Edmund V. Ludwig, 87, of Doylestown, a retired U.S. District Court judge and a prominent figure in the legal, cultural, and historic life of Bucks County, died Tuesday, May 17, of heart failure.

Judge Ludwig died at home with his four children present, as he had wanted.

"My father was from Philly, but he had a very, very strong attachment to the Doylestown area," said daughter Sarah. "He loved so much about the cultural life of Doylestown."

In June 1985, on the recommendation of U.S. Sens. John Heinz III and Arlen Specter, President Ronald Reagan nominated him to fill the seat vacated by Judge Raymond Broderick. The Senate confirmed the appointment, and Judge Ludwig took the bench on Oct. 17, 1985. He became a senior judge on May 20, 1997, and gradually reduced his workload until retiring a couple of years ago.

In 1996, Judge Ludwig ordered Major League Baseball umpires to work through the World Series after they threatened to boycott games in the wake of the Roberto Alomar spitting incident.

Angry over a third-strike call, Alomar, the Baltimore Orioles star second baseman, had spit at umpire John Hirschbeck. Alomar claimed that the umpire had uttered a racial slur. Hirschbeck was furious at Alomar's comments, and other umpires were outraged by the incident.

Judge Ludwig stayed above the fray.

"These umpires are the best, and without them, the harm to baseball will be irreparable," he ruled. "The game of baseball occupies a special place in this country and it belongs to the millions of fans."

Jeremy Heep, the judge's law clerk in the mid-1990s and now a partner at the Pepper Hamilton firm, said his former boss epitomized a true public servant.

"He was a wonderful judge in his own right, but in addition to that, he used the inherent prestige that came with the robe to influence society in a good way. It was a wonderful thing to watch," Heep said.

"He would quietly go behind the scenes, pick up the phone, and call people. He would further very good causes - promoting juvenile justice, improving mental health services in Pennsylvania, and getting the bar to improve indigent representation."

An educator as well as a jurist, Judge Ludwig held faculty positions at Hahnemann University, Temple Law School, Villanova Law School, and the University of Pennsylvania.

Among his many honors was the Justice William J. Brennan Jr. Distinguished Jurist Award from the Philadelphia Bar Association in 2005.

Born in Philadelphia, he was the son of Henry and Ruth Viener Ludwig. He graduated from Germantown Friends School in 1945 and earned degrees from Harvard College and Harvard Law School. A Korean War veteran, he was honorably discharged with the rank of captain from the Army Judge Advocate General's Corps, after which he took up private practice in Doylestown. In 1968, Judge Ludwig was elected to Bucks County Court and served until 1985.

Judge Ludwig's fondness for Doylestown may have grown from happy summers spent there as a child. He moved to Doylestown permanently in 1958, and for the next 58 years immersed himself in the town's history and cultural life. In 1995, he founded the Doylestown Historical Society, of which he served as chair until 2011.

Tina Mazaheri, the society's founding secretary, who served with him on its board of directors, said the judge wanted to ensure that future generations would have the means to enjoy the town and its history.

He helped find a building for the society and pay off its mortgage. He collected oral histories of prominent citizens, worked on books about Doylestown's past, and placed historic markers all over town.

"This was at a time when nobody was focusing on the history or the oral history of Doylestown. Everybody has always liked Doylestown - it is charming - but he took the time to make sure the history and fabric that made this town would be available in an interesting way," Mazaheri said.

Judge Ludwig helped establish social service programs, and served on the boards of groups focused on youth and juvenile justice, mental health, alternatives to incarceration, support for women, and rights for the disabled. In 1971, he cofounded TODAY Inc., a residential drug treatment program, and served on its board until 1985.

Part of his effectiveness lay in his tenacious pursuit of any project he tackled. Ultimately, though, Judge Ludwig "was always about making sure that people who needed help got help, and about recognizing those who gave the help, but not himself," Mazaheri said.

An avid reader, Judge Ludwig enjoyed Shakespeare, poetry, and historical fiction. He delighted in telling jokes and exploring the art of the pun. He played and watched tennis, and loved to eat out at local restaurants with family and friends.

He was married to Elizabeth Serkin for 18 years before they divorced. They had four children.

He also was divorced from Sara Webster.

Besides his former wives and daughter, he is survived by sons Edmund V. Jr., Toby, and David, and five grandchildren. A grandson preceded him in death.

A memorial service will be held at 4 p.m. Monday, May 23, at the Doylestown Country Club, 20 Country Lane. Burial will be private.

His family plans to establish a scholarship in his name. Gifts may be sent to Germantown Friends School, 31 W. Coulter St., Philadelphia 19144, or via www.germantownfriends.org.

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