H. Emslie "Lee" Parks, attorney, dies

H. Emslie "Lee" Parks, former Baltimore County attorney and school board president who was also a highly regarded litigator, died Monday of cancer at Rutledge on Wye, his Queenstown home.

The longtime Granite resident was 81.

The son of a lawyer and a schoolteacher, Mr. Parks was born in Baltimore and raised in Catonsville. He was a 1949 graduate of St. Paul's School and earned a bachelor's degree in business from the Johns Hopkins University in 1953.

After earning a degree in 1956 from the University of Maryland School of Law and entering the Maryland Bar, he began practicing law with his father, Zadoc Townsend Parks Jr., and two years later, became a partner in the firm of Parks and Parks in their One Charles Center office in downtown Baltimore.

Mr. Parks remained with the firm that became Wright and Parks, and later Parks, Hanson and Ditch, until being named Baltimore County solicitor in 1990 by then-Baltimore County Executive Roger B. Hayden, a Republican.

He held the position for 21/2 years until resigning in 1993 to return to private practice. In 1995, he joined the Towson firm of Royston, Mueller, McLean & Reid LLP, which specializes in litigation, business law and estate planning.

Mr. Parks earned a reputation among his peers for dexterously handling complex litigation and specializing in the fields of toxic tort and construction law.

"Lee Parks was the consummate gentleman. I remember seeing him standing in court impeccably dressed. He was always well-prepared and could hold his own against anyone who appeared before me," recalled retired Baltimore County Circuit Judge John F. Fader II.

"He was a fine gentleman and a fine attorney in every respect," he said.

Judge John Grayson Turnbull Jr., the administrative judge for Baltimore County Circuit Court, said Mr. Parks was "a dear friend for years."

"He had been an outstanding lawyer and was one of the popular courtroom figures," said Judge Turnbull. "I don't know of anyone who didn't like Lee Parks."

Keith R. Truffer, a partner in the firm of Royston, Mueller, McLean & Reid, was a friend for more than 20 years.

"Lee was well-respected and well-loved. He was a man of great humanity and optimism," said Mr. Truffer. "He was extremely experienced and had a storehouse of stories from trials and other work he had completed."

Mr. Parks retired in 2000.

He had also been involved in civic affairs and had a particular interest in Baltimore County's public schools.

In 1964, Mr. Parks was appointed to the Baltimore County Board of Education and served as board president for one year, from 1971 to 1972, after the resignation of T. Bayard Williams Jr. He remained on the board until stepping down in 1975.

Writing in The Baltimore Sun in 1973, Mr. Parks said the county school board had worked hard since 1971 in the area of recruiting and promoting black teachers, establishing human relation councils, systematically closing formerly all-black schools and other reforms.

"Racial segregation in this country is an evil that we must acknowledge and seek to destroy. … Schools cannot carry the whole burden of racial integration. All elements of society must work toward the solutions of racial problems," he wrote.

"The first job of a school board is to provide a quality education, a process which includes policies and activities which promote improved climate and conditions among various ethnic groups influenced by the schools," wrote Mr. Parks.

"Lee was president of the school board when I was deputy superintendent and later when I became superintendent," said Robert Y. Dubel, who headed Baltimore County public schools for 16 years before retiring in 1992.

"He was a typical civil servant. He was involved in many organizations and was devoted to public education. He was a valued member of the board and brought his legal expertise to it," said Dr. Dubel. "He was also a fun-loving person and loved practical jokes."

Mr. Parks used to fly Dr. Dubel to business meetings in his private plane.

"Lee was a very experienced and enthusiastic pilot. He'd fly me to Ocean City on many occasions at his own expense," said Dr. Dubel, who recalled Mr. Parks prudently dodging a large thunderstorm that loomed ahead on one trip.

"We had to fly down into Virginia and then up to Ocean City. I wasn't worried. I always felt very comfortable with him," he said.

Mr. Parks had been a trustee of the old Baltimore County General Hospital, now Northwest Hospital; the Baltimore County Community College System; and the National Aquarium in Baltimore. He had also been a founding director of the Bank of Maryland and Maryland's Bank Corp.

In 1965, Mr. Parks was presented the Distinguished Service Award of Maryland.

Since 2000, Mr. Parks lived at Rutledge on Wye, which had once been the home of the widow of President Grover Cleveland, Frances Folsom Cleveland.

"He was an avid boater and fisherman, spending time on both the waters of the Wye River and the Bahamas," said a daughter, Donna Wilner of Woodbine. "He most enjoyed the company of friends and family, hosting parties and celebrations with a cold beer in his hand."

His wife of 39 years, the former Arlene "Ricki" Garverich, died in 1991.

Mr. Parks had been a communicant of St. Bartholomew's Episcopal Church on Edmondson Avenue.

A memorial service will be held at 3 p.m. Friday at Old Wye Parish Episcopal Church, 14114 Old Wye Mills Road, Wye Mills.

Also surviving is a son, Douglas W. Parks of Queenstown; another daughter, Cinda Lee Parks of Hummelstown, Pa.; a nephew, Zadoc Townsend Parks IV of Arbutus; six grandchildren; and a great-grandson.