March 2012- In Memorium
Chief Judge William H. McCullough 1926-2012
By Judge Arthur M. Monty Ahalt (Ret.)
William H. McCullough, 86 who was Chief Judge of the Seventh Judicial Circuit. He was County Administrative Judge of the Prince George’s County Circuit Court from1975 until 1992. He retired at age 70 in 1995, died, after a brief illness on February 16, 2012 at his home with his family in Seat Pleasant. He had Pulmonary Fibrosis. Judge McCullough served the residents of the county for over 50 years as a lawyer and judge. A graduate of the George Washington Law School in 1950 he began practicing law with his father “Doc” McCullough in Mt. Rainier, Maryland with the firm of McCullough, Pace and McCullough. As a lawyer he was a lifetime member of the Prince George’s Bar Association and instrumental in the formation of the Prince George’s County Legal Aide Society. He Represented the Prince George’s County Liquor Board.
He is survived by his wife Violet and his children, Aimee, Bill, Jr. (Anne), and Mary Beth Bates (Marty); seven grandchildren, Kristin, Joshua, Ben, Luke, Connor, Claire and Sophia; one great grandchild, Jacob; and his brother Richard (Minette).
In 1969 he was appointed as a Circuit Court Judge and elected to a 15 year term in 1970 and a second term in 1986. History records him as the 34th judge in the 7th Judicial Circuit. As a circuit court judge he handled numerous high profile cases , but history will remember him for serving on the panel of Judges that disbarred former Maryland Governor and United State Vice President Spiro Agnew.
Judge McCullough is most remembered as the “Quiet Leader” of the Circuit Court for Prince George’s County, Maryland and the 7th Judicial Circuit ( Prince George’s,Calvert, Charles and St. Mary’s Counties). As the County Administrative Judge and Circuit Chief Judge, he successfully managed the growth of a court serving the 600,000 + residents of the county from 9 judges in a 50,000 square foot building to 20 judges in a 400,000 square foot multi-court complex with over 25 court rooms. A steady stream of judges, county officials and lawyers made their way to his Chambers seeking his wise counsel and leadership. Judge McCullough was never one to insist on being addressed as “Judge” and would always encourage folks to just call him Bill- except in the court room, of course.Socially, Bill and his wife Vi were sought after company for their joy of life and friendship. Bill earned his title of “twinkle toes” and “ol’blue eyes” while a child and in the Navy, but those traits followed him to the courthouse.
Judge McCullough was a mentor and teacher to his less experienced colleagues on the court and members of the bar – especially his law clerks of whom he took great pride. His law clerks – now all very successful lawyers and leaders themselves are – Jo Benson Fogel, Esq. 1969/1970; Alan Edward D’Appolito, Esq. 1970/1971; James G. Nolan, Esq. 1971; Thomas R. Callahan, Esq. 1972/1973; R. Brooke Bortner, Esq. 1974; Iris Aberbach, Esq. 1976/1978; Richard E. Schimel, Esq. 1978/1979; Andrew R. Polott, Esq. 1979/1980; Claudia Z. Springer, Esq. 1980/1981; Mary Eno, Esq. 1981/1982 ; Samuel J. DeBlasis, II, Esq. 1982/1983 ; Gregory K. Wells, Esq. 1983/1984 Kenneth F. Eichner, Esq. 1984/1985; Christopher Costabile, Esq. 1985/1986; Josephine Lynch, Esq. 1986/1987; Michael A. DeSantis, Esq. 1988/1989; Rita Kaufman Grindle, Esq. 1989/1990; John A. Bielec, Esquire 1991/1992; Melissa Ann Miller, Esq. 1992/1993; John T. Bergin, Esq. 1993/1994; George R. H. Johnson, Esq.1994/1995.
Remembrances of some of his clerks; Sam DeBlasis II – “Law school taught me the basics about the law but Judge McCullough established for me a foundation to be a lawyer, a good lawyer”; Jo Benson Fogle – “My stories of his wonderful sense of humor masked when necessary by his perfect judicial demeanor, his ability to deliver a 20 page opinion with findings of fact in full grammatically correct sentences from the bench with 1 page of notes, and his ability to raise the level of performance in whatever his endeavors, always come back to something about me and what I observed.”
Upon his retirement Judge McCullough was provided a book celebrating his service and life and authored by Bill Butler the Court Administration Facilities Manager. In that book some of his colleagues comments reflect his everlasting impact on the court, the bar and the community.
Judge Jacob S. Levin( Ret.) – “The only thing I never understood about him – and this comes as a complete mystery to me- is that here is a man who has fought in our Fighting Navy during World War II and yet doesn’t believe in any type of cursing. Every time I would use a four-letter word in his presence, I either got a look or an admonition.”
Judge C.Philip Nichols – “ I’ve had the honor and privilege to practice before Judge McCullough and to have the opportunity to sit with him as a judge of this court. He’s always brought the best of temperaments, the keenest of intellects and good judgment to every case he was assigned. I especially remember his kindness to me as a young lawyer in an extremely difficult rape case that I tried twenty years ago as a defense attorney. He was generous enough to remind the jury that a lawyer has a high calling, and the professional obligation to fully represent the interests of a party before the court no matter how difficult the facts.”
Judge Darlene G. Perry (Ret.) – “ Bill McCullough, as a lawyer, enjoyed a reputation for his honesty, his kindness,his collegiality and his hard work on behalf of his clients. As a judge he was emulated by all of those aspiring to be a judge and was a diffuser of controversy, voice of reason, and a leader by all who came in contact with him. Bill McCullough enjoys life. He loves a party. Quick to laugh, he doesn’t let a bad back stop him from dancing or playing golf. He has a quick wit and the ladies refer to him as “Ol’ Blue Eyes”and “Twinkle toes”, probably because of that ever-present charm and his dancing ability.”
Judge Steven I. Platt ( Ret.) – “The things I learned from Judge McCullough – His humor; his warm personality;his ability to see through almost every situation and get to the heart of it and understand what motivates people; and the ability to apply the law in a common sense manner that takes into account both the effect of the law, and what the judge does, on the people before him.”
Judge Richard H. Sothoron, Jr. ( Ret.) – Consistency was always a strong suit of Judge McCullough’s in that his rulings were fair, his impartiality unrefuted and his dedication to the role of a Judge unquestioned. As a lawyer and a judge his temperament was that of a considerate and well mannered counselor whom the entire bar respected. And it was this respect that set him apart form others.
I remember Bill McCullough, the lawyer , as a principled lawyer. He wouldn’t make an argument on the law unless the law clearly supported it. He wouldn’t make an argument on the facts unless the facts clearly supported it. He would not cut corners to achieve a result for his client. He had a clear concept of justice, of fairness, truthfulness and credibility…and he made his clients conform. If they fell short of it, well, he’d help them deal with the consequences;but he would not change his advocacy to conform to their shortfalls.He was the glue that held together families , the communities and the people he represented. Good judges are made of good lawyers and good lawyers are made of good people.