George M. Nutwell Sr., who was Anne Arundel County's register of wills for 20 years and -- following a family tradition -- long active in politics, died of a stroke Tuesday at the Meridian Nursing Center in Annapolis. The lifelong Deale resident was 83.
He was from a family that has been active in Anne Arundel and state civic and political affairs since 1699, when John Nuttwell won the job of sheriff in an election later ruled invalid by the Provincial Assembly.
Over time, the second "t" was dropped from the family name.
During his long political career, Mr. Nutwell was known for his campaign for paved and improved roads in the southern part of the county, and his battle against the old county manager system and advocacy of a popularly elected county executive.
He also was known as a chronic worrier over how tax money was spent, and an outspoken critic of a proposal years ago to move the county seat from Annapolis.
"His position was simple: The county seat had been there since 1650 and that's where it ought to remain," said longtime friend and political confidante Robert H. Campbell Sr., a former Annapolis mayor, alderman and county commissioner.
Many considered Mr. Nutwell to be a political and county historian of note, Mr. Campbell said.
Mr. Nutwell first ran for elective office in 1942, losing by a single vote in the race for county commissioner in the old 7th District.
He was elected register of wills in 1958, and over the course of 20 years in the job became a much beloved courthouse figure.
"He was the official greeter to everyone who entered the courthouse because his office was the first one on the right when you stepped into the courthouse and he always had his door open," said Anne Arundel Circuit Judge Eugene M. Lerner.
"He did an excellent job as register of wills because he had such a good way about him and he knew everyone," the judge said.
On his daily trip to a nearby restaurant, Mr. Nutwell often found himself pleasantly delayed by sidewalk chats with people he encountered along the way.
"He always had his ear to the ground, and he listened to the people because he was always among them," Mr. Campbell said. "He believed that public service was a public trust, and he lived his life accordingly."
Mr. Nutwell retired from the register's job in 1978, when he made an unsuccessful bid for the state Senate. But the Nutwell name returned to the office in 1986, when his son, George Jr., was elected register of wills.
"His only piece of advice was to give good service to the public," the son said.
The elder Mr. Nutwell was raised in Deale on the family tobacco farm. After graduation from Tracy's High School in 1931, he helped his father operate the farm during the Depression. During World War II, he was a civilian employee of the Navy's experimental station at North Severn.
He established Nutwell's Marina in Deale in the late 1940s, operating it until he sold the business in 1962.
He was a member of Cedar Grove United Methodist Church, 710 Mason's Beach Road, Deale, where services will be held at 11 a.m. today.
Other survivors include his wife of 60 years, the former Martha Manifold; two other sons, Preston A. Nutwell and James E. Nutwell of Deale; two brothers, Bunyan Nutwell and Reginald Nutwell, and two sisters, Emma Nutwell and Edna Nutwell, all of Deale; and four grandchildren.