George Bacon Rasin Jr., a former Kent County circuit judge who led a movement to modernize juvenile justice in Maryland, died of congestive heart failure Friday at the Edenwald Retirement Community in Towson. He was 94.
"Judge Rasin was widely known and respected for his integrity, knowledge of the law and absolute fairness," said retired Baltimore County Circuit Judge John Fader, who was a friend. "He was a man who ran a very tight ship."
Born in Worton in Kent County, he was a 1937 graduate of Washington College and earned his law degree from the University of Maryland School of Law.
After enlisting in the Army in September 1941, he was assigned as a special agent to the Counter-Intelligence Corps in the Division of Military Intelligence. He left military service as a captain.
According to a biography supplied by his family, he began his law practice in Baltimore in 1945 and returned to Kent County in 1946. In June 1950, he joined the U.S. foreign aid program and was a security officer in Paris. He resumed his law practice in Chestertown in 1952 and was elected state's attorney for Kent County in November 1954. In 1956, he was appointed to serve as Kent County's state senator. In 1958, he was elected to the same post.
As a local leader of the Democratic Party, he accompanied then-candidate John F. Kennedy to the Washington College gymnasium during his presidential campaign on May 11, 1960.
"After John Kennedy gave a speech on disarmament, my father drove him in our black-and-white Dodge station wagon to the airstrip where he left," said his daughter, Gale Rasin, a Baltimore City circuit judge.
Judge George Rasin was a Kennedy delegate to the Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles that summer.
Later that year, Gov. J. Millard Tawes appointed him as the Circuit Court judge for Kent County and he was elected in 1962 and 1978 to 15-year terms. His biography said that in May 1971 he became chief judge and administrative judge of the 2nd Circuit.
Judge Rasin was occasionally assigned to hear trials in Baltimore. In 1975, during the trial of a court clerk who had coerced employees to contribute to his re-election campaign, Judge Rasin said, "Other public officials need to know that if they violate their trust they shall pay the penalty." He said he hoped that the jury's guilty verdict "represented a return to puritanical standards of absolute truth, honesty and integrity" for elected officials.
From 1975 to 1978, Judge Rasin was chairman of the Conference of Circuit Administrative Judges. He retired from the bench in 1987. In retirement he was a settlement judge for the 2nd Circuit from 1987 until 2006.
Family members said that during his time as a judge, he devoted himself to the improvement of the juvenile justice system in Maryland. When chairing the Legislative Council Committee on Juvenile Courts, he persuaded the Maryland General Assembly that reform was needed in dealing with juvenile delinquency.
In 1965, he became chairman of a special commission to study juvenile offender laws. Its findings, known as the Rasin Report, led to the creation of a state Department of Juvenile Services. Governor Tawes also named him chairman of a state advisory board for the Juvenile Services department. He served as chair of the Juvenile Justice Advisory Council for 14 years.
Judge Rasin also held national juvenile justice posts and was a member of the National Council of Juvenile Court Judges' executive committee.
For two decades, Judge Rasin was a member of the Board of Visitors and Governors of Washington College. In 1987, the college awarded him an honorary degree of Doctor of Laws.
His daughter said a 19th-century ancestor was Isaac Freeman Rasin, who was clerk of court for Baltimore City and, with Sen. Arthur Gorman, was head of the celebrated Gorman-Rasin political machine.
A memorial service will be held at 3:30 p.m. Jan. 20 at the Kent County Court House in Chestertown.
In addition to his daughter, survivors include six grandchildren. His wife of 43 years, the former Eleanor Brown, died in 1991. A son, George Bacon Rasin III, died in 1998.