Peter Angelos: Love him or hate, but he is one of Baltimore’s very best

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Back in the late 50s, I use to regularly attend the Baltimore City Council hearings on Monday night at City Hall with my political mentor – Michael “Iron Mike” McHale.

He was one of the three council members from South Baltimore. William Donald Schaefer sat on that Council representing West Baltimore. The Mayor was Tommy “The Elder” D’Alesandro. Like today, when a member of the council squares off with another over a hot political issue, it’s the best darn free show in town.

It was at one of these public slugfests that I noticed a feisty City Councilman from the then-Irish-dominated 3rd District of Baltimore – Peter Angelos – a Greek-American. He was the first of his heritage to hold such a post. For whatever reason, Angelos and Sol Liss, now deceased, a councilman from West Baltimore, were engaged in a no-holds-barred-verbal donnybrook.

Liss was an accomplished public speaker who later went on to a distinguished career as a state jurist. I felt fortunate to have had him as one of my adjunct professors at the University of Baltimore Law School. In the debate, Angelos, then a budding young lawyer, held his own and refused to back off. He was more than equal to Liss’ keen verbal skills – central to that robust give-and-take kind of arena. And, why shouldn’t Angelos have been darn good at the art of rhetoric? His Greek ancestors invented it, along with politics, philosophy and democracy.

Angelos only served one term in the Baltimore City Council (1959-63). He later made a bid for the office of mayor in 1964, but lost. I recall that contest. Losing that race finally rid Angelos of his political bug. Although a native of Pittsburgh, PA, his family had moved and he had grown-up from an early age in the Highlandtown neighborhood on Eastern Avenue, where his dad owned a bar. It was within walking distance of his primary school and church in Greektown.

Oriole Park at Camden Yards. (Bill Hughes)
Oriole Park at Camden Yards. (Bill Hughes)

Today, everyone knows Angelos mostly as the majority owner, since 1993, of the Baltimore Orioles. Prior to the 2012 season, they were big losers on the field. As a result, Angelos was harshly demonized by the fans. Mercifully, in 2012, the situation changed and the Orioles made it to the playoffs. The City collectively rejoiced. After enduring repetitive seasons of gross humiliation, Angelos suddenly became, “The Man!”

In 2013, they had more wins than losses, but failed to make it to the playoffs. Nevertheless, the Orioles’ future, under Angelos’ helm, is looking promising.

Backtracking. In the early 60s, I worked in the city courthouse as a clerk and attended law school at night. For a cheap lunch I would often go to a little food shop in the basement of a federal building. It housed an office which had jurisdiction over workers’ safety. Angelos’ law office was next to it in the Equitable Building on Fayette Street.
It was in that federal building, that one of the workers’ safety supervisors asked me, if I knew Angelos. I said that I did. He then leaned over and said to me, “Keep an eye on him. He’s headed to the top of his field as a legal advocate!”
What an accurate prediction that turned out to be.
It’s no secret that Angelos’ close association with Organized Labor over the years has considerably enhanced his civil class action law practice. One of his closest colleagues from his early days was Ed Courtney, now deceased, who for many years had strong ties to the Building Trade Unions in Baltimore. He was a gem of a guy, who had a great love of his Irish heritage.

Angelos’ law practice took off. Successful class action lawsuits involving asbestos, tobacco, prescription drugs, and other products, quickly followed. Angelos reportedly has branch law offices in six other U.S. cities. The money has been rolling in.

Charity-giving also has been close to Angelos’ heart. His ala mater, the University of Baltimore Law School  has received millions of dollars in contributions from him. The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, along with other splendid cultural, civic and community institutions  have been on the receiving end of Angelos’ largesse.
In the early 80s, Angelos’ aforementioned friend, Courtney, contacted me. We met down town and walked to Angelos’ law office, then located on North Charles Street near the plaza. Angelos said he wanted to know, hypothetically, how I would feel about running for public office in South Baltimore against an incumbent state senator.
The politico had peeved him off – big time. It had something to do with a disputed workmen’s compensation law. They were still trying to “work things out.”
I told him I would think about it. A short time later, I got a call from Courtney that the “issue” had been resolved. Translation: Angelos got what he wanted in Annapolis!
Finally, Angelos, now 84, has been getting what he wants for a long, long time. And, to his credit, he gets it the old-fashion way: he works darn hard for it. He is one of a kind – a mega-lawyer, Baltimore Orioles’ owner and philanthropist.
Indeed, Angelos is one of Bmore’s very best.

One thought on “Peter Angelos: Love him or hate, but he is one of Baltimore’s very best

  • July 16, 2014 at 4:35 AM

    Ambulance chaser… Sad miserable man..prisoner of his own greed.


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