J. Shane Creamer, former prosecutor, Pa. official, dies at 84

J. Shane Creamer
J. Shane Creamer
Posted: September 04, 2013

J. Shane Creamer, 84, the former state attorney general who also served as first assistant U.S. attorney in Philadelphia and inaugural director of the Pennsylvania Crime Commission, died Sunday, Sept. 1, at Keystone Hospice in Wyndmoor, Montgomery County, of Parkinson's disease.

"I had great respect for him," said David W. Marston, a U.S. Attorney in Philadelphia after Creamer left the office. "He was an excellent lawyer and first-rate prosecutor and a really fine human being."

Born April 19, 1929, Mr. Creamer graduated from Lower Merion High School and, in 1951, from Villanova University.

He received his law degree in 1953 from Temple University School of Law.

Mr. Creamer then spent more than a decade in public-service law, beginning with two years in the Army's Judge Advocate General Corps.

He then spent 11 years with the Justice Department, primarily as first assistant U.S. attorney in Philadelphia.

In 1968, Mr. Creamer became the first director of the Pennsylvania Crime Commission. He became the state's attorney general in 1971.

In 1972, state troopers working for State Police Commissioner Rocco Urella - also a member of the Crime Commission - allegedly set up an illegal wiretap of a King of Prussia motel room serving as the headquarters for other troopers working for the commission, supposedly under Mr. Creamer's directon.

The two feuded publicly for weeks.

The commission had been investigating allegations of police corruption in Philadelphia. Gov. Milton J. Shapp fired Urella in the last days of 1972 over the controversy, and Creamer announced he was resigning from his post at Shapp's request. The other three members of the commission quit in protest of Creamer's forced resignation.

Mr. Creamer then moved into private practice, working as a trial lawyer for several firms over the years; he became a named partner for more than one.

"He was a very good trial lawyer and had very good instincts in the courtroom," said Walter M. Phillips Jr., a lawyer and former federal and city prosecutor who saw Mr. Creamer in action.

"His reputation clearly was impeccable," Phillips added. "He called it as it is. And you could trust him implicitly."

Mr. Creamer's son, J. Shane Creamer Jr., the executive director of the city's Board of Ethics, recalled his father as the role model whose influence led to his own career in law.

"I was a little boy when he was first assistant U.S. attorney, said the younger Creamer, who was born in 1961. "He's going after mobsters, literally, and drug dealers, and he seemed like a superhero to me. And he was athletic, he was handsome, he was well-liked - he really became someone that I tried to emulate, in my life and career especially."

Mr. Creamer retired in 2005 from Dilworth Paxson LLP. He also taught at Villanova University for five years.

Mr. Creamer also served as the president of the state branch of the American Association of Retired Persons, a volunteer position, for six years, beginning in 2002.

"He was just always fighting for the underdog, even in the end," Creamer Jr. said.

Mr. Creamer's volunteer positions also included stints as chairman of the board of the Philadelphia Prison System, chairman of the Cabrini College Board of Trustees, and a board member of Goodwill Industries and the Pennsylvania Prison Society.

In additon to J. Shane Jr., he is survived by his wife of 56 years, Mary-Ellen Tolan; daughters Colette Kleitz and E. Stacy Creamer; sons Brendan McShane Creamer and Kevin J.T. Creamer; and eight grandchildren.

The funeral will be at 11 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 7, at St. Vincent de Paul Roman Catholic Church, 109 East Price St., in Germantown. Visitation hours at the church will be Friday, Sept. 6, from 7 to 9 p.m., and Saturday, from 10 to 11 a.m.

The family has asked that, in lieu of flowers, contributions be made to Face to Face Germantown or Inn Dwelling, both at 109 East Price St.

Contact Jonathan Lai at 856-779-3220, jlai@phillynews.com, or on Twitter @elaijuh.

Inquirer staff writer Ben Finley contributed to this article.

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