Paul R. Schlitz Sr., a retired attorney and clerk for the U.S. District Court for Maryland who worked to free numerous people arrested during the 1968 riots in Washington, D.C., died of cardiac renal failure June 17 at Stella Maris Hospice. He was 97 and lived in Parkville.
Born in Hicksville, New York, and raised in Catonsville, he was the son of Karl Schlitz, who sold insurance, and Margaret Schlitz. He was a 1941 Catonsville High School graduate.
In 1943, he went into military service and was initially assigned to a pre-law course at the University of Pennsylvania under the Army’s Specialized Training Program.
He was later assigned to combat in Europe. A sergeant, he was wounded in Linsdorf, Germany, near the French border. He was awarded a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart.
After he left service, he earned a bachelor’s degree at what is now Loyola University Maryland under the GI Bill.
Mr. Schlitz was drafted twice — the second time on his wedding day, Sept. 22, 1951. He married Marjorie Gipe, who was working as a Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. secretary when they met.
He later joined the Naval Reserve and left the service a second time as lieutenant, junior grade.
He later told a Sun reporter he did not return to the Army “because he was tired of walking.”
In 1951, he graduated from the University of Maryland School of Law. He served on the law review.
“My father was a methodical man,” said his daughter, Laura Schlitz. “Not only did he save eight used electric razors, each in the original packing with sales slip, warranty, instruction booklets and chargers taped to the box, he wrote a life story for himself, so all the pertinent facts are in the right place. I came across it among his papers.”
From 1954 to 1956, he was an attorney, then chief attorney for the Legal Aid Bureau. From 1964 to 1966, he was the full-time executive director of the Maryland State Bar Association.
He returned to Legal Aid when it expanded with federal War on Poverty funds. Its budget went from $50,000 to $440,000 and Mr. Schlitz recruited more than 160 attorneys — some as volunteers — to assist people in need of legal representation. He opened neighborhood offices on Pennsylvania Avenue and Aisquith Street.
In April 1968, when thousands of Baltimore residents were arrested during the riots after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Mr. Schlitz assigned his staff to police district courts and the old Supreme Bench of Baltimore as defense legal counsel for those being held.
“My arrested persons had no understanding of the nature of their violation and were merely returning home from work,” he said in The Sun. “They had little or no opportunity to contact their families.”
Mr. Schlitz was appointed clerk of the U.S. District Court for Maryland in 1969 and served until October 1984. He was the ninth person to hold the office since 1790.
In 1976, he led a move from the old federal courthouse at Calvert and Fayette streets to a new structure, the Garmatz Federal Courthouse on West Lombard Street.
A Sun article said he “wasted no time in executing moving plans he had been working on for years” and “scoured three floors to bring together his office force.”
Mr. Schlitz said the trial of Maryland Gov. Martin Mandel would continue uninterrupted as the move was in progress.
The Morning Sun
As this court’s clerk, he signed the diploma-like documents stating that an attorney is admitted to practice in federal court.
“After you pass the bar, you get papers to practice in different courts, and any lawyer who was admitted to practice in the United States District Court for the District of Maryland before 1984 would have my father’s name on his certificate,” said his daughter.
“My father was a mensch, known for his honesty, diligence, hearty laugh and deep courtesy,” his daughter said. “He built our house on Cuba Road in Cockeysville and three boats. He was an instrument-rated pilot and flew gliders. He loved sailing and classical music.”
She said Mr. Schlitz went to a library and found a book of homebuilding plans. He studied it and, with a little help, constructed the house where he and his family lived.
His daughter described him as a broad and appreciative reader, enjoying everything from poetry to history, biology to Dickens. He enjoyed hiking and had a tenderness for animals. He studied the cello, held a radio amateur operator’s license and became interested in astronomy at the age of 94.
Survivors include a son, Paul Schlitz Jr. of Mount Washington; a daughter, Laura Schlitz of East Towson; a sister, Hertha Schlitz Holland of Easton; and a grandson. His wife of 68 years died in 2017.
No services were held.