A. Gordon Boone Jr., a retired Baltimore County District Court judge recalled for his wit and colorful courtroom style, died of complications from dementia Sunday at the Masonic Home of Maryland.
The Freeland resident was 83.
"Gordon was a wonderful ambassador for the judiciary," said retired Maryland Court of Appeals Judge Joseph F. Murphy Jr. "He was humorous at appropriate times and he could be self-deprecating at others.
"He knew how to handle the people who came before him," said Judge Murphy. "… When he would scold, it would be meaningful and effective."
"Gordon was one of the most fascinating men I have ever met. Part [Winston] Churchill and part Damon Runyon, he was a bon vivant, raconteur, polymath and also a rascal and rapscallion — all words he loved and would use," said Baltimore County Circuit Judge Robert E. Cahill. "Heaven has just became a more interesting place — and Maryland just lost one of her most beloved judges."
Born in Baltimore and raised in Ruxton, he was a member of an old Maryland family. Boone Street and Kennedy Avenue are named for his ancestors. Another, Oak Hill Avenue, recalls his family's 19th-century home near Green Mount Cemetery.
He was the son of A. Gordon Boone, a Towson attorney and former speaker of the Maryland House of Delegates who was involved in a 1960s savings and loan scandal. His mother was Edith Dean Flint.
Mr. Boone attended Gilman School, St. Paul's School and Georgetown Prep in Rockville. In a 2003 news article, he described his academic career as "checkered." He joined the Air Force in 1954, where he played football as a quarterback. He later enrolled at the University of Maryland, College Park.
He obtained a degree at the University of Baltimore School of Law in 1963, the year he established a law practice in Towson.
"He played the District Court docket the way Stradivarius played the violin," said retired Circuit Judge Thomas J. Bollinger Sr., a close friend. "He truly gave justice, often with a lot of humor."
He was a county prosecutor in the late 1950s. He was later a public defender and a city prosecutor. Gov. Harry R. Hughes named him a District Court judge in 1982. He retired in 2003.
The Sun's 2003 article described Judge Boone as one of Towson's old guard, "a judge who remembers when everybody knew everybody on Chesapeake and Pennsylvania avenues, when the old Penn Hotel poured gin and politics. ... It is Boone's past — part storybook, part soap opera — that let him master the frenetic District Court, the place where most cases begin, where character judgments are key and where justice is dispensed quickly."
Colleagues recalled Judge Boone's love of Middle English. He peppered his remarks from the bench with archaic words. He would call a miscreant a "knave." He'd call an unprincipled defendant a "varlot." People who displayed bad behavior were "boors."
For all his colorful style, friends said he was an excellent listener to all who came before him.
"Everybody's plight is very important to them," he told The Sun in 2003. "You've got to focus on that. ... Even with a routine traffic docket — speeding or stop sign violation — everybody's got a tale."
Judge Cahill recalled Judge Boone's sympathetic ear.
"Everyone who walked out of his courtroom felt well listened to. They also had had heard an application of Gordon's common sense," said Judge Cahill.
Retired Judge John G. Turnbull recalled his colleague and close friend as "one of the finest district court judges that Baltimore County has ever seen. He was well-liked by the state's attorney's office, the defense bar and the litigants."
Judge Boone stepped down in 2003 at the mandatory retirement age. He then heard cases as a retired judge for several years.
"It's a good community, the legal community here in Baltimore County," he said in 2003. "It always has been. This is a great job. I hate to leave it."
He was an animal fancier and enjoyed spending time at a family home at Swan's Island in northern Maine.
A funeral Mass will be offered at 10 a.m. Thursday at St. Thomas More Roman Catholic Church, 6806 McClean Blvd.
Survivors include his wife of 37 years, Judy Chew; three sons, A. Gordon Boone III of Lutherville, John Marshall Boone of Tiverton, R.I., and William Travis Boone of Pennsylvania; two daughