COURT OF COMMON PLEAS OF LEHIGH COUNTY
2011 BAR MEMORIALS CEREMONY
MONDAY, FEBRUARY 13, 2012
9:00 O'CLOCK A.M.
LEHIGH COUNTY COURTHOUSE
ALLENTOWN, PENNSYLVANIA 18101
*HONORABLE JAMES FRANCIS BROWN, JR.
BEFORE: HONORABLE CAROL K. MCGINLEY, P.J. HONORABLE EDWARD D. REIBMAN, J. HONORABLE WILLIAM E. FORD, J. HONORABLE ROBERT L. STEINBERG, J. HONORABLE J. BRIAN JOHNSON, J. HONORABLE KELLY L. BANACH, J. HONORABLE JAMES T. ANTHONY, J. HONORABLE MARIA L. DANTOS, J. HONORABLE MICHELE A. VARRICCHIO, J. HONORABLE DOUGLAS G. REICHLEY, J.
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ERIN ALEXANDER, RPR
Official Court Reporter
MR. WARMKESSEL: Oyez, Oyez, Oyez, all manner of persons having anything to do before the Honorable Judges of the Court of Common Pleas of the County of Lehigh, Pennsylvania, here holden this day, let them come forward and they shall be heard. God save the Commonwealth and this Honorable Court. Please be seated.
PRESIDENT JUDGE MCGINLEY: Good morning. On behalf of my colleagues and personally, I welcome all of you to the annual Lehigh County Bar Association Memorials. This is an annual event which is a special session of court which is convened to honor the memories of those members of our Bar Association who passed away during the previous year.
Before we begin, I would like to also acknowledge the presence of other judges who are here but not sitting right up at the bench. I'd like to acknowledge that we have the presence of Judge Panella from the Superior Court; our Senior Judge Platt who is assigned to the Superior Court; Judge Perkin who is federal magistrate; Judge Brenner our senior judge who is performing valuable service for us; and Judge Young, retired judge who we still remember and miss.
We would like to recognize the President of the Bar Association, Mr. Daniel McCarthy, to make remarks and introductions.
MR. MCCARTHY: Thank you, Your Honor. Good morning. May it please the Court. This year's remembrances will be conducted by Attorney James Swartz, immediate past president of the Bar Association of Lehigh County.
MR. SWARTZ: Thank you, Dan. May it please the Court, President Judge McGinley, Honorable Judges of the Court of Common Pleas, other distinguished guests, colleagues, family, friends.
On behalf of the Bar Association of Lehigh County, I welcome you all. We gather today for one of our finest traditions, our annual Bar Memorial which dates back at least 107 years back to at least the time when the Bar Association was first formed in 1905. The Bar Memorial celebrates the lives of our members of the Bar who have passed away during the past calendar year.
We thank the Court for their continued commitment to this proceeding and clearing the court calendar to join us and to assist us as we pay tribute to our past members. We'd also like to thank the efforts of Attorney John Baker who has for many years worked diligently and wholeheartedly at organizing this event.
It's my honor and privilege to join you this morning to celebrate and reflect on the lives and careers of our members who leave a legacy of commitment to the law, the profession and the community. These fine lawyers were colleagues, leaders, mentors and friends. They were a credit to the profession and served as role models for younger lawyers to aspire to.
Today we gather to honor the memory of the Honorable James Francis Brown, Jr., who will be remembered by Judge William E. Ford and Alexander Stirton who will be remembered by Gary Glascom.
With that being said, Judge Ford.
JUDGE FORD: May it please the Court, honored guests, Mr. Swartz, members of the Bar, families and friends of Attorney Alexander Stirton and the Honorable James Francis Brown, Jr.
One of the ornaments of our profession was the kind and brilliant Benjamin Nathan Cardozo. He marvelled at people who, unrecognized, quietly worked for the good of others. Justice Cardozo wrote about them in a beautiful essay in which he stated:
Let us not make the blunder of supposing that to spend one's self utterly in sacrifice and devotion is a lot reserved for a chosen few. To the glory of our humanity, the lowly equally with the mighty may be partakers in this bliss. We have walked with angels unawares.
Today we pause to honor the life of James Francis Brown, Jr., a man who devoted himself to service and family.
Jim's dad, James Francis Brown, Sr., worked for the Lehigh Valley Railroad, was a real estate investor, then he worked for the real estate department at PP&L. He was an Allentown mayoral candidate, then Allentown City Councilman in the 1930s. Jim's mom, Anne Cannon, emigrated as a young girl from County Donegal in Ireland. She was a housewife and homemaker. The senior Browns had eight children. These included two nurses, a parks employee, a physician, a journalist who became the director of Allentown's YWCA, a dental hygienist, a Catholic priest, and Jim, the lawyer.
The Brown family first lived in Allentown's Sixth Ward; they then settled at 1624 Chew Street where they lived for decades. The Browns experienced comfortable moments but also low moments during the Depression. They lost 105 acres that they owned near Lehigh Valley Hospital. They almost lost their home on Chew Street until Jim and his brother, Barney, combined their resources and saved the home from a tax sale. A few years later, Jim's brother Barney would suffer serious combat injuries in Italy.
During the high moments for them in the Depression, the Brown family would discreetly share their food with neighbors and others from the city. For the entire Brown family, their Catholic faith was part of their daily lives and became part of their character.
Jim graduated from Allentown High School in 1937. He then went to Muhlenberg College where he majored in philosophy. He was an outstanding student. Jim played football in his earlier years, but at Muhlenberg, he took up wrestling. He was Muhlenberg's first wrestler on Muhlenberg's first wrestling team. Jim received his bachelor's degree from Muhlenberg in 1941.
In 1941, Jim enlisted in the Army as a private but was soon promoted to officer ranks. For months he was assigned desk duty and he did not like it one bit. He asked that he be assigned to a combat unit and he got his wish.
The Army assigned Jim to the 82nd Airborne. He went through paratrooper training, and, as he told it, on his first flight ever in an airplane, the Army made him jump out of it. Then a captain, he was made the commanding officer of Company B, 507th Regiment of the 82nd Airborne.
On June 6, 1944, Captain Brown and his company were steaming across the Atlantic, heading toward an undisclosed combat location. They landed on the Normandy beaches on Day 4 of the invasion. From June 10, 1944, to mid July, Company B took part in fierce fighting during which they suffered many casualties. They fought among Normandy's hedgerows. Jim and Company B saw action in the re taking of the Normandy town Sainte Mere Eglise, made famous by the American paratrooper whose chute got hung on the town's church spire on D Day as the battle raged below.
On one of the night missions in Normandy, Captain Brown showed a flash of promise that perhaps he should consider a career in the law. He and some men in his company were ordered to "locate the enemy" around some forested areas. As they moved forward, they heard many conversations in German on the other side of the treeline. They heard the clanging of pots and pans. They estimated that there were hundreds of Germans just on the other side of the trees.
Jim could feel his troop's apprehension. He was asked, "What do we do?" His answer, "The orders were to make contact with the enemy. We have made contact with the enemy. We go back."
After the breakout from Normandy, Company B was transferred to England for R & R and replenishment of their ranks. The location of Company B after the R & R in England is unclear until December of 1944.
On December 16, 1944, the Battle of the Bulge began. Jim and his Company B were part of the eastern push across Belgium to relieve the German encirclement of Bastogne. They were involved in fierce engagements. When German artillery hit or scraped the forest canopy, branches, sparks and embers would rain down on the Americans, including the men of Company B.
They tried to dig for safety but were only able to make depressions of several inches in the frozen ground. During those cold dangerous days, Captain Brown was constantly on the prowl for overcoats and adequate boots for his men. On January 5, 1945, Company B was at the village of Houdemont, 7 kilometers from Bastogne. Jim went into one of the abandoned old homes there to look for a mirror and water to shave. When he came out, he was met by a passing jeep carrying officers. They could tell he just shaved, and they were teasing him about it. They offered him a ride over to his unit.
Jim sat on the right front fender. The jeep traveled about 100 yards down the road when the left front tire hit a mine. The explosion injured the driver severely and killed the officer in the backseat. Jim suffered a fracture of his leg and sustained injuries to his arm and his shoulder. He was out of action for two months; but he was then returned for further duty in France.
On August 14, 1945, Jim's company was onboard a transport ship somewhere between Gibraltar and Suez. They were headed to the Pacific to fight the Japanese. Word reached the ship of the dropping of the atomic bombs and that the Japanese had surrendered. The ship made a U turn, and, in 1948, Jim voted for Truman.
At Jim's viewing held at the Bar Association, there was a photograph depicting the men who remain from the original Company B taken toward the end of the war or just after the war. It showed 47 men from the original 170. All of the missing were not casualties, but it gives an idea of what Company B experienced.
After the war, Jim went to law school at the University of Pennsylvania. He received his law degree in June of 1948. He practiced law in Allentown out of the Commonwealth Building for a few years, and then took a position as Assistant United States Attorney from 1951 to 1953.
One of Jim's successful prosecutions with the U.S. Attorney's Office was of a diamond smuggler caught with diamonds secreted in what is generally considered an inaccessible place.
