In Memory of




Obituary for Joseph Kres Pokempner

Joseph Kres Pokempner, 86, of Ruxton, Maryland, passed away on May 13. He was surrounded by his loving family. A graduate of School 49 and City College, he received his BA from Johns Hopkins University and his LLB from the University of Maryland School of Law. He went on to become one of the leading labor lawyers in the state.

His long career included helping to found the labor and employment law firm Wolf, Pokempner and Hillman, which later merged with Whiteford, Taylor & Preston, where Joe was a partner in the Labor and Employment Law Group for over 20 years. He retired in 2006, but couldn’t stay away from the profession he loved. Three weeks later, he returned to part-time legal work as an Assistant Attorney General.

He enlisted in the Maryland National Guard after graduating from college and continued to serve the military throughout his life, including six years as a captain in the US Army Reserve Judge Advocate General’s Corps and 10 years as a colonel in the Maryland Defense Force in charge of legal support services for the Maryland National Guard. He was honored to use his legal skills for his country. For service beyond the call of duty he was awarded the Maryland Distinguished Service Cross in 2006.

A galvanizing force in the legal community, Joe received multiple awards and was an active leader in the Maryland State Bar Association. He served as President of the Bar Association of Baltimore City and founded the Baltimore City Courthouse and Law Museum Foundation, acting as its first President. During his tenure, he spearheaded the restoration of the Courthouse’s historic Courtroom 400. A mentor to young lawyers, he also served 20 years as Chair of the Memorial Committee of the Bar Association of Baltimore City, which ensured that the memory of every deceased lawyer was honored. Joe was also a longstanding member of the University of Baltimore Law School Advisory Council.

One had only to walk down the street with him in mid-day Baltimore to witness the esteem and fondness those in the legal community felt for “Gentleman Joe.”

A third-generation Baltimorean, Joe loved his city, the Orioles and Ravens, steamed crabs and the Maryland-area beaches, where he spent summers as a child and had his first job calling out bingo numbers as a nine year old, then as an adult with his wife and family.

He is survived by his wife of 53 years, Judy, and their three children, Elizabeth (Noam Cohen) , Jenny, and Amy as well as three grandchildren, Ethan, Maren, and Charlie and by his sister Merle (Mark Fleisher). They will miss him tremendously.

Services will be held at Sol Levinson, 8900 Reisterstown Road, Pikesville, MD 21208, on Wednesday May 17, 2023 at 2:30 pm. Reception following the service at 1500 Willow Avenue, Ruxton, MD 21204. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions in Joe’s name may be made to the University of Maryland School of Law. Gifts can be made online at : or mailed to:
University of Maryland Baltimore Foundation, Inc.
Office of Philanthropy Operations
220 Arch Street, 13th Floor
Baltimore, MD 21201