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Richard B. Allen, the legal architect behind the merger of railroads that resulted in CSX Transportation, dies

The capstone to Richard B. Allen’s railroad career was the 1980 merger of the Chessie System and Seaboard Coast Line Railroad.
The capstone to Richard B. Allen’s railroad career was the 1980 merger of the Chessie System and Seaboard Coast Line Railroad. (Handout / HANDOUT)

Richard B. Allen, a lawyer who was the legal architect of the merger of two major railroads that resulted in today’s CSX Transportation, died Oct. 5 in his sleep at Stella Maris Hospice. The Timonium resident was 92.

“Richard was a preeminent Interstate Commerce Commission practitioner and he had our rowing oar in our case before the commission regarding the merger of Chessie System and Seaboard Railroad,” said John W. Snow, former president and CEO of CSX Corp. “He was one of the most admired leaders of the ICC bar and he enjoyed their deep respect and high regard for him.”

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Richard Burns Allen, son of U.S. Rep. Leo E. Allen, who represented Illinois from 1933 to 1961, and his wife, Gladys F. Dahl Allen, a homemaker, was born and raised in Galena, Illinois.

After graduating in 1946 from Morgan Park Military Academy in Chicago, which is now Morgan Park Academy, he served in the Army for a year. He attended the University of Dubuque and Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service before enrolling at University of Chicago Law School, from which he graduated in 1953.

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“He had gone to college for three years but went to law school without a bachelor’s degree,” said a son, Richard K. Allen of Silver Spring.

While Mr. Allen was in law school, he had a part-time clerical job working for the old Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad and after graduating from law school, worked as an assistant U.S. attorney in Chicago for several years.

In 1956, he joined the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad as an attorney, and four years later joined the legal department at its headquarters in Baltimore. In 1974, he was transferred to Cleveland as a lawyer working for the Chesapeake & Ohio/Baltimore and Ohio railroads.

“But he loved Baltimore and working in the old B&O building,” Mr. Snow said.

Mr. Allen, whose legal expertise was in mergers, acquisitions and abandonments, returned to Baltimore in 1986 where he spent the rest of his 36-year railroad career. He served as a vice president and general counsel until retiring in 1992, having worked for the B&O and its successor railroads, the Chessie System and CSX Transportation.

The capstone to Mr. Allen’s successful railroad career was the 1980 merger of the Chessie System and Seaboard Coast Line Railroad that has grown to a railroad of 20,000 route miles with access to 70 ports. In those days, railroads proposing mergers, service eliminations or abandonments had to seek permission from the ICC.

The merger of the two railroads was the culmination of the work of CEOs Hays T. Watkins Jr., who headed the Chessie System, and his counterpoint on the Seaboard, Prime F. Osborn III, who later became chairman of CSX Corp., which was the holding company of the Chessie and Seaboard systems.

“They had to get it through the ICC and that’s where Richard took over because he knew the proposed merger inside and out. He was just an absolute expert,” said Mr. Snow, who was named U.S. treasury secretary, in 2003 by President George W. Bush.

“It was the first merger of large Eastern, Midwestern and Southern railroads into one system. It was groundbreaking, and Richard was its legal architect,” Mr. Snow said. “He was such a gifted lawyer, a wonderful human being, and a gentleman of the old school and a man who never called attention to himself.”

When Mr. Allen retired, Mr. Watkins attended his retirement dinner.

“I am honored to have Hays Watkins here with us this evening,” Mr. Allen said in his remarks. “Were it not for him there wouldn’t be a CSX family and, while I shall always remember him as the founder of the company and the person who guided us in our formative years, I shall especially remember him for his moral and ethical integrity and for the gracious way he treated people with courtesy, respect, fairness and decency.”

In retirement, Mr. Allen, who was an active member and trustee of Second Presbyterian Church, took many theology courses at St. Mary’s Seminary & University in Roland Park.

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“He’d take some of the same courses over and over again,” his son said.

Said Mr. Snow: “He lived a Christian life and, while you could see he was a great lawyer, also could tell he was a man of the cloth. He was spiritual and that went along with his keen intellect. He was a healer who reached out to people. He was a sweet and a naturally kind person."

Mr. Allen was an avid Baltimore Colts and Ravens fan, and was particularly interested in reading about and studying this history of the B&O.

His wife of 63 years, the former Verna E. Kraay, died in 2014.

A memorial service is private.

In addition to his son, he is survived by another son, Bruce S. Allen of Clayton, Delaware; three daughters, Susan E. Allen of Rodgers Forge, Denelle K. Freund of Oakton, Virginia, and Nancy S. Allen-Dodrill of Punta Gorda, Florida; a brother, David W. Allen of Carmel, Indiana; a sister, Mary C. Harrelson of Niles, Illinois; eight grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren.

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