Charles Osborne Fisher

Charles Osborne Fisher
Charles Osborne Fisher (Baltimore Sun)

Charles Osborne Fisher, a World War II veteran and prominent Carroll County attorney whose legal career spanned more than six decades, died Friday at his Westminster home from complications of a broken hip.

He was 95.

"Charles was a real gentleman and an old-time lawyer with modern ideas. He was always steady and consistent," said Herbert S. Garten, a partner in the firm of Fedder and Garten. "He was like an older brother to me and many other lawyers. He was a role model."

The son of a Ford dealer and a homemaker, Mr. Fisher was born in Washington and in 1921 moved to a house on North Court Street, across from the Court House in Westminster, where he lived for the remainder of his life.

"His father founded the first automobile salesroom in Carroll County, and when he was old enough, he helped his father's work crews push Model T Fords from the Western Maryland railroad station up Main Street to the showroom to assemble them for sale," said a son, Charles O. Fisher, who is also an attorney and a member of his father's firm, Walsh and Fisher.

After graduating from St. John's High School in Westminster, he earned a bachelor's degree in 1938 from what is now Loyola University Maryland.

He worked as a social worker in Baltimore while attending the University of Maryland Law School at night. His law school career was interrupted in 1941 when he enlisted in the Army.

Mr. Fisher, who was with the Signal Corps, was assigned to Fort Monmouth, N.J., where he spent the war years as an instructor. He attained the rank of captain and was discharged in 1946.

He returned to the University of Maryland, where he earned his law degree in 1947, and began his legal career with D. Eugene Walsh, whose father had established the Westminster law practice in 1896.

The partners changed the name of the East Main Street firm to Walsh and Fisher.

"My father was really a 20th century version of the country lawyer. He did real estate, wills, trusts, estates, and defended people charged with crimes," said his son, who lives in Westminster. "The only thing he didn't do were domestic cases."

"We were very good friends even though he practiced law a little bit longer than I have," said William B. Dulany, who is a partner in the Westminster law firm of Dulany Leahy & Curtis, LLP.

"I remember when I came to Westminster in the early 1950s to practice law, Charley had a big dog, Rebel, that wandered the town. He always slept on my stoop and I accused him of keeping my clients away," Mr. Dulany said with a laugh.

Mr. Dulany described his friend as an "outstanding lawyer who was well-spoken when on his feet."

"Charley was an active trial lawyer and well recognized in our community. He was also very interested in all matters in the county and more active in civic affairs than the average person," said Mr. Dulany.

Mr. Fisher was a former president of the Maryland State Bar Association and had also served as president and trustee of the Maryland Institute for Continuing Professional Education of Lawyers.

Mr. Fisher, who had been president of the University of Maryland Law School Alumni Association, retired from his law practice earlier this year.

In a state bar association profile, Mr. Fisher explained his enthusiasm for the law.

"I'm happy to get up in the morning. There's something new all the time," he said. "As long as the good Lord gives me the strength, I hope to continue to practice law. The advantage of practicing in a small town is that everyone knows each other. You become part of the community."

Mr. Fisher was chair of the Commission to Study the Judiciary of Maryland — the Fisher Commission — from 1982 to 1983, and was a charter member of the Commission on Judicial Disabilities and of the Clients' Security Trust Fund of the Bar of Maryland.

At his death, Mr. Fisher was the last surviving member of a group of business and civic leaders who founded Carroll Hospital Center in 1961. He had been a member of its board for the last 41 years and was its president from 1969 to 1970.

In 2009, in recognition of his long service, he was honored with the dedication of the Charles O. Fisher Medical Office Building on the hospital's Westminster campus.

During the 1960s, Mr. Fisher served as a member and was chairman of the Capital Improvements Commission of Carroll County and in 1964 chaired the committee that celebrated Westminster's 200th anniversary.

A Democrat, he also had chaired the Carroll County Democratic Central Committee and was an outspoken advocate for civil rights.

For more than 60 years, Mr. Fisher had been a member of the board of New Windsor State Bank and was a member of the governing bodies of the Union Mills Foundation, the Maryland Historical Society and St. John Roman Catholic Church in Westminster.

In addition to being active in local affairs, Mr. Fisher had been chair for more than a decade of the Health Services Cost Review Commission, which sets rates for Maryland hospitals.

He had also served as chair of the Governor's Salary Commission which, in 1985, was successful in getting the governor's salary increased from $75,000 to $85,000. The rate went into effect in 1987.

He was a member of American Legion Carroll Post 31 and marched for years at the head of Westminster's annual Memorial Day Parade.

Mr. Fisher enjoyed traveling and was an avid vegetable gardener. He also liked to visit museums and attend the symphony and opera. He was also an Orioles fan and followed Loyola University Maryland basketball and lacrosse.

"As a man of integrity, energy and social conscience, he was fearless in righting wrongs and unafraid of change," his son said.

"He marched in the civil rights movement, attended the 1968 Democratic Convention, challenged leaders to do what is right for the community at large and advocated for effective and transparent governance of community institutions," he said. "He beloved everyone should give something back, to use their abilities to make the community better for everyone."

His wife of 69 years, the former Margaret Gunther, died last year.

He was a communicant of St. John Roman Catholic Church, 43 Monroe St., Westminster, where a Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 11 a.m. Wednesday.

Also surviving are three other sons, John D. Fisher of Owings Mills, Paul N. Fisher of Celebration, Fla., and James I. Fisher of Castro Valley, Calif.; three daughters, M. Eileen Churchill and Kathleen F. Palaia, both of Westminster, and Miriam Fisher of Fulton; a sister, Elizabeth Fisher Mathias of Westminster; 16 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren. Another daughter, Anne Fisher, died in 2009.