Arthur W. Machen.

He joined Armstrong, Machen & Eney. It merged with another law firm, Venable, Baetjer and Howard, in 1951. He was named a partner in 1957 and worked in corporate and securities law. He retired in 1999.

Mr. Machen wrote letters to newspapers. In an April 16, 1968, letter to The Evening Sun, after Republican Gov. Spiro T. Agnew criticized black leaders following the riots in Baltimore after the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., he wrote:

"Is it possible to believe that the governor of the Free State of Maryland could invite to his office a group of respected Marylanders and then proceed to chastise them in public? First it is a classic example of bad manners."

He concluded his letter by saying the African-American leaders "deserve the commendation and thanks of every citizen in the state."

The letter drew Mr. Agnew's attention. Mr. Machen was not reappointed to a state commission where he served as a securities law adviser.

Family members said the most tragic event in his life was the death of his eldest son, Arthur W. "Peter" Machen, a Marine who died of wounds suffered in combat in Vietnam in 1970. Mr. Machen and his wife flew to the Philippines and accompanied their son to Bethesda Naval Hospital.

"The loss was devastating to him, but my father was a strong and resilient man," said his son, Jack Machen, who retired from DLA Piper in 2012. "He continued to be a superb lawyer and a wonderful husband and father."

Mr. Machen devoted time to civic causes. He was the chairman in the 1950s of a citizens committee that led a campaign for a Baltimore County home rule charter. He was also a Department of Justice hearing officer in conscientious objector cases from 1961 to 1970.

He was a former trustee of Gilman School and the Samuel Ready School.


Mr. Machen was a leader in drafting Maryland's version of IOLTA, or Interest on Lawyer Trust Accounts, which provided funding for the Maryland Legal Services Corp.

"Arthur was the leading, hands-on person to get the IOLTA in effect in Maryland," said Russell R. Reno Jr., a staff attorney at the Public Justice Center in Baltimore and former Venable law partner. "He was a very good lawyer. He had a lot of common sense in dealing with issues. He was good at coming up with the essence of a problem and finding a solution."

The Maryland Legal Services Corp. named an award in his honor and made him its first recipient in 1985. He was recognized for his "outstanding service in providing legal services to the poor and handicapped in Maryland." The Maryland Bar Association also gave him a Lifetime Achievement Award.

Mr. Machen was the chancellor of the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland from 1972 to 1985 and volunteered many hours to church-related legal issues.

Mr. Machen wrote the history of his firm, "A Venerable Assembly, The History of Venable, Baetjer and Howard, 1890-1991."

He was a book collector and had a knowledge of incunabula, or books published before 1500. He vacationed in Sunlight Basin, Wyo., and rode mountain trails on horseback and fly-fished. He also was a fan of wooden jigsaw puzzles and solved crossword puzzles.

Services will be held at 4 p.m. April 26 at the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd, 1401 Carrollton Ave. in Ruxton, where he had served on the vestry and written a parish history.

In addition to his son, survivors include his wife of 65 years, the former Rose Bradley Purves; another son, Henry L. Machen of Monkton; and five grandchildren.