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James D. 'Dan' Peacock, past board chairman at Sheppard Pratt, dies

James D. 'Dan' Peacock, past board chairman at Sheppard Pratt, dies
James D. "Dan" Peacock died April 2 at his home in Topsham, Maine. (James D. "Dan" Peacock)

James D. "Dan" Peacock, a retired trial lawyer and managing partner at Semmes, Bowen & Semmes who was also a board chairman of Sheppard Pratt, died of multiple organ failure April 2 at his home in Topsham, Maine.

The former longtime Towson resident was 85.

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"Dan came to Semmes right out of law school, and I met him five years later. He was a mentor to a lot of lawyers, including me," said Cleaveland D. Miller, principal and chairman of Semmes, Bowen & Semmes. "He brought to his work a high degree of honesty and integrity, and that always impressed juries. He was a fine and decent human being."

The son of educators L. Lawrence Peacock and Esther H. Peacock, James Daniel Peacock was born in Moorestown, N.J., in 1930. Later that year the family moved to Baltimore when his father took the position of teacher, coach and athletic instructor at Friends School.

After graduating from Friends in 1948, Mr. Peacock obtained a bachelor's degree in 1952 from Duke University, where he was an All-American lacrosse player and a member of Sigma Alpha Epsilon.

He was drafted into the Army in 1952, and even though he was eligible for conscientious status as a Quaker, Mr. Peacock decided he wanted to serve. A physical training instructor, he served until being discharged in 1954.

Mr. Peacock then enrolled at the University of Maryland School of Law, from which he received his law degree in 1957. He was a member of the Order of the Coif.

He joined Semmes, Bowen & Semmes in 1957. His legal expertise was in general civil litigation, health, personal injury and property damage. He retired from the Baltimore law firm in 1991.

"Having spent my entire legal career of 34 years with Semmes, Bowen & Semmes, I was privileged to practice law with so many excellent lawyers and good friends," Mr. Peacock wrote in an essay published in the firm's history.

"I came to the Firm never expecting to be a trial attorney certainly not arguing before juries and cross examining witnesses, but found early on that this was my niche. Thanks in large part to Norman Ramsey, Rig Baldwin, David Owen and John Mudd," he wrote. "I learned the ropes from masters of the trade, all members of the American College of Trial Lawyers."

"He always had stacks of yellow pads filled with notes that he had written. He left no stone unturned when trying a case," recalled Mr. Miller. "He was totally prepared and looked out for every possible eventuality."

During his years with Semmes, Mr. Peacock was managing partner of the firm's Towson office.

"Trying cases for Semmes in my day was fun! The caliber of the judges I argued before was quite high both at the trial level and on appeal," wrote Mr. Peacock in the law firm history. "It was a time when if your client deserved summary judgment or directed verdict, they usually got it."

In the memoir, Mr. Peacock wrote that his favorite client was the Sheppard Pratt Health System, "which gave me a change of pace from trial work while also involving me in fascinating psychiatric malpractice litigation."

He served as a trustee, vice chairman and chairman of the board of Sheppard Pratt Health System from 1970 to 1997.

He was a fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers, and served as chairman of the college's Maryland State Committee.

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A longtime member of Stony Run Friends Meeting, he also helped Harford Friends School in Forest Hill acquire land for a new school. He was also a member of the Brunswick Friends Meeting in Maine.

After retiring, Mr. Peacock moved to Maine. There, he and his wife, the former Joan Vandenburg, whom he married in 1953, wintered in Topsham and spent summers at Small Point. He was a member of the Small Point Association and used his legal background to help the association with public-access issues involving Small Point beach.

"He interested me in the joys of Maine, and we've been going there for 40 years," said Mr. Miller.

Mr. Peacock was an avid sports fan, and enjoyed listening to music. He also loved to cook and fish, and especially liked showing young people how to catch and clean their own dinner, family members said.

Plans for a memorial service, to be held in Maine this summer, are incomplete.

In addition to his wife of 62, years, Mr. Peacock is survived by his four daughters, Elizabeth Peacock "Beth" Holcomb of Venice, Fla., Martha Peacock "Marty" McLaughlin of Ruxton, Mary Anne Peacock of Colesville and Margaret Peacock "Peggy" Daly of Phippsburg, Maine; a sister, Renear Kamphausen of Phippsburg; nine grandchildren; and six great-grandchildren.

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