Archives of Maryland
(Biographical Series)

Robert B. Watts (1922-1998)
MSA SC 3520-2947


Born in Baltimore, 1922.  Attended Morgan State University, B.A., 1943; University of Maryland School of Law, LL.B., 1949.  Admitted to the bar, 1948.  Married Jacquelyn Johnson in 1944; children Robert B. Watts, Jr. (d. 1999), Rodney Watts, Jacquelyn Watts Broady, Genelle Watts-Jackson, and Bobette Watts.  Resident of Cross Keys, Baltimore.  Died in Baltimore, October 8, 1998.

Watts served in the U.S. Army from 1943 to 1945.  After earning a law degree at the University of Maryland, he became a civil rights activist and lawyer for the Baltimore NAACP, working with Thurgood Marshall.  He was a founding partner in 1949 (with Emerson Brown and Milton B. Allen), of Brown, Allen, & Watts, the first African-American law firm in Maryland.  In 1953 he was appointed a substitute police magistrate and in 1956 an assistant police court magistrate.  In 1957 he was named a judge of the Baltimore Traffic Court, and in 1960 he became the first black judge appointed to the Municipal Court of Baltimore City and served until 1966.  In the 1960s, he represented the future chief judge of the Court of Appeals, Robert M. Bell, after he was arrested during a sit-in at a Baltimore restaurant.  In 1968, Governor Spiro T. Agnew appointed Watts a judge on the Circuit Court for Baltimore City (formerly Supreme Bench of Baltimore City), where he served until July 5, 1985.  He retired from the bench to join the law firm of Russell and Thompson, later merged with Piper & Marbury.  Taught adult education classes at the Baltimore Hebrew Congregation.  First recipient of the Robert B. Watts Pro Bono Award from the Maryland Legal Aid Bureau, given yearly for outstanding legal service to the poor.  Recipient, Sidney Hollander Award of Distinction for promoting racial integration and equality.

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