James Marshall “Jim” Kramon, the co-founder of a Baltimore law firm recalled for his ethical standards, died of a degenerative neurological disease Feb. 25 in Quiogue on Long Island. The former Glyndon and Brooklandville resident was 78.
Born in Manhattan, he was the son of Jack Kramon, a founder of the MAJER slacks garment-making firm who emigrated from Russia as a child, and his wife, Hortense Sarot, a teacher from Maplewood, New Jersey.
“As a kid, Jim was mischievous, no doubt about it,” his sister Patricia Pincus said. “He loved to show us how, just as the laundry on the line of the building next to us was drying, a water balloon could soak it all over again.”
After his father died, he became a family leader at age 12.
“I truly felt he saw it as his responsibility to step in after our father died,” Ms. Pincus said. “He made it his mission to safeguard us from that point forward. He was very loyal and enormously generous of spirit.”
Mr. Kramon attended the Ethical Culture Fieldston School and earned a mathematics degree at what is now Carnegie Mellon University, then called Carnegie Tech.
While at the Pittsburgh school, he met his future wife, the former Susan Paula Samuelson. They married in 1966.
He earned a law degree at the George Washington University School of Law and a master’s degree in law at Harvard University. He was a law clerk to U.S. Judge Thomas E. Fairchild in Chicago.
He moved to Baltimore in 1971 and became an assistant U.S. attorney during the administration of George Beall. He worked on criminal tax and mail fraud cases at the same time his office prosecuted former Maryland Gov. Spiro T. Agnew, then vice president of the United States, who left office in 1973.
While at the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Mr. Kramon met a fellow assistant prosecutor, Andrew Jay Graham.
“Jim and I bonded together. We were two guys from New York,” Mr. Graham said. “We were close friends and we socialized together with our wives.”
They founded the Kramon & Graham law firm.
“We had no clients and no money, but we rented a little office in the Sun Life Building,” Mr. Graham said.
“Jim had a brilliant mind and he could write extremely well. He had an amazing work ethic. He would focus on a case with laser-like attention. And he achieved just what his clients wanted,” Mr. Graham said.
Mr. Kramon represented people involved in the 1985 Maryland savings and loan collapse, as well as a jockey who suffered a back injury at what was then Laurel Race Course.
“The jockey case was a complicated civil litigation, and at the same time, Jim was involved with an international white-collar criminal matter and a health care [case] concerning a regional hospital. These were all large-scale, sophisticated matters in very different areas, and he was an expert in all of them,” said Lee Ogburn, an attorney at Kramon & Graham from 1979 to 2021.
Mr. Ogburn also said: “Jim set the bar high. He was a force. He was a great teacher and there are lawyers in Baltimore today who are better practitioners than they otherwise would have been.”
Friends said he had a precise, tenacious legal mind and was known for his ethical commitments.
“Jim was a perfectionist. In a case, he was always extremely well prepared,” said Mr. Graham, his former law partner.
Philip Andrews, a legal colleague, said: “Jim led by example. His work ethic and his dedication to his clients were legendary. He was truly a giant in the Maryland legal community.”
“There was no way of knowing that this warm and wonderful man was to become our dearest friend for the next forty years,” David Zinman, former musical director of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, said in an email. “Our conversations ranged from the necessary business calls to deep and unforgettable discussions of music, literature, and the state of the world.”
Mr. Kramon began to suffer from an undiagnosed neurological disease that eventually required him to use a wheelchair and lose the use of his hands.
Justin Kramon, his son, said his father kept up a thriving legal practice and engaged in philanthropic work. He also wrote articles for The Baltimore Sun and several books.
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Mr. Kramon served on the boards of the Park School and Pro Musica Rara. He regularly attended the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra.
“My father read widely, works by Tony Judt and Cormac McCarthy. He debated current events and philosophy with his close friends,” his son, Justin, said.
“Jim was a model of profound personal courage and resiliency in his productive life,” said a friend, Philip Beauregard, a Massachusetts lawyer. “Jim was unique in overcoming adversity. His indomitable will to go on resulted in years of quality work and productivity, as well as his availability to me to share personal and professional experiences.”
In 2011 after the death of his wife, Mr. Kramon moved to Westhampton Beach in New York, where he had spent childhood school vacations.
“He looked forward to summer, when he could see his friends at the beach and spend afternoons watching the ocean as he did with my mom when she was alive,” his daughter, Anna “Annie” Kramon, said.
Jacques Capelluto, a friend from New York, said: “In word and deed, Jim personified courage, compassion, integrity, and uncompromising fidelity to moral and ethical principles, all of which he gave to us wrapped in friendship and caring.”
Survivors include his two children, Justin Kramon of Philadelphia and Anna “Annie” Kramon of Scotch Plains, New Jersey; two sisters, Patricia Pincus of New York City and Elizabeth Harlan of Flanders, New York; a stepsister, Ellin Sarot of Cambridge, Massachusetts; and three grandchildren. His wife of 44 years, Susan Paula Kramon, a Jewish Family and Children’s Services social worker, died in 2010.