CUMBERLAND — For the past three and a half decades, Wayne Dee George has spent most of his days in court — working as a skilled, professional employee in the Maryland court system.
The Lonaconing native served as criminal court clerk in more than 800 jury trials during his career, including death penalty cases and major cases transferred from other counties. He experienced the increased courthouse security after terrorism of Sept. 11, 2001, and the transition into the computer era.
One of six children of the late Mildred and William J. George, Wayne joined the U.S. Air Force in 1969, not long after graduating from Valley High School.
His four-year tour of duty — most of which was spent assigned to a Royal Air Force base near Oxford, England — ended as a staff sergeant in 1973.
The Vietnam era veteran spent the next two years at Allegany Community College where he earned an associate degree in general studies. He then enrolled in Prince George’s Community College for two years, earning an associate degree in law enforcement. He worked full time in Prince George’s County while in college.
“The clerk of district court in Prince George’s County — James Barry — interviewed me. He said, ‘I see you are a veteran,’ and he asked me what branch. I told him Air Force and he asked me when could I start. He took into deep account that I was a veteran. That’s how my career started,” said George.
Several years later, George took the opportunity to transfer to Allegany County District Court.
“I had worked eight years at district court in PG County and then transferred to Allegany County District Court in 1979.
“I moved to circuit court in 1984 when Ray Walker was clerk of the court,” said George. He has served as the supervisor of the criminal juvenile sections for the past five years with Clerk of the Court Dawne Lindsey.
“All the judges — (J. Frederick) Sharer, (Gary G.) Leasure and (W. Timothy) Finan — have always been accommodating, and it was good to work with them.
“I also hold Judge (James S.) Getty in high esteem. They were all wonderful people to work for. I’ve had the pleasure of working with a lot of great judges, including Judge Miller Bowen and the late Judge Milton Gerson in Allegany County District Court, attorneys, prosecutors, a lot of law enforcement officers over the years.”
George said the late David Miller was a mentor to him at Valley High. “He was a great art teacher and he was very inspirational to me. He saw what I had and he encouraged me. I got an art scholarship through him. He later became a great Maryland state trooper and we were often in court at the same time.”
Working with acrylics and pencil, George is an accomplished local talent who often displayed his artwork during Heritage Days in Cumberland.
From English landscapes to aviation scenes stemming from his Air Force career, George has occasionally painted portraits for family and friends.
In the summer, George enjoys the Great Allegheny Passage. “I ride my bike as often as I can and I average 4,000 to 4,500 miles every year,” he said.
With his retirement effective July 1, George said he will be taking his camera and sketch pad on his bike excursions for ideas for his next painting.
George also enjoys fishing trout streams at Rocky Gap, Evitts Creek, Jennings Run or various other locations.
George is an avid Mountain Ridge High School Miners fan — especially of the girls softball teams that have gone undefeated (46-0) the last two years and won two consecutive state championships. His prize possession is a player-autographed softball that the team gave him last year after winning its first state crown.
“I know a lot of the players’ moms and dads. It’s like family to me. I go to all the games, soccer, basketball, football, softball. I make all the road trips. Most people will tell you that I am their biggest fan. It’s something to do and it keeps me busy.”
George will end his career at the historic Washington Street courthouse in just a few days.
“I’ll miss the interaction with the judges. I’ll miss the challenges, the pressure, the tension to get things done. I’ll miss my co-workers. They’ve been like my family. I’ll miss the responsibility I had to keep things running in criminal and juvenile sections.
“I never expected 37 years working in court. I was just looking for a job. But it’s been a great career. I’ve met a lot of people and I’ve learned a lot,” he said.
Retired Court of Appeals Judge Sharer, who retired as a county circuit court judge in 2002, knows well of George's contributions to the judicial system. “Wayne was so meticulous in keeping everything in good order, very responsive, very accurate in keeping the court record.
“He will be missed by the court. He knows the court rules and doesn’t let things slip by. His dedication to the court was exceptional,” said Sharer.
Clerk of the Court Lindsey noted George’s work ethic.
“As a boss, it is very hard to lose someone like Wayne. He was always first in the door. If Wayne wasn't at his desk 20 minutes before work started, then something was wrong. In all his years I think he only called in sick two or three times.
“He has years of experience and knowledge that cannot be replaced. It never mattered what kind of day Wayne was having, he always put the interests of the clerks office first and went out of his way to ensure that not only was the criminal work he did timely but the needs of the whole office were taken care of.
“I know one of my best memories from the clerks office is always going to be working with Wayne. It is going to be a huge adjustment for me to come in and not see Wayne at his desk,” said Lindsey. “As a friend, I'm thrilled he will have more time to enjoy following Mountain Ridge sports and biking.”
Jeffrey Alderton may be contacted at email@example.com.