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Thomas Perkins, attorney and board member

Thomas Perkins, attorney and board member
Thomas P. Perkins III, former partner at the Venable law firm, died Dec. 31. (/ HANDOUT)

Thomas Peirce Perkins III, former partner at the Venable law firm and a past Enoch Pratt Free Library, Baltimore Aquarium, Baltimore Education Scholarship Trust board member, died Dec. 31 of congestive heart failure at the Goodman Brown Hospice in New York. The former Guilford resident was 82.

The son of Thomas Peirce Perkins II and Virginia Miller Perkins, Mr. Perkins was born in Baltimore and raised on Chancery Road in Guilford. He was a member of the family that owned and operated the Hotel Rennert, a renowned Victorian hostelry at Saratoga and Liberty streets.

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He attended the Calvert School and was a 1953 graduate of Gilman School. He earned a bachelor’s degree at Yale University, where he was active on the Yale Daily News. He remained a loyal alumnus and served as his class secretary.

“His loyalty to Yale was never in doubt. He was co-chair for his 45th and 55th class reunion capital campaigns and raised $29.4 million,” said a Yale classmate, Donald M. Roberts of New York City. “He was wonderful at fundraising and you could always count on him to come up with an enterprising approach.”

Mr. Perkins earned a degree from the Harvard Law School in 1960. He returned to Baltimore and joined the law firm of Venable, Baetjer & Howard, now known as Venable LLP, where he worked for 42 years, 35 of them as a partner. He was named Lawyer of the Year by the firm’s chair, Benjamin R. Civiletti, for his expertise in chairing the firm’s finance committee.

“He was a highly intelligent man and headed the Venable corporate department,” said a retired colleague, James D. Wright. “He had a way of quickly analyzing a situation and could understand difficult issues right away.”

Mr. Wright recalled his colleague’s ability to write clearly. “He was our go-to guy for writing briefs.”

He also said, “Tom was a liberal Democrat. He believed passionately that government had the ability to make a difference in peoples’ lives.”

Mr. Perkins was a founding member of the Yale Class of 1957 Music in Schools Project, which funds public school students in musical education.

Mr. Perkins had been treasurer of the founding Board of the National Aquarium in Baltimore, board president of Baltimore Education Scholarship Trust, president of the Baltimore City Jail Board, board president of Baltimore’s Citizens Planning and Housing Association and was a past trustee of the Bryn Mawr and Gilman schools.

“He was a man who thought in terms of humanitarian values,” said a colleague, Stanley Mazaroff. “And he thought more about other people than he did himself.”

His daughter, Anne Gardner Perkins of Boston, said Mr. Perkins was a recovering alcoholic and became sober at age 50 through the help of Alcoholics Anonymous.

“He never had a drink the rest of his life. His defining traits were integrity, hard work, a quick intelligence and an irreverent wit,” she said.

Mr. Perkins, a lifelong Democrat, was active in Maryland political campaigns. In 1978, he was campaign treasurer for Stephen H. Sachs, who won election that year as Maryland’s attorney general.

“Tom was a complicated guy,” said Mr. Sachs. “He could be warm and the dearest of friends, and he could be cantankerous. He also had an enormous sense of social responsibility. His was enormously generous, with his time, with his money and his person. He gave back — he was driven to do so — I would go so far to say that he had some guilt, that he had had so much and others did not.”

Friends said Mr. Perkins was a student of baseball and was an Orioles fan.

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“We’d go to games together, and he talked of strategy on the field,” said Mr. Mazaroff.

Mr. Perkins was also a contributor to the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra.

“He was more than fond of Beethoven, Mozart and Bach,” said another daughter, Virginia Miller Perkins, of Baltimore. “He also loved the Preservation Hall Jazz Band.”

A memorial service will be held at noon Jan. 20 at the Roman Catholic Cathedral of Mary Our Queen, 5200 N. Charles St.

In addition to his daughters, survivors include his wife of 13 years, Sarah M. Brown of Brooklyn; and five grandchildren. His son, Robert Rennert Perkins, died in 1986. His second wife, Harriet Granet, died in 2001. His first marriage, to Anne Scarlett Perkins of Baltimore, ended in divorce.

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