Richard Oare, attorney

Richard Oare, attorney

Richard Oare, an attorney who successfully defended the the mayor of York, Pa., on a decades-old murder charge dating to a 1969 race riot, died of prostate cancer March 26 at Gilchrist Hospice Care in Towson. The White Hall resident was 68.

Born John Richard Oare Jr. in Baltimore and raised in Baynesville on Hillendale Road, he was the son of a builder who constructed homes in northern Baltimore County. His mother was a homemaker.


He attended Immaculate Conception School and was a 1962 graduate of Towson Catholic High School, where he played baseball and was named to an All Metro baseball team. He earned a bachelor's degree at what is now Loyola University Maryland.

After teaching English for a year at the old Cardinal Gibbons High School, he earned a law degree at the University of Arkansas.

He passed the bar exams of Pennsylvania, Maryland and the District of Columbia. He began his career as a public defender in Harrisburg, Pa., in 1973. He later established a private law practice in York.

"He was not afraid of anyone," said his brother, Robert D. Oare, a Baltimore commercial real estate broker. "It was the same in baseball with him, and it was the same in law. His sports background carried over. He liked court trials and he liked competition. If you had a legitimate case, he would fight for you."

In 1983, he sued the York County Children and Youth Services after a 5-year-old, Aleta Bailey, was killed. He represented the child's father.

"His fine work on that case was one of the triggers that strengthened child endangerment legislation in Pennsylvania," said a legal colleague, Clyde Vedder of York. "Dick was someone filled with a zest for life. He was well-read, well-traveled and well-versed on his medical malpractice cases."

Mr. Vedder recalled that Mr. Oare had been chairman of the York County Democratic Party.

"He was a Renaissance man, a sharp dresser who enjoyed good food and wine," Mr. Vedder said. "He was unafraid to take on confrontational cases."

In 2001, the mayor of York, Charles "Charlie" Robertson, was charged in the killing of Lillie Belle Allen, a black woman who was gunned down on a York street during a July 1969 race riot.

Mr. Robertson, a former York police officer who went on to be elected mayor, was charged along with two others in the death of the woman, who had been in York to visit relatives. The case was then more than 30 years old but a series of newspaper articles led to its reopening.

Mr. Oare was part of the defense team that wom Mr. Robertson an acquittal.

"He didn't murder anyone. Everyone knew that," Mr. Oare said in a 2002 Philadelphia Inquirer article. "The prosecution crawled out on a limb and couldn't get back."

The case drew national news coverage for Mr. Oare. He and the mayor appeared on the "Today" show and were interviewed by Matt Lauer.

He also appeared on the "PBS NewsHour" and told reporter Tom Bearden: "I think it's a very shallow case. I think primarily it's a case of abuse of prosecutorial discretion, insofar as the only reason I believe the mayor is a defendant is the fact that he is the mayor. Were he just another employee, or rather former police officer, I think that this charge would have never been brought against him."


Two other men also charged in the case were convicted of second-degree murder.

Family members said Mr. Oare took advantage of living near the Gunpowder Falls in northern Baltimore County, fishing and walking the Northern Central Trail. He also enjoyed skiing, sailing, bicycling and tennis. He read widely.

He also became a ballroom dancer and helped raise funds in a dance competition staged to benefit the Tuerk House in West Baltimore. He danced with his fiancee, Rita Preller, a Lutherville social worker.

He was a Center Stage subscriber and liked opera.

He was chair of the Loyola University Maryland Law and Government Alumni Association.

A memorial service will be held at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday at the Shrine of the Sacred Heart, 5800 Smith Ave. in Mount Washington.

In addition to his brother and fiancee, survivors include a daughter, Lauren Oare of Myrtle Beach, S.C.; and a sister, Carole Pauken of Greenville, S.C. His marriages to Mary Kisamore and Cheryl Hess ended in divorce.