St Louis Post Dispatch
July 17, 2015
By:  Jennifer S. Mann

It was January 1994, and the robber and kidnapper who stood before Judge Bernhardt “Buzz” Drumm of St. Louis County was unlike most others.

Facing terminal cancer, with maybe six months to live, William George described how he had snapped a year earlier, as he lost his job and his medical bills mounted. Armed with a BB gun, the 39-year-old had forced a woman into her car, threatened her son’s life, and demanded she take him to a bank and withdraw at least $100,000 in $50 and $100 bills.

Prosecutors wanted jail time for George, who had pleaded guilty to kidnapping and attempted robbery in the first degree. George’s defense attorney, Art Margulis, asked for probation — a leniency that would save George from having to die in prison.

As the Post-Dispatch’s Bill McClellan described in a column at the time, Judge Drumm faced a difficult decision.

What he settled on — a solution that showed compassion within the bounds of the law — is what friends and former colleagues say defined his time on the bench.

Judge Drumm continued the sentencing hearing — once, twice, until the case was abated by the death of the defendant in July 1994.

Judge Drumm, who served on the St. Louis County Circuit Court bench from 1982 until retiring in 2009, died Sunday (July 12, 2015) after a struggle with Alzheimer’s disease, according to his wife, Carol F. Drumm of Chesterfield. He was 73.

“He could be hardheaded at times, but you knew that he was fair and you knew that he was doing what he thought was the right thing under the law, and that’s why people respected him,” said retired Circuit Court Judge Mark Seigel.

Seigel described his friend and former colleague as having a “very high moral compass.”

“I can’t think of a single soul who, whether they agreed with him or not, didn’t respect him.”

Judge Drumm, born in St. Louis, graduated cum laude from Amherst College, then earned his law degree from Washington University Law School.

The latter is where he and his wife met, while on a blind date with another couple.

Judge Drumm served as a special agent for the FBI from 1966 to 1969 in Connecticut and Wisconsin, working on organized crime, his wife said. While in Wisconsin, he also served as an assistant U.S. attorney for the Eastern District, then moved back to St. Louis in 1969 to focus on civil law in private practice.

He served as presiding judge of the circuit from 1987 to 1988. He was also president of the St. Louis County Law Library Association, which ran the courthouse law library, from 1996 until his retirement.

The law library was his baby, said Seigel, who had a courtroom next to Judge Drumm’s. And, he said, it was one of the best in the state because of the way it was operated.

Judge Drumm’s wife explained: “The purity of the law, the integrity of the law — keeping that was important to him.”

“He was a prince of a man,” said Mary Dahm, the now retired law librarian. “He had a sense of humor and he was a great storyteller.”

Judge Drumm kept a picture in his office of a 1969 play at Busch Stadium. The Cardinals’ Mike Shannon had run to cover second base as two umpires flanked him to the right and left, one calling the Dodgers’ runner out and the other calling him safe. Paul Fox, the St. Louis County court administrator, said the judge delighted in the humor of the shot.

Judge Drumm was head of the probate division from 2001 to 2007 and was instrumental in getting a new probate courtroom built in 2003, Fox said. It was subsequently named for him.

As a trial judge, he presided over civil and criminal cases.

Among the more notable, was the case of 6-year-old Amirah Zaghbi, who was returned to her father in Saudi Arabia, after Judge Drumm in 1992 helped work out a settlement in the unusual custody case of clashing cultures. The girl held dual citizenship, having been born in Michigan but raised in Saudi Arabia. Her mother wanted her to live in the U.S. But first, it had to be determined which country had legal jurisdiction in the case.

In 2000, Judge Drumm ordered three consecutive life sentences for Dennis Rabbitt, also known as the Southside Rapist. Those were among many life sentences Rabbitt racked up for terrorizing the region over a decade before being caught by a DNA test in 1998.

Judge Drumm also presided over an estate battle involving former Cardinals owner Fred Saigh, and the T-Mobile class action suit that settled for $55 million in 2010, after a decades long battle brought by municipalities that argued the phone company was not paying its utility taxes. It was a case that Judge Drumm carried with him into retirement, working as a senior judge.

Colleagues said Judge Drumm did everything with a smile and didn’t hesitate to consult other judges if he was stuck on something.

“He was patient with lawyers and judges and he never lost his temper that I know of,” said retired Judge Arthur Litz.

Judge Drumm’s wife said he sometimes privately agonized over decisions or verdicts that didn’t mesh with his personal beliefs or what seemed fair. But he firmly believed in doing what the law prescribed, she said.

He was active in the Missouri Bar, serving on several committees for it and the local court. He was also an elder in the Presbyterian Church.

Visitation will be 3 to 7 p.m. Sunday at Lupton Chapel, 7233 Delmar Boulevard. A memorial service will be held there Monday at 11:30 a.m.

In addition to his wife, survivors include two daughters, Barbara Braun of Des Peres and Elizabeth Winters of Lake Saint Louis; two sons, Steven B. Drumm of Shawnee, Kan., and William C. Drumm of University City; a brother, Dennis A. Drumm, of Lafayette, Colo.; and seven grandchildren.