‘Mr. Coates’ Remembered As Attorney, Coach And ‘Mentor’

‘Mr. Coates’ Remembered As Attorney, Coach And ‘Mentor’

BERLIN – Berlin and all
of Worcester County
lost a patriarch this week when Raymond Davis Coates, Sr. passed away on Sunday
at the Coastal Hospice at the Lake in Salisbury
at the age of 79.

Coates touched thousands
of lives in his native Berlin and throughout Worcester County as a prominent attorney and,
perhaps, more importantly, a coach and mentor. He founded the Berlin Little

League in the 1950s and is credited for bringing organized football to Worcester County. He was also a former head coach

of the baseball team at the then Worcester
Country School.

By all accounts, Coates
was a special individual even if just one aspect of his professional career and
personal life is considered. In addition to his role as coach and mentor for
generations of young athletes in the area, Coates achieved much in his
professional career. He served briefly as State’s Attorney for Worcester County
and was the county attorney for Worcester
for several years.

He was a past-president
of the Worcester County Bar Association, a former panel member of the Attorney
Grievance Commission and a former member of the Maryland State Bar Association
Judicial Selection Commission. He also served on the Judicial Nominating
Committee for the First Judicial Circuit.

In his private practice,
Coates served as local counsel for the United States Land Co. and the Boise
Cascade Corp. As such, Coates handled the entire acquisition and development of
the Ocean Pines community.

Despite his sterling
legal career, Coates will most likely be remembered for his contributions to
youth sports in the area. He was the recipient of the prestigious Berlin Award
in 1996 for his work with youth baseball and football in Berlin
and throughout northern Worcester

During his commitment to
youth sports, Coates touched the lives of thousands of young athletes, many of
whom have gone on to achieve great accomplishments of their own in Worcester
County and beyond. For example, District Court Judge Gerald V. Purnell this
week fondly recalled how Coates took him under his wing as a young boy growing
up in Berlin.

“I’ve known Mr. Coates
since I was 10-years-old,” he said. “He was my Little League coach and one of
the true mentors in my life.”

Purnell said Coates took
a personal interest in all of his young charges and taught them valuable
lessons about sports and life in general.

“When I was a young boy
playing Little League for him, he’d sit me down and talk about race relations
and how there was nothing I couldn’t do and there were no impediments for me,”
he said. “Those were the kind of conversations we would have. He was a
visionary in that respect.”

Purnell said this week
his former coach and mentor gave him a leg up when it was time to pursue his
professional career.

“When I was trying to go
to law school, he signed off on loans for me and helped me financially,” he
said. “He was also the first one to offer me a job when I got out of law
school. He was a true, true leader – the definition of leader.”

Coates’ kind,
soft-spoken demeanor often masked his demanding, determined professional
persona. Purnell said this week he demanded much of young people and athletes
he worked with, which helped them achieve personal and professional accomplishments
later in life.

“He had a tremendous
work ethic and instilled that in his kids and everybody around him,” he said.
“Obviously, it worked. He made everybody around him a little better.”

Purnell is just one of
many young people whose lives were influenced by Coates over the years. Another
is current Worcester
County State’s
Attorney Joel Todd, who fondly recalled Coates’ kind, but firm influence on him
as a young man.

“My personal
recollection – and I’ve known him all my life – is that he was a true
gentleman,” he said. “He was my Little League coach and I always looked up to
him. When I was playing Little League, he was always out there.”

Todd related the story
of how Coates, as a young attorney in Worcester,
came to be the county’s state’s attorney in the 1960s.

“He was appointed as a
special prosecutor to prosecute the then state’s attorney who had been brought
up on corruption charges,” he said. “That’s how he came to be state’s attorney
and he filled out the vacant term. He was battling corruption even way back

After a brief stint as

state’s attorney, Coates served as the county attorney for Worcester for several years. His successor,

Ed Hammond, who is retiring from the position this month, fondly recalled
Coates’ as a sports coach and an attorney.

“He was certainly the
father of Little League in Berlin,”
he said. “He ran a tight ship with the sports teams and was the same way with
his practice. He ran one of the most organized law offices I’ve ever seen.”

Hammond’s professional career paralleled Coates’ in
several respects, from a professional standpoint and on the ball fields around Berlin.

“He preceded me as
county attorney and he also preceded me as coach of the Berlin Hurricanes,” he
said. “We were not particularly close although I always had the utmost respect
for him. He was a very effective lawyer who always returned phone calls. He was
a responsive lawyer who always got the job done.”