Whether assisting in the expansion of BaltimoreCity as an Assistant Title Examiner, building his law practice or leading Allied Troops to OmahaBeach on D-Day, Judge Edwin J. Wolf never backed down from a challenge. Picking up from his discharge from military service, his story continues... [Read Part 1 of Judge Wolf’s story]
“I went back to a dead office,” recalls Col. Edwin J. Wolf, referring to his release in November 1945 from his admirable service in World War II and the law practice he had left in the dark while fighting injustice in Europe. With a family to support, Wolf quickly “went to work” reviving his firm. It was time for the now middle-aged Wolf to, once again, prove himself in the law community.
He took over his late father Harry (H.B.) Wolf’s office at 110 E. Lexington Street in Baltimore. H.B. had run a successful law practice in the dawning years of the 20th century, and even served in the U.S. House of Representatives (MD, 3rd District) from 1907-09. A dedicated father and public servant, H.B. is undoubtedly responsible for the strong work ethic his son exhibited throughout his professional career and was best exemplified during his military service, for which the younger Wolf was awarded a Bronze Star for heroism. This worthy trait would consequently be used to supplant H.B. as the most distinguished attorney in the family, and perhaps Baltimore.
“I started the same rounds I did when I was 21 – you couldn’t get business otherwise,” Wolf quips, regarding the “do-whatever-it-takes” attitude lawyers demonstrated in the 1930s to get a case. “While you were in the war and away from town, [the big law firms] weren’t going to sit by and let you pass – they grabbed [your business] and they didn’t give it back.”
Often operating seven days a week until two or three in the morning, Wolf and his six associates (three men and three women, also in possession of a marvelous work ethic) toiled in the law office throughout the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s. Wolf’s firm gradually built a reputation for representing those scorned by major Baltimore businesses. These cases could, oftentimes, ruin the reputations and livelihoods of many attorneys, but not Col. Wolf. “I had a grand time,” the veteran recalls.
As the victories mounted, Wolf’s credibility and notoriety in the legal arena soared as well. In 1966, Baltimore City Circuit Court Judge Edwin Harlan passed away, and Wolf was asked to fill the vacant seat. For 1967 and 1968, Judge Wolf presided on the City’s Circuit Court. The new environment provided different entanglements, but the experienced Wolf never wavered in his principles, despite certain pressures within the shady political theater.
“A politician makes a judge,” Wolf remarks. “A fight makes a colonel.”
In 1969, Wolf was not reelected as a Circuit Court Judge and he subsequently
went back to trying cases – old habits die hard. He continued his
legal success throughout Baltimore for many years.
“I love trying cases,” explains Wolf. “I didn’t have any trouble. Preparation won cases. If you prepared it, you could outsmart the other fella.”
Soon after, Wolf was approached by attorney and ex-marine Archibald Eccleston,
III. Arch, as he is commonly known, wanted to build the best law firm in
Baltimore, and he knew Wolf was the key component. Eccleston’s theory
was simple: he’d bring in the business, Wolf would try the cases.
Currently, the litigation-oriented firm Eccleston & Wolf, P.C., has approximately 40 attorneys spread through their offices located in downtown Baltimore, Washington D.C. and Northern Virginia, but this firm achieved its preeminent status with a major advantage over any other firm: one of the most veteran and skilled attorneys to ever argue in Charm City.
“Judge Wolf was an incredible resource,” recalls Al Frederick,
current Partner at Eccleston & Wolf. Frederick, who began working with
Wolf in 1974 and has remained a close friend, describes the seasoned attorney
as, “Unbelievably hard-working . . . and a consummate professional. He
would start talking, and people would sit in his office for hours. The stories
would happen exactly as he told them.”
Arguably one of the most accomplished men in the city, Wolf never held himself in higher regard than others; he saw himself as a guide for others. He was the ultimate worker: determined, revered and humble.
“New lawyers would come in,” explains Frederick, “and he treated them [all] like an equal. He would go into court with the new attorneys, and all the judges and lawyers knew him. He viewed himself as the battleship anchored offshore.”
Even into the twilight of his life, Wolf never disregarded his beginnings, as he paid homage to the valuable early teachings he received. When the University of Maryland-Baltimore planned to construct a new law building, Wolf readily donated money to his alma mater, as well as honor the motivating force of his life, his mother and father (both UMB graduates from 1901), with a dedication plaque on one of the classrooms.
Despite the drive and passion still fueling his then-95 year old body, Wolf realized the stopping point. The everyday trek to the office finally became too much.
“I quit going to the office about five years ago,” Wolf admitted
17 days after his 100th birthday, May 1, 2007. “It was in my blood – I
love to go down there. I could sit with the boys and help them out a little
bit. If they didn’t know which way to go [on a decision], they could
talk to me – still got my wits about me.”
The MSBA, along with colleagues, family members and friends, celebrated Judge Edwin J. Wolf’s birthday at the Roland Park Place Retirement Community on May 6. Though only the attendees toasted a man who is heavily responsible for the make-up of this city on his birthday, the greater population is equally thankful for his munificent actions.