DelcoReviewSummer2017 - 18

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Big Thinking Precedes Great Achievement
I had the pleasure of having lunch with Murray S.
Eckell, Esq., DCBA member, gentleman and friend,
lawyer extraordinaire, educator, historian and
hobbyist, pilot, musician, avid golfer and family man;
and not necessarily in that order! Please allow me to tell
you a couple of things about Murray that you cannot
find on his website or in his CV... Enjoy the read, as I
certainly enjoyed the company and writing this article!
- Tracy E. Price, Editor

The Lawyer...

Murray S. Eckell, Esq., knew at the age of 12 he wanted to
become a lawyer. A man by the name of Marvin Halbert was
Murray's inspiration. Halbert, while attending Temple Law
School, served as Murray's camp counselor in the Pocono Mountains. At night, Halbert would read cases from law books and the
campers would serve as jurors. Halbert, later known as Judge
Marvin R. Halbert, is remembered as a longtime Philadelphia
Judge of the Common Pleas Court in Philadelphia who passed
at the age of 90 in the year 2013. Judge Halbert was known for
his cowboy hats and for directing and performing in plays in his
courtroom.
Murray began the practice of law in the City of Chester in
1959 following his graduation from the Law School of the University of Pennsylvania. His undergraduate work was completed
in 1956 at Dickinson College, Carlisle, Pennsylvania. In the
spring of 1964, he, along with Don Sparks, formed Eckell &
Sparks which was the genesis of the present law firm. During his
first 15 years of practice, Murray engaged in the general practice
of law, primarily litigating commercial and personal injury cases
specializing in the trial of condemnation cases. His practice gradually became restricted primarily to the areas of real estate and
commercial law, administration of decedents' and incompetents'
estates, and Housing Authority law. Throughout the growth of
the firm and from its original inception through its merger with
Vadino and Auerbach, and later with Arthur Levy's law firm,
Murray was, until 2009, the chief executive officer.
In all of your years in practice, name your favorite case...
"Oh, that is an easy question, it was my very first one. One
year out of law school, I was hungry, you know?" In the hospital
bed adjacent to that where his first daughter Sue Anne would
be born in 1960, Murray met a couple also expecting their first
child. The would-be grandfather of the expected child was
found dead in a boarding house. The coroner had an inquest, a
presumed suicide due to asphyxiation, as the gas stove was left
on, full force. The son was, however, convinced that his father
would not commit suicide. The life insurance policy, one of
double indemnity, contained a provision whereby the company
would agree to pay $10, 000, double the face amount of $5,000,
in cases of death caused by accidental means. Murray, after

18 | Summer 2017

agreeing to take the case, consulted a toxicologist who reminded
him that in high concentrations, gas is an asphyxiant; it replaces
the oxygen you breathe. He took this information to the Coroner
at the time, Frannie Catania, who told Murray "You may have
something here, young fellow!" And he did... for dramatic effect
at Murray's first jury trial, he employed a beaker and a lit candle.
The jurors were told to count backwards, 10 to zero, as Murray
covered the beaker, preventing oxygen to fuel the flame... "This
man's life was snuffed out just like this candle!" This experience
confirmed what Murray learned in his first year of Evidence at
the Law School of the University of Pennsylvania; "prove your
case with demonstrative evidence; you have a better shot at winning. People see things differently for a variety of reasons and for
this reason, eyewitness testimony is invaluable and unreliable;
one must see to believe!"
While Murray's activities in the legal arena are extensive and
varied, one of his principal accomplishments was his appointment by then-Governor Milton Shapp to the Court of Common
Pleas of Delaware County in March of 1977. When his term
expired, he chose to forego running for election and returned to
his partners in the active practice of law. Following his tenure as
judge, Murray served as special counsel to the Board of Judges
for ten years. Early in his career he served as law clerk for the
Honorable Leroy Van Roden in the Orphans' Court of Delaware
County and thereafter continued for a short time as judicial clerk
for the then-President Judge Henry G. Sweeney.
Murray has spent many years in service to local, state and national bar associations. He served as a director and ultimately as
the President of the Delaware County Bar Association in 1979;
has been chairman of several statewide committees of the Pennsylvania Bar Association, a member of the House of Delegates
of the Pennsylvania Bar, a member of the House of Delegates
of the American Bar Association, and in 1994 was elected to the
Board of Governors of the Pennsylvania Bar Association for a
three-year term. He has been solicitor for a number of municipal
governing bodies and twice served as solicitor for the Chester
Housing Authority.

"Life is an occasion, dress for it"... and he did! Attendance
to the Bar Association's "Dinner Dance," held annually, was
on a downward trend. Murray, in 1979, brought the elegance


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DelcoReviewSummer2017

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