Bennett Crain
Attorney Bennett Crain dies at 75

Was key in change to charter government

By MARY P. FELTER, Community News Editor

Bennett Crain, a founding partner in one of the area's most prestigious law firms and a man who helped spearhead the county's change to charter government, died Sunday at Anne Arundel Medical Center after a brief illness. He was 75.

Mr. Crain and Ed Hartman founded what was perhaps the county's best known and most respected law firm in the 1960s. Hartman and Crain broke apart in a contentious battle in the 1980s, with the firm formally dissolved in 1994.

Mr. Crain continued to practice law with Simcox and Barclay. He also operated a real estate title business run by his old firm, Old Bay Title and Escrow Co. At the time he said, "It's not retirement. I'm just slowing down a little."

The law firm Hartman and Crain was instrumental in bringing charter government to Anne Arundel County, with Joseph W. Alton Jr. elected as the first county executive in 1965.

Mr. Crain served as the reporter for the first Charter Board, which wrote the county's rule book in 1964. One of the board's main concerns was keeping the executive and legislative branches in check, he said.

Members were concerned about making the county executive "a dictator," he said in an article in The Capital in July 2001. Yet if they gave too much power to the County Council, the government would too closely resemble the old commissioner form they sought to replace.

Back then, eight commissioners were responsible for a broad range of executive and administrative functions, including maintaining county roads, enforcing building codes, levying taxes and appointing employees. Because of uncontrolled growth and a disorganized governmental system, the county often was described as a "banana republic."

"Bennett was a young fellow who worked very hard, who was persistent in getting signatures to get charter government, even when he was ignored," said Mr. Alton, who appointed him the first county attorney. "He worked tirelessly."

Interested in sailing and former owner of the Horn Point Marina, Mr. Crain joined with Mr. Hartman to become partners with Jerry Wood of the Annapolis Boat Shows in 1977.

After Mr. Wood's death in 2003 and his widow, Kathryn Wood's passing in 2005, Mr. Crain became chairman of the board of the shows with Mr. Hartman as president.

Mr. Crain sailed more than 100,000 miles on the Chesapeake Bay, in the Bahamas, Florida and New England and along the Atlantic Coast. He raced in the first Cape Town to Rio race in 1970.

He was a member of the Annapolis Yacht Club, the Sailing Club of the Chesapeake, the Cruising Club of America and the Seven Seas Sailing Club. He sailed aboard LANDSEND.

Born in Baltimore on Oct. 1, 1930, to William George Bennett Crain and the former Helen Hampton Young, Mr. Crain graduated from Episcopal High School and received his bachelor of arts degree from the University of Virginia. He obtained his law degree from the University of Maryland Law School.

From 1956 to 1959, he was a first lieutenant in the Army Judge Advocate General Corps. He was a member of the Maryland Constitutional Convention Committee and chairman of the Anne Arundel Charter Committee.

Mr. Crain was a member of the National Association of Civil Attorneys and the American, Maryland and Anne Arundel Bar associations, serving on various committees. He also was an officer of the Maryland County Civil Attorneys, a branch of the Maryland County Commissioners Association. He served as chairman of the county mental health drive.

In earlier years he was named Young Man of the Year by the Glen Burnie Jaycees and then received the same honor from the Maryland State Junior Chamber of Commerce. In 1963, he was named Citizen of the Year by the Citizens Committee for Anne Arundel County.

Mr. Crain was president of the Southern Maryland Society, belonged to St. Anne's Episcopal Church and was a former member of the Annapolis Rotary Club. He served on the Citizens Planning and Housing Committee for the City of Annapolis.

Surviving are his wife, Amy DeAolia Crain; four children, Vincent Paul Crawford of La Jolla, Calif., Robert Young Crain of Annapolis, Ellen Mulry Crain Hoj of Steamboat Springs, Colo., and Elizabeth Hampton Crain of Annapolis; two grandchildren; and a sister, Hampton Crain Addis of Elverson, Pa.

His marriage to Marjorie Piga Crawford Crain ended in divorce.

A memorial service will be held at 10 a.m. Friday at St. Anne's Episcopal Church on Church Circle. Burial will be private.

In lieu of flowers, contributions may be sent to the Hugh Hampton Young Memorial Library at Johns Hopkins University, in care of Development Office, 1 Charles Center, 100 N. Charles St., Suite 400, Baltimore, MD 21201.

- No Jumps-

Published September 06, 2006, The Capital, Annapolis, Md.
Copyright © 2006 The Capital, Annapolis, Md.