Respected Attorney and Circuit Court Judge Frank Maxwell, Jr. Dies at Home at 96

By Local News | December 16, 2017
The Honorable Frank Jarvis Maxwell, Jr, 96, passed away at his home in Clarksburg on December 12, 2017.

Judge Maxwell was born in Clarksburg on July 13, 1921. The older son of Frank Jarvis Maxwell and Clara Gibson Maxwell, he attended Washington Irving High School and Phillips Exeter Academy, graduating in 1940 before going on to Harvard College and receiving an A.B. cum laude degree in History and Literature. Since his college studies were interrupted by the war, he completed part of his undergraduate coursework at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and, though a member of the class of 1944, his Harvard degree was not awarded until 1946.

Maxwell subsequently attended West Virginia University, where he joined the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity, before enrolling in Harvard Law School, from which he received his L.L.B. degree in 1949. He was admitted to the West Virginia Bar Association that same year and became an associate of the Clarksburg office of the law firm of Steptoe and Johnson in 1950. He began his own title insurance practice in 1958.

Maxwell was a member of the West Virginia House of Delegates from Harrison County for two terms, from 1951 to 1956. He was delegate to the Democratic National Convention in 1956 (Adlai Stevenson) and in 1972 (George McGovern). He served as Clerk of the Harrison County Commission for twelve years until his election as judge to the Circuit Court of Harrison County in 1984, an office he held until 1992.

He was a director of the Union National Bank and of its successor, Key Centurion Bankshares, from 1980 to 1988. A member of the Sons of the American Revolution, the Elks, the Jaycees, the Civitan, and the American Legion, in 1983 he was chosen as the West Virginia Italian Heritage Festival’s Honorary Italian Man of the Year.

Maxwell served as a founding member of the Cultural Foundation of Harrison Country. As a member of its board of trustees, Maxwell played a pivotal role in the construction of the Clarksburg-Harrison Public Library, both convincing the City Council of the need for a new building and of the hiring of the internationally renowned architectural firm of Marcel Breuer. Maxwell further served as a founding member of the Cultural Foundation of Harrison County. As President of the Concerned Citizens of Harrison County, Maxwell was an advocate on behalf of the environment, speaking out forcefully about the consequences of surface mining. He made a special public protest at the Charleston State Capital in 1972 when mining applications were being made for areas within Watters Smith State Park.

Along with his late wife, Susan Harnish Maxwell, the Judge was a great enthusiast of the arts, regularly attending classical music performances in Washington, D.C., New York, Pittsburgh as well as Sarasota, Florida, where he spent many of his more recent winters. He was particularly passionate about opera and could often be found listening to the Metropolitan Opera’s Saturday afternoon radio broadcasts on his Buckhannon Avenue home’s front patio. He credited his regular reading of opera libretti for keeping up his French, Italian, and German language skills, all of which he read and spoke with fluency.

While a soldier in the U.S. Army, Maxwell was stationed at Letterkenny, Pennsylvania. As a result of his foreign language aptitude, he was placed in charge of Italian prisoners of war. Among his duties was accompanying some of these prisoners on weekend visits to their American relatives in New Jersey and surrounding areas.

Despite his fluency in European languages, Judge Maxwell did not travel abroad until he was well into his forties. But in following years he and his wife made regular trips to England, France, Germany, Austria or Italy, all part of well-planned pilgrimages to various museums and “great houses” to see first-hand the art and architecture Maxwell had studied in school. As serious a tourist as he was a reader, his personal collection of literature and art books, along with his music recordings, was extensive.

As avid genealogist, Maxwell devoted a considerable part of his time to the care of his family’s business concerns, as had his late father. His great-grandfather, Franklin Maxwell, of Doddridge County, served as State Senator from 1881 to 1884. Another Doddridge County ancestor, Lewis Maxwell, served in the Virginia House of Delegates (before West Virginia had become an independent state), as well in the United States Congress from 1827-1833.

Judge Maxwell is survived by his brother, William B. Maxwell, III, of Charleston; two daughters, Clara Gibson Maxwell and Mary Maxwell Keller; a granddaughter, Saskia Maxwell Keller; two stepchildren, Michelle Gales Berry and Timothy William Gales; two step-granddaughters, Susan Gales and Kathleen Gales; and two great-step- grandchildren, Romeo Soto and Armani Gonzalez. He was lovingly cared for in his later years by Mary Katherine and Vickie Brown.

Family and friends may call at the Amos Carvelli Funeral Home 201 Edison Street, Nutter Fort on Monday, December 18, 2017 from 2:00 to 8:00 pm.
Funeral services will be held at Christ Episcopal Church, 123 S. 6th Street, Clarksburg on Tuesday, December 19, 2017 at 11:00 am with Reverend Nora Becker officiating. Interment will follow in the Elkview Masonic Cemetery.

Expressions of sympathy may be extended to the family at A service of Amos Carvelli Funeral Home.


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