Edward W. Madeira Jr., 92, chairman emeritus of the Center City law firm Pepper Hamilton LLP, died Thursday, May 21, of natural causes, the law firm and his family said Tuesday.

“He was a world-class trial lawyer" and "a terrific firm leader,” David Richman, special counsel at Pepper Hamilton and a longtime partner at the firm until 2012, said Tuesday.

Mr. Madeira, known as “Ned,” spearheaded Pepper Hamilton’s reputation as a national leader in mass tort litigation in pharmaceuticals and medical devices, and was a highly accomplished antitrust litigator, said Nina Gussack, senior counsel in the firm’s health sciences department.

Gussack, the firm’s chairwoman from 2007 to 2013, also said Tuesday that Mr. Madeira "was the best of mentors — supportive, collaborative. He saw things in me that I wasn’t sure of myself. He took so many people under his wings in the same way.”

Mr. Madeira was also "a passionate advocate for justice for the poor and for meaningful judicial reform,” Gussack wrote in announcing his death to the firm Friday.

Mr. Madeira was born and raised in the Germantown section of Philadelphia, his family said. He received his bachelor’s degree in 1949 and his law degree in 1952, both from the University of Pennsylvania. At 25, he joined what was then known as Pepper, Bodine, Stokes & Hamilton in December 1953, beginning his career in the trusts and estates practice.

Rising in the ranks, Mr. Madeira was named the firm’s managing partner in 1974, headed its litigation department from 1982 to 1992, and served as vice chairman from 1989 to 1992. He led the firm as co-chairman from 1992 to 1994, and in 1994 was named chairman emeritus, a title he held until his death.

In 2004, Mr. Madeira stepped down as a partner but never officially retired, the firm said.

As co-chairman in 1992, Mr. Madeira was instrumental in keeping the firm together “through the force of his personality and his leadership" when Pepper Hamilton was going through the “throes of some internal turmoil and the firm threatened to split apart,” Richman said.

Mr. Madeira lived with his family in Bryn Mawr and enjoyed summers in Northeast Harbor, Maine. “He gave us the love for the sea and sailing, the embrace of family through regular vacations and adventures, and nonjudgmental support of our endeavors,” the family said in a statement.

As a young lawyer working at Pepper, Mr. Madeira volunteered with the Defender Association of Philadelphia, devoting many hours to defending inmates at the old Moyamensing Prison, said Gussack and Richman.

Mr. Madeira served as a longtime member of the Defender Association’s board of directors and as its board president from 1973 to 1999.

“Because of his advocacy, the modern defender association was created,” said Richman.

Paul J. Hetznecker, board president of the Defender Association, said by email Wednesday that during Mr. Madeira’s presidency, “his method of leadership was one of ‘decisive collaboration.’ ... When Ned spoke, everyone in the room listened. He will be greatly missed.”

“Ned Madeira is one of the most remarkable people I’ve known in my life,” retired Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Judge Benjamin Lerner, who served as chief defender of the Defender Association from 1975 to 1990, said Tuesday. “He lived his life in so many spheres, from the personal to the professional. He was both respected and loved.”

Mr. Madeira has a book, to be published in November by Temple University Press, about the Defender Association, The Defender: The Battle to Protect the Rights of the Accused in Philadelphia, co-authored by Michael D. Schaffer, a former reporter and book review editor at The Inquirer.

“Ned and I got to be good friends in the nearly three years we worked on the book,” Schaffer said by email Wednesday. “He had a dry wit, and loved to tell stories that often ended up with him as the butt of the joke.”

He is survived by his wife of 64 years, Grace; daughters, Martha, Melissa Gormley, and Amanda; and two grandchildren.

No memorial service is scheduled at this time.