Archives of Maryland
(Biographical Series)

Cornelius C. Fitzgerald (1863-1935)
MSA SC 3520-13700


Born in Jonesboro, Tennessee, September 29, 1863.  One of six sons of Joseph M. Fitzgerald and Mary A. (Ford) Fitzgerald.  Attended Fisk University; graduated from Berea College; Howard University School of Law, LL.B., 1892.  Admitted to the bar, 1893.  Married Gertrude Smith, 1897; son John McFarland Fitzgerald.

Cornelius Fitzgerald practiced law in Baltimore for forty-two years, and up to the time of his death was lauded as one of the most active and successful attorneys.  While not a central figure in the African-American community's legal movement of the early twentieth century, he was instrumental in advancing the legal objectives of the black community.

After graduation from college, Fitzgerald spent time in Kansas and the then Indian territory of Oklahoma, probably in government-related service.  He then moved to Washington, D.C. in order to accept a federal appointment.  He began studying law at Howard University and completed his law degree in 1892.  He was admitted to the bar the following year.  He briefly sought to establish a practice in his home state of Tennessee, but was unsuccessful.  As a result, Fitzgerald returned to the D.C. area and established a law practice in Baltimore, home to the country's largest and progressive black population as well as to a number of Fitzgerald's friends from law school.  Distinguished Howard alumnus' such as John L. Dozier and W. Ashbie Hawkins had established themselves in the city as well as prominent black attorneys Warner T. McGwinn and Harry S. Cummings.
Shortly after arriving in Baltimore, Mr. Fitzgerald met and married Gertrude Smith in 1897.  The couple had one son, John McFarland Fitzgerald.  The Fitzgeralds  resided in West Baltimore, home to many of the city's prominent blacks citizens.  As early as 1924, Fitzgerald and his family were residents of 2038 Druid Hill Avenue.   They later moved to 1103 Madison Avenue.   Fitzgerald had five brothers, four of whom moved to Baltimore as well.  James N. Fitzgerald became a successful  insurance salesman in Baltimore, Edward V. Fitzgerald was a well-respected physician in the city, and John L. Fitzgerald became a well-known pharmacist there, and William L. Fitzgerald also received his law degree from Howard University and served as councilman for the 17th Ward of the Baltimore City Council from 1919 to 1921.  Governor Albert C. Ritchie appointed William to Maryland's Inter-racial Commission in the 1920s.  Another brother, George A. Fitzgerald, was a prominent mortician in Johnson City, Tennessee.
Fitzgerald' s legal practice was located at 215 St. Paul Place, in the heart of the legal district near the courthouse.  It centered around estate law and real estate law, areas that were atypical for many black lawyers who were usually more practical.  His law practice was successful, however, as illustrated by the fact that he worked with such prominent black attorneys such as W. Ashbie Hawkins, George M. Lane and Warner T. McGuinn, and served as co-counsel in cases with prominent white attorneys such as Charles F. Stein.  Nevertheless, Fitzgerald's career was diverse.  In addition to his listing in the Coleman Directory as an attorney, he is listed as an insurance specialist, a notary public and real estate professional.  Fitzgerald and his brother James entered into a joint agreement to purchase 1.35 acres of land in Anne Arundel County, later used as a conveyance to permit the state to build the new Baltimore-Washington Parkway.

Fitzgerald was a member of the Madison Street Presbyterian Church.  He was also a member of the Republican party, as were many blacks of the time.
He was a member of the Colored Business Men's Exchange, established to promote the mutual welfare and racial activities of progressive businessmen in the Baltimore community.  He was a member of several fraternal organizations such as the Order of Good Hope, the Order of Moses and the Masons (attaining the 33rd degree).  He served for several years as president of the board of trustees of Providence Hospital, a black-owned hospital in Baltimore.  He was involved in the Big Brother Movement and was a major contributor to the Maryland Home for the Friendless as well as the YMCA.
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