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Charles Arnold Reese
Charles Arnold Reese (handout, Baltimore Sun)

Charles A. Reese, an education lawyer who was a founding partner of Reese & Kane and co-author of the Howard County Code in the early 1970s, died Thursday of a massive stroke at the University of Maryland Medical Center. The longtime Ellicott City resident was 88.

"He was a dear friend and colleague, and he led an exemplary personal and professional life," said his former law partner, retired Howard County Circuit Judge Raymond J. Kane.

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"He was a delightful guy and a joy to be with. He was very low-key and had a way of letting you know what his position was," said Judge Kane. "I don't know anybody who didn't have a kind word for Charlie Reese."

"People tended to underestimate Charlie because of his gentle manner, but he was extremely sharp as an attorney and a tough questioner. His questions were always intellectually tough," said Richard D. "Rick" Neidig, a semi-retired Howard County attorney who was an associate in Mr. Reese's law firm from 1975 to 1985.

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"He was a gentleman of the first order and very, very kind and courteous to his opponents," said Mr. Neidig.

The son of Jesse Reese, a Patapsco & Back Rivers Railroad Co. yardmaster, and Cecelia Murk, a homemaker, Charles Arnold Reese was born and raised on Penrose Avenue in West Baltimore.

Mr. Reese had studied at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary and Maryknoll Seminary in Clarks Summit, Pa., before earning a bachelor's degree in 1949 from what is now Loyola University Maryland.

Mr. Reese served from 1951 to 1953 in the Air Force and was stationed in Bartow, Fla., and Waco, Texas.

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He earned his law degree in 1955 and a master's degree in law in 1957, both from Georgetown University.

Admitted to the bar in 1956, Mr. Reese began his legal career working in the District of Columbia corporation counsel's office. In 1959, he entered private practice in Howard County, and was a founding partner of Reese & Kane in 1966. For the last decade, the Columbia firm has been known as Carney, Kelehan, Bresler, Bennett & Sherr LLP.

"The law firm grew to be one of the largest in Howard County," said Judge Kane.

Mr. Reese was, leading education attorney, represented more than 30 school systems throughout the state.

He also practiced in the fields of land use and zoning, election law and administrative law, and in addition to his own practice, he served as Howard County Circuit Court auditor for 49 years.

"Charlie was a first-rate legal scholar and always believed there was a right answer if we did our work in the legal archives," said Mr. Neidig. "And he did not like taking credit for any successes he may have had."

Judith S. Bresler, an attorney, is a partner in the firm of Carney, Kelehan, Bresler, Bennett & Sherr, LLP.

"He believed in the law and believed in the integrity and the effectiveness of the process, so he encouraged young attorneys to look to the law and draw educated conclusions," she said. "He was a model of what a good lawyer should be and was exemplary in his manner and approach to the law."

Mr. Reese and his law partner, Mr. Kane, played a pivotal role when Howard County was transitioning from the commission form of government to a charter form with five County Council districts.

"He had been a consultant to the commissioners during the transition," said Judge Kane.

"I don't think people realize that Charlie was one of the founding fathers of modern-day Howard County government," said Mr. Neidig.

Mr. Reese and Judge Kane wrote the first Howard County Code in 1972, during the administration of Omar J. Jones, who served as the first elected Howard County executive.

"And we did a supplement two years later," said Judge Kane.

Mr. Reese was a member and president of the Howard County Bar Association, a member of the Maryland State Bar Association, where he served on its board of governors and character committee, and the American Bar Association.

He also led the Maryland State Board of Attorneys and was a leader in the Maryland State Board of Election Attorneys.

Mr. Reese was a member of the Howard County Bar Foundation, Maryland Bar Foundation, and the National School Board Association Council of School Board Attorneys.

Mr. Reese was a longtime active communicant of the Roman Catholic Church of the Resurrection, where he served as corporator and chaired the building committee.

"And he never presented a bill for legal work he had done for the church, and he did a lot of other free legal work," said Mr. Neidig.

He was president of the parish Holy Name Society and the Archdiocese of Baltimore's Holy Name Society. He was a founding member of the Home School Association for Resurrection St. Paul School in Ellicott City, and he served on the school boards of St. Louis Catholic School in Clarksville and Seton Keough High School in Baltimore.

"Charlie was the founder of the First Friday Club for Catholic lawyers that met the first of the month for lunch and a Mass," said Mr. Neidig. "He was a very religious man who lived his life according to the Scriptures."

In 2003, former Baltimore Bishop W. Francis Malooly, who is now head of the Catholic Diocese of Wilmington, Del., presented Mr. Reese with the Archdiocese Service Award. He also was presented the Loyola University Maryland Alumni Jubilation Medal and the Notre Dame Alumni Club of Maryland's Award of the Year in 2011.

Mr. Reese, who enjoyed golf and woodworking, was an inveterate Orioles and Notre Dame sports fan.

A Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 10:30 a.m. Thursday at his church, 3175 Paulskirk Drive, Ellicott City.

Mr. Reese is survived by his wife of 55 years, the former Margaret Carole O'Neil; four sons, Christopher J. Reese of Baltimore, Thomas C. Reese and Patrick G. Reese, both of Ellicott City, and Matthew J. Reese of Sykesville; two daughters, Howard County District Judge Mary C. Reese of Ellicott City and Anne M. Kerbrat of Laguna Niguel, Calif.; 10 grandchildren; and a great-grandson. Another son, Charles A. Reese Jr., died in 1961.

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