Judge Alfred L. Brennan Sr., who served both as a district judge and a circuit judge for Baltimore County, died Saturday of esophageal cancer at Gilchrist Hospice in Towson.
The former longtime Lutherville resident was 83.
"He had great insight as to what goes on in Circuit Court and the values of the cases and how things should be settled. And that was appreciated by so many people," said retired Baltimore County Circuit Judge John F. Fader II.
"Al was conscientious and had great strength. He had terrific ability as an attorney and insight as a judge," said Judge Fader. "He had an immediate grasp of the issues before the court and always exhibited great judicial temperament and courtesy."
Alfred Lawrence Brennan Sr., the son of an insurance executive and a homemaker, was born in Baltimore and raised on Thornbury Road in Mount Washington.
After graduating from Polytechnic Institute in 1948, he attended what is now Loyola University Maryland for two years and then enrolled at the University of Baltimore, where he earned his law degree in 1954.
Judge Brennan served in the Naval Reserve from 1946 to 1954.
He began practicing law in 1955 with MaGuire and Brennan, which had offices in Essex and Towson. In 1967, he founded the firm of Brennan & Brennan.
He also was a substitute magistrate in Baltimore County in 1965 and 1966 and served as a judge in the old People's Court in 1967.
In 1984, Gov. Harry R. Hughes appointed Judge Brennan to the District Court for Baltimore County, and four years later, Gov. William Donald Schaefer appointed him to the Circuit Court for Baltimore County.
Retired Baltimore County Circuit Judge Barbara K. Howe, who is now a settlement judge, was an old friend of Judge Brennan's.
"Al and I ran together and were appointed to the court one day apart. He was the real deal. He had integrity, was very smart, and when he was in court did a wonderful job," recalled Judge Howe.
"He had patience and strength and never got rattled. He was compassionate, fair, impartial, and knew the law," she said. "He'll never be replaced."
Harris James "Bud" George has been practicing law in Towson for 50 years.
"He had a great sense of humor. One day in District Court, he had a case where a man was charged with speeding," said Mr. George.
"When Al asked why, the man explained he 'was going downhill.' After Al looked at the man's driving record, he said, 'It appears that you've been going downhill a lot.'"
Mr. George recalled Judge Brennan's inherent sense of courteousness, which was honed from years working as a lawyer.
"He was a man of the people and remembered the years he practiced law and what lawyers go through," said Mr. George.
"He was always very courteous to lawyers, and he understood the problems they had," he said. "As a judge, he was just and did what he thought was right."
Judge Brennan retired in 1998 but continued working Mondays as a settlement judge.
Barbara Preiss, a judicial assistant in settlement court, has known Judge Brennan for nearly 30 years.
"What a wonderful person. He's hard to describe because he's about as close to perfection as a person could be," she said. "He was selfless and had no ego. All he had was kindness for others and a wonderful zest for life."
Ms. Preiss said that Judge Brennan's polite ways were well-known throughout the courthouse.
"He was always saying thank you for whatever you did for him," she said. "He was always thinking about others."
Judge Brennan had been a member of the Maryland State Bar Association and had been a member and served as president of the Baltimore County Bar Association in 1982-1983. He was also a member of the Governors of Maryland State Bar Association.
He was a member of the Dissenters Law Club.
"At Christmas time, we all picked out gifts for girls and boys, and Al would go to hospitals and orphanages to distribute them," said Mr. George.
An avid reader and fisherman, Judge Brennan was also a scuba diver, tennis player and golfer.
He was an accomplished poker player.
"He was a member of my poker group for 25 years," said Mr. George. "And when he smiled, you knew you were in trouble. And he'd even do that in court sometimes."
The former Lutherville resident lived in Timonium for the past eight years.
Judge Brennan was a member of Immaculate Conception Roman Catholic Church, Baltimore and Ware avenues, Towson, where a Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 11 a.m. Thursday.
Surviving are his wife of 59 years, the former Marjorie Lappe; five sons, Alfred L. Brennan Jr. of Towson, Robert C. Brennan of Rodgers Forge, Terrance P. Brennan of Lutherville, Donald J. Brennan of Timonium and Michael G. Brennan of Raleigh, N.C.; a daughter, Carolyn B. Wescott of Timonium; and 16 grandchildren.