Turnbull Clan Association

John Grason TurnbullThis the obituary for Judge Turnbull that appeared in The Baltimore Sun, 2 April 1984:

John Turnbull, former judge, dies services for retired Judge John Grason Turnbull, who served on the Baltimore County Circuit Court for 16 years, will be held at11 am. Wednesday at Immanuel Episcopal Church in Glencoe. Mr. Turnbull, who was 75, died Saturday after a heart attack at his home, Black Acre, on Belfast road in Sparks. He just had returned from a two month trip to Florida.

He was named to the bench in 1960 by Governor J. Millard Tawes after serving as Baltimore county state’s attorney and as a member of both the House of Delegates and the state Senate.

During his career, the judge was involved in a number of controversial cases and once made news by refusing to hear cases presented by a bearded, long-haired assistant state’s attorney.

Mr. Turnbull steadfastly refused to comment on newspaper articles, once telling a reporter that “one of the Immutable laws of the universe was that “Turnbull does not comment on newspapers.”

When he retired in 1976 Mr. Turnbull was described by Judge John E. Raine, Jr., then chief judge of the county Circuit Court, as “hardworking, certainly controversial on occasion, but a great man.”

Another admirer spoke of his forthrightness, saying, “No one ever had to question where Judge Turnbull stood.”

Before becoming a jurist, Mr. Turnbull served as Democratic floor leader and chairman of the Finance Committee in the Senate. He and his counterpart In the House of Delegates, A. Gordon Boone, who also was a law partner of Mr. Turnbull’s, achieved a reputation for restricting the spending of the Republican administration of Governor Theodore H. McKeldin.

Mr. Turnbull was born In Towson and lived in the county for all of his life except for a short period as a young man.

A 1925 graduate of McDonogh School, he attended the Johns Hopkins University before graduating from the University of Maryland law school in 1932.

From 1928 to 1932 be served as bailiff to Samuel K. Dennis, chief judge of the city’s Supreme Bench.

When he retired, he credited Judge Dennis with filling him with the spirit of public service. “He taught me that a public servant must be courageous and do as he thinks right despite criticisms and ‘the slings and arrows’ directed at him,” Mr. Turnbull said.

In 1932 he began practicing law in Towson, and he served as deputy state’s attorney from 1939 until 1943.

In 1943 he became a member of the House of Delegates, only to resign to serve in the Army during World War II. He entered the service as a private but achieved the rank of captain in the Judge Advocate General’s Corps by the time he left in 1946.

After returning to Towson, Mr. Turnbull was elected state’s attorney and kept the post for two years until he was appointed to fill a vacancy in the state Senate. He served in the Senate until 1958, when he declined to run for another term.

After the war he also became a partner in the Towson law firm of Turnbull, Brewster, Boone, Maguire and Brennan. In addition to Mr. Turnbull and Mr. Boone, all of the partners were active in Democratic politics.

In 1956 Mr. Turnbull managed Adlai E. Stevenson’s presidential campaign in Maryland.

Judge Turnbull also served on the vestry of Immanuel Episcopal Church.

In 1942 he married the former Esther E. DeArman, who died in 1974.

Mr. Turnbull is survived by his wife, the former Mary Katherine Hance, whom he married in 1977; a son, John Grason Turnbull II, of Sparks; a sister, Ellen T Lynch of Sparks, and two grandchildren.

Editor’s note: John Grason Turnbull II is currently the Circuit Administrative Judge for the Circuit Court of Baltimore County. Following the family tradition, his son, John Grason Turnbull III and his daughter, Katherine Turnbull Sampson are both practicing law in Towson.

It is also noted that John Grason Turnbull’s mother, Elizabeth Risteau Grason, is a direct descendant of William Grason, who was the first popularly elected governor of Maryland in 1838.

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