Family and friends of a passionate defense attorney were to remember the former York County man in a memorial service Tuesday morning.

Richard Oare, one of the attorneys who helped a former York City mayor beat a murder charge, died March 26 after a battle with prostate cancer, according to his obituary. He was 68.

Oare began his career as a public defender in Harrisburg and eventually opened a private practice in York.

Famous case: He is perhaps best known locally for his defense of former Mayor Charlie Robertson, who had been charged in the 1969 killing of Lillie

Belle Allen. Robertson was accused of handing out ammunition to white youth gang members and encouraging them to shoot blacks.

He was acquitted at trial.

According to Bill Costopoulos, another attorney on Robertson's defense team, the former mayor first approached Oare -- a lawyer with "street sense that you don't learn in law school" -- for help.

"He was particularly valuable because he knew everybody in the community and was in the position to reach out to witnesses in law enforcement, to witnesses in the fire departments and to a fine array of character witnesses for Mr. Robertson," Costopoulos said. "He had good instincts and he was very good on his feet."

Skilled attorney: Friend and fellow York attorney Clyde Vedder said Oare was also a skilled litigator in personal-injury cases.

"It requires a keen intellect to understand all the intricacies of both the law and the medical questions involved," Vedder said. "Mr. Oare on his own would go up against well-heeled law firms with multiple attorneys litigating the case against him. And he did a wonderful job representing his clients, with many successful verdicts and settlements."

Defense attorneys aren't always popular with the public, but the community should appreciate Oare, Costopoulos said.

"You need the Richard Oares of the world to represent an accused, whether guilty or innocent," he said. "And the system is designed and will only work if such representation is zealous and passionate, which Richard Oare brought to the table."

-- Erin James may also be reached at ejames@yorkdispatch.com.