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June 27, 2012

R.I.P. Charles Fisher, Sr.

Kevin E. Dayhoff

Charles Osborne Fisher, Sr., 95, a longstanding distinguished gentleman, country attorney, and Carroll County community leader, died last Friday at his home after a brief illness.


In addition to his leadership in local, state, and national legal circles, Mr. Fisher also served as a distinguished member of the banking, medical and political community and was a member of St. John Catholic Church.


Mr. Fisher practiced law for more than 65-years. He was a member of the New Windsor State Bank board of directors for more than 60 years. In addition to being one of the co-founders of Carroll Hospital Center in 1961, Mr. Fisher also served on the Maryland Health Services Cost Review Commission for 11 years beginning in 1986.


Although Mr. Fisher was born in Washington, DC, on June 15, 1917, he moved with his parents to Westminster in 1921. Mr. Fisher’s father had come to Westminster to start the first Ford dealership in Carroll County.


In 1924 his parents purchased a home on Court Street, just across the street from the courthouse.


According to an article published in the spring of 1996, in the University of Maryland Law School’s “JD Magazine,” David Carrera noted: “As a youngster, he got to know the players in the Carroll County legal system by doing odd jobs for them. He didn’t know it at the time, but these odd jobs would help shape his career, and eventually his life.”


At the age of 16, he graduated from St. John Catholic High School, which at the time was located on Main Street in Westminster, right next to the train station.


Mr. Fisher once told me the story, repeated in his obituary, that after graduation “he and three friends, all boy scouts, travelled to the Chicago World’s Fair in 1933, camping along the way and returning home via Canada on a month-long journey.”


“In 1938, he graduated from Loyola College in Baltimore and that same year was admitted to the evening program at the University of Maryland School of Law. He worked at the Department of Public Welfare during the day and attended classes three evenings a week,” wrote Mr. Carrera.


Mr. Fisher’s studies were interrupted by World War II. He served for five years in the U.S. Army during World War II, from 1941 to 1946, when he was discharged with the rank of captain in the Signal Corps.


It was during the war that he married Margaret Gunther, of Baltimore, on a weekend pass in November 1942. They celebrated 69 years of marriage before her death last December.


He was a proud member of the American Legion Carroll Post #31 of Westminster and marched at the head of Westminster’s annual Memorial Day parade with other local veterans.


According to JD Magazine, when Mr. Fisher returned “to Westminster in 1946, one of the distinguished attorneys for whom he used to run errands as a child, D. Eugene Walsh, asked Mr. Fisher to join his practice as a second principal.”


Mr. Walsh’s law firm dates back to 1896. The firm was begun by Michael Walsh. Later, Eugene Walsh joined the firm. Mr. Fisher joined in 1946 and his son, Charles Fisher, Jr., joined in 1972.


Much of Mr. Fisher’s work, such as helping to establish Carroll Hospital Center and working with New Windsor State Bank and the Maryland Health Services Cost Review Commission has left a legacy that will benefit generations to follow. In addition to that work for the community, Mr. Fisher was involved in a number of legal cases that still resonate today.


Along with Eugene Walsh, who served at that time as the Westminster city attorney, Mr. Fisher helped represent the city in the landmark municipal water supply case, Bair v. Mayor and City Council of Westminster. On July 20, 1966, the Court of Appeals of Maryland decided to compel the city to provide water to a tract of land outside the city limits.


Later, in another water-rights case, referred to in JD Magazine, the Court of Appeals, the court “upheld an old English case stating that an individual or company had every right to draw subterranean waters without liability to adjoining landowners…”


Mr. Fisher noted in a JD Magazine article, when he had practiced law for 50 years, that “the amount of knowledge you gain about so many aspects of life as a result of digging into the facts of these cases is truly remarkable…”


Mr. Fisher also said: “When I first started, a handshake in this town sealed a deal, people stayed good to their word… Things are more complicated today, and the profession has made the necessary changes to keep things in order.”


Many will agree that with Mr. Fisher’s passing many things will be more complicated in Carroll County.


In a June 1997article in Baltimore Business Journal, Rob Kaiser wrote about Mr. Fisher’s tenure on the Maryland Health Services Cost Review Commission. He quoted Peter P. Parvis, then a Venable attorney for the Maryland Hospital Coalition, spoke for many when he said of Mr. Fisher: “He has many years of both experience and the old school gentleman lawyer approach, which I think helps in almost any endeavor…”


Rest in Peace, My Friend!


… I’m just saying. . . . .


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