Though the courtroom may at times resemble a hostile war zone, the two settings are easily divorced by the century-old blue eyes of Col. Edwin J. Wolf. Born on May 1, 1907, and admitted to practice law in Maryland on May 1, 1928, Wolf doggedly fought nearly 70 years of courtroom battles, as well as Nazi Germany during the D-Day Invasion.
This self-proclaimed East Baltimore boy now resides in Roland Park Place Retirement Community with his wife of 73 years (“Try to beat it,” he playfully antagonizes). His days have calmed down since retiring from practicing law five years ago, but his past is rich with serviceable tales of law, the growth of Baltimore, politics, World War II, business, education, family and the military.
“When you have lived as long as I have,” says Wolf, “you could tell many stories. There are a lot of things I’d [still] like to do.”
Wolf was fairly successful as a student and graduated from Baltimore Polytechnic Institute in 1924 with a concentration in engineering. Yale University’s Sheffield Scientific School extended an offer to him for engineering, and he was anxious to go; all he needed was the approval of his father Harry (H.B.) Wolf, a licensed attorney in Baltimore with his own firm.
“I can see him now,” recalls Wolf. “He got up from behind his desk, walked around, shook my hand and said, ‘Son, I wish you well. Don’t forget: I made it, you make it.’”
The young Wolf understood what his father implied, so he set out to earn his own living. He held a few “funny jobs,” including working for the B&O Railroad at the Mt. Clare Station, until he again approached his father about finding a new career path. H.B. forwarded his young son on to the city court house to see “if they got something for you.” Wolf eventually settled as a clerk with the city solicitor’s office for $10 a week – a sizable amount in 1924. Along with a steady income, Wolf began night school at the University of Maryland – Baltimore for his law degree in October, 1924. Lectures started at 6:00 p.m. and again at 7:00 p.m. in Davidge Hall, on the corner of Lombard and Greene Streets. “And if you wanted to learn some law,” Wolf exclaims, “you had to come back on some of the weekends, when the library was open.” Wolf was learning plenty, however, during his time with the city solicitor’s office.
In 1927, Wolf graduated with his law degree, and stands today as the oldest living law graduate from the University of Maryland. The following year, he became the Assistant Title Examiner for Baltimore City, “which was a real experience because…the city was really starting to grow,” notes Wolf.
During the proposed construction of Loch Raven Boulevard, Wolf was entrusted with setting up the deeds and title examinations of the private property for the planned thoroughfare, as well as preparing deeds, surveying and writing reports for the intended expansion of the Loch Raven Reservoir.
Despite the Depression, Wolf was still thriving. By 1934, he was married and gathered his savings from “broken banks” in order to open his own law firm. Needless to say, money was tight during the mid-to-late 1930s, and building your own practice was dicey; however, Wolf (as his surname implies) was sufficiently ferocious in the field of law and stopped at nothing for his law practice.
“The only way to get into the law business,” Wolf laments, “was to get out there and see what you could do. You went to Democratic clubs; you went to Republican clubs. You did everything including carrying the water to the horses, or anything else, if you thought you could get a case. Except, you weren’t an ambulance-chaser, ’cause if they caught you chasing ambulances, you were going out the window. Maybe I did some things that were close to the line, but I never went over the line. At least, nobody caught me.”
At the close of the 1930s, as the war in Europe began to escalate, Wolf and his wife agreed he should get involved in some capacity. Placing his law firm on hold, Wolf joined the U.S. Coast Guard, and by December 1941 he was patrolling the Chesapeake Bay and Atlantic Ocean, as well as educating draftees about boats. Wolf was then ordered to England to educate the Allied soldiers in the Irish Sea.
In March 1944, Wolf was promoted to Lt. Colonel and put in charge of a battalion for D-Day. On June 6, 1944, Wolf’s battalion loaded up at Weymouth Harbor, England, and traveled southeast, across the English Channel, to Omaha Beach. Trailing the infamous 1st Infantry Division (US), which bore the brunt of the initial onslaught at “Bloody Omaha”, Wolf’s orders were to land his boats and organize the men.
“All day long the bullets were flying,” recalls Wolf. “You should’ve seen the dead, the dying and the wounded. You should’ve seen the water run red.”
While traversing the mile-long beach, guiding his men to safe spots, Wolf took a bullet to the right side of his face, tearing apart his cheek and a piece of his nose; nevertheless, Wolf continued his duty securing safe havens for his troops. The Germans were eventually pushed back, though at the cost of more than 2,600 Allied troops.
For his efforts, Wolf was eventually made a full on Colonel, and in November 1944, he was ordered to lead reinforcements to fill in the gaps at the Battle of the Bulge. While escorting the troops, Germans ambushed the faction and a bullet shredded Wolf’s right hand.
Upon completion of his tour of duty, Wolf arrived at Camp Kilmer, New Jersey, on November 13, 1945. Riding a train to Fort Meade to get his full release, the Colonel realized a harsh reality awaited him in Baltimore: his father had passed, and no one was in his law office, except for a girl who occasionally checked the mail.
“I had to start all over again,” admits Wolf. “And starting all over again when you are 40 years-old is a little different than when you were 20...”