Clayton Cann Carter, Queen Anne's judge, dies

Judge Clayton Carter

Clayton Cann Carter, a retired Queen Anne's County Circuit Court judge who was a Maryland history buff and a collector of Maryland-related objets d'art, died July 30 of an apparent heart attack at Chesterfield, his Centreville home.

He was 92.

The son of a miller and a storekeeper, Judge Carter was born and raised in Centreville.

He was a 1935 graduate of Centreville High School and earned a bachelor's degree in 1939 from Duke University.

"There were only 11 grades in those days at Centreville High School and he was 16 when he entered Duke, where he earned his degree at 20," said a daughter, Rachel MacDonough Carter Gross of Chestertown.

He entered the University of Maryland School of Law in 1940, and after completing his second year, enlisted in the Army in 1941.

Trained as a Signal Corps cryptologist, he served in the China, Burma, India Theater with the 835th Signal Service Battalion, until returning to the U.S. in 1944, when he entered Officer Candidate School and was commissioned a lieutenant.

After the war, he re-entered law school at Maryland, and after graduating and passing the bar in 1946, began practicing with Marshall, All, Carey and Doub in Baltimore.

In 1948, Judge Carter moved back to Centreville, where he established a general law practice.

Two years later, as a Democrat, he was elected state's attorney for Queen Anne's County, and served as a county commissioner from 1954 to 1958, when he returned to the full-time practice of law.

In 1959, Gov. Millard Tawes appointed him chairman of the Commission on County-City Fiscal Relations.

Gov. Marvin Mandel appointed him an associate judge of the newly created District Court of Maryland in 1971. He then was appointed administrative judge for Queen Anne's, Cecil, Kent, Caroline and Talbot counties.

Acting-Gov. Blair Lee III appointed Judge Carter in 1978 as an associate judge of the Second Judicial Circuit. He was elected without opposition to a full term in 1980.

He became chief judge of the Second Circuit in 1987, a post that he held until retiring on his 70th birthday in 1988.

"I first met him back in the 1970s after I became a judge and he'd come to Baltimore whenever we had a need," said Chief Judge Robert M. Bell of the Maryland Court of Appeals.

"He took his judicial responsibilities very seriously and was always willing to reach out and give you the benefit of his wisdom, and I was one who benefited from that," said Judge Bell. "And as a judge, he was always very accessible and helped bring me along."

He described Judge Carter as a "very pleasant fellow who enjoyed life."

"In the courtroom, he interacted with litigants as well as the lawyers. He was very patient with them and wanted everyone to have their day in court," said Judge Bell.

"He never short-changed people. He was interested in the dynamics and all of the nuances between the litigant and the court," he said.

Retired Baltimore County Circuit Judge John F. Fader II was a longtime colleague.

"He was just a consummate gentleman. When I came on the bench, he was one of the elders, and was a highly respected and prominent judge who was also honest to a T," said Judge Fader.

During the 1960s, retired Queen Anne's County Circuit Judge John W. Sause Jr. and Judge Carter both practiced law in Centreville.

"Because it was a small community, we all practiced law together. Clayton was always extremely conscientious and very thorough in whatever he did. And he was a true gentleman in every sense of the word," said Judge Sause, who succeeded Judge Carter when he left the bench.

Since 1949, Judge Carter had lived at Chesterfield, his 18th-century 40-acre estate at the headwaters of the Corsica River.

Judge Carter, a student of Maryland history, also collected Maryland furniture and objets d'art.

"One time Clayton purchased portraits of Queen Anne and King William, and when he got them home, he couldn't fit them into his house," recalled Judge Sause.

"He then told me he was going to will the painting Queen Anne upon his death to the courthouse. I said, 'Why don't you give it now and get the tax benefit?'" he said. "The next morning when I came into the courthouse, there was a man already there measuring the painting for a plaque. It still hangs there."

In 1980, when Judge Carter presented the painting to the courthouse in Centreville, the Duke of Gloucester, first cousin of Queen Elizabeth II, arrived for its dedication.

Judge Carter undertook the research and writing of a biographical history of the county's Circuit Court judges and located paintings or photographs of the judges that now hang at the courthouse.

Judge Carter was a former president of the Queen Anne's County and Second Judicial Circuit Bar Associations. He had been a vice president and director of the Maryland Bar Association and a director of the Maryland Bar Foundation Inc.

His wife of 26 years, the former Carol Ann Weber, died in 1993.

Judge Carter was a communicant of St. Paul's Episcopal Church, 301 S. Liberty St., Centreville, where funeral services will be held at 1 p.m. Sunday.

Also surviving are two other daughters, Marcia Goldsborough Carter Mason of Charlottesville, Va., and Nancy Biddle Carter Middaugh of Vinton, Va.; and three grandchildren. An earlier marriage to Henrietta McKenney Holton ended in divorce.