Jim then took a job as corporate attorney for Bethlehem Steel where he worked until 1983. He eventually became the Director for the Department of Safety and Worker's Compensation. He and his staff of attorneys handled worker's compensation, black lung and related litigation from across the country. Jim testified before a congressional committee as Congress considered black lung legislation.
Attorney Wally Eldridge was one of Jim's attorneys at Bethlehem Steel. According to Wally, Jim had a wonderful intellect. He loved to do his own research and writing. He was a great storyteller with a delightful sense of humor. He was kind to everyone; he never spoke a disparaging word about anyone.
The staff at Bethlehem Steel knew not to disturb their boss from 12:30 to 1:00 every day. That was the boss's time to put his feet on the desk and take a nap. Jim had a successful career at Bethlehem Steel, and retired from there in November 1983.
At that point, he had his sights set on a position in Washington. Judge Platt, then our district attorney, gave him a position as an assistant DA which he did for a year and a half. He competently handled the prosecutions that were assigned to him. One of his trials that went to verdict was of a man charged with aggravated assault. The defense lawyer was named Carol K. McGinley.
Some others in this courtroom would have been in the courthouse as Jim did his work, but you may not have noticed him because of his unassuming nature. He would stand about with the other lawyers until court began. He would then do his work in the courtroom, then return to his office all without fanfare. Judge Platt will tell you he was proud to have Jim as a member of his staff for the short time he served there.
In February 4, 1985, his 66th birthday, Jim was appointed by President Reagan to be the administrative Appeals Judge for the United States Department of Labor with chambers in Washington. For this next career, Jim had a small apartment in Washington where he lived during the week and returned to Allentown for the weekends.
In this position, Jim served as an Administrative Appeals Judge for a five member benefits review board. This board was created earlier to help relieve the burgeoning caseloads of United States district courts. The issues before this board arose from federal worker's compensation law, the Black Lung Act and the Longshore and Harbor Workers Act, which included the Defense Base Act.
According to Judge Regina McGranery, Jim's colleague on the board, Jim was very much respected in their circle of the Department of Labor. He was very private and "never tooted his own horn." He was funny. The staff loved him. He was gracious to everyone. Jim's decisions were beautifully written. He understood the law in a practical, real world way.
While Jim was a team player, he wrote a notable number of dissents. Most of his dissents, when appeals were taken, were adopted by the United States Circuit Court of Appeals. Judge McGranery noted this and Jim was proud of this.
Jim loved his work in Washington. Sadly, poor health forced him to retire in 2002. Jim died on September 29, 2011, at the age of 92.
There was a part of Jim Brown's life of which I have not spoken; and that part, if you were to ask him, was the most important. He was married to Jean Person Brown. They had a non traditional relationship in that they both pursued their careers which meant that they were often separated by many miles. They cared about and loved each other.
Jim's wife, Jean, was the manager and bookkeeper for the Person Stables. The Persons engaged in all aspects of the horse industry. Some of their early, regular customers were General Trexler and Freeman's Dairy. Jean was often able to enlist Jim to assist in the work with the horses to the amusement of his children and grandchildren.
Jean and Jim were blessed by three good children. Many in this courtroom know the oldest child, another Jim Brown, and his wife Christine for their work at the Lehigh County Bar Association. You may be surprised that young Jim is not a member of the Bar Association staff even though you see him there all the time. He is just helping his wife Christine in her work at the Bar Association. Young Jim is the principal of Kutztown Senior High School.
Tim Brown, here this morning, is a real estate evaluator for Wells Fargo based at 7th and Hamilton Street. Tim is married to Deborah. Then there is the apple of Judge Brown's eyes, his only daughter, Helen, who is married to Pete and lives in Shickshinny, Pennsylvania. Helen, more than her brothers, stayed involved with the Person family business and remains involved in the transportation business, but of a more modern sort than horses.
The Brown children and grandchildren, Sarah, Ryan, Patrick, Kit, and grandson in law, Matt, have always been the center of Jean and Jim Brown's lives.
Tim recalls that there were many occasions when he or his brother or sister would go to their dad with a problem or just to talk with him. Dad usually had papers or a book in his hand. He always put those aside and had all the time in the world for his child. Tim played baseball. In his younger years, his dad was always at the ball games standing along the back of the crowd supporting his son.
Shakespeare gave a description of one of his dramatic heroes. It could apply to the Jim Brown that we honor today:
His life was gentle, and the elements so mixed in him that Nature might stand up and say to all the world, "This was a man."
But Justice Cardozo said it best: We have walked with angels unawares.
MR. SWARTZ: Thank you, Judge Ford. I welcome Gary Glascom who will honor Alexander Stirton.
MR. GLASCOM: May it please the Court. President Judge McGinley, Honorable Judges, distinguished guests and family, and Mrs. Stirton, and friends, colleagues and public defenders.
I want to thank you for the opportunity to tell you about Alex Stirton from my particular point of view. We know that Alex did not become a lawyer early in his career. After college, he worked with the Forensic Department at the Pennsylvania State Police. He went to law school at night, and worked with several law firms in town; and hung out his own shingle, conducting a general practice of law.
Five or six years ago he joined us as an attorney at the Office of the Public Defender, and it was at that point that I met Alex. At that time our office was on the third floor of the courthouse. Alex was given a desk at one of the larger offices which had three other desks in it; one of which was mine. Jim Nechin and Irene Chiavaroli Johns were also in the office. As a result, we all helped each other.
Everyone came to Alex to pick his brain about forensics. We would have a client who was arrested with a certain drug we never heard of; we went to Alex. "Is this a Schedule I drug, a Schedule IV drug?" Who knew what the heck it was. Alex was able to tell us what it was. In Irene's words, he was the go to guy for that kind of stuff.
On a more personal level, he and I would talk more about things other than just law. We would talk about politics and college sports he loved Penn State and I Pitt and clients. And we would gripe to each other about other things: about clients, about colleagues, about clients, about prosecutors, about clients. And about cases that went bad. It was always the client's fault by the way. I would turn to him for advice and he would give common sense advice with his dry wit, often leaning toward some much appreciated flat out sarcasm. Frankly, he would make me laugh and I needed it.
After a time, Andrea Olsovsky joined our office and took Jim's desk. Now, she was a very new, idealistic woman, while the rest of us were very jaded by then. Irene asked us not to corrupt her with our cynicism. "Do not talk to Andrea unless it's something positive," she said. To Alex's credit, he respected that request. And, now, as we look at Andrea by the way just coming back from maternity leave we can say that her cynicism is not Alex's fault.
Well, Alex's quick wit was one of his trademarks. We sat next to each other at a CLE program held at a hotel in King of Prussia, the name of which I can't tell at the moment. The hotel staff was running around filling water jugs and handing out pens and whatnot. They all had name tags on and I expected the name tags to have the name on them: Bob or Mary. But each name tag had on the name of the hotel, and I commented to Alex that everyone had the same name. And he said, "Well, maybe they're all related. It's a family business."
But whether he was giving advice or commenting on something else or just thinking, one lasting memory for me, he had a way of leaning back in his chair, folding his hands on his lap and taking in whatever was going on around him. Ask a question; he stops what he's doing to listen and absorb, lean back and respond. Tell a joke; he stops, he leans back and he responds and he reacts. Always listening, always absorbing. Always ready to help with forensic advice or advice on how to handle a client or a case or something not even related to the office even as his health was declining the extent of which we were not aware, until very late.
I'm grateful for the opportunity of having spent time with Alex. And I hope I have given you a flavor of what he was like. Thank you.
MR. SWARTZ: Thank you, Gary. Ladies and gentlemen, we thank you all for coming. At the close of our ceremony, there will be coffee and, I think, pastries outside. With that, I turn it over to the Court.
PRESIDENT JUDGE MCGINLEY: Thank you, Mr. Swartz. The Court wants to express our appreciation to the Bar Association for continuing this valued tradition; to John Baker, the chairman of the committee for his hard work in making this a success; to the speakers who have memorialized our departed colleagues. It takes a lot of work and thought in what they do. They have helped us to continue a great tradition, allowed us to share in the lives of our departed members and to learn or be reminded of some of the qualities we wish to emulate.
The official court reporter is directed to transcribe the notes of testimony and make a digital copy of the memorial available to the Bar Association of Lehigh County. And it's my understanding the Bar Association publishes these transcripts on its home page, and I believe it is www.lehighbar.org. Anyone interested in a copy will be able to read it, print it or download it from that site.
All of the judges are gratified to see the attendance today. It is important for us not only to memorialize our colleagues, but to remember each other and all that we share in what makes this Bar Association special in the state of Pennsylvania or the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
We will adjourn the ceremony, and when we do, it will be out of respect for our departed colleagues and in honor of the profession of law and its honorable traditions in Lehigh County.
You can close court.
MR. WARMKESSEL: All rise please. Court is adjourned.
(Whereupon, the memorial ceremony concluded.)
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I hereby certify that the proceedings are contained fully and accurately in the notes taken by me of the above cause, and that this is a correct transcript of the same.
ERIN ALEXANDER, RPR
The foregoing record of the proceedings in the within matter is directed to be filed.
CAROL K. MCGINLEY, P.J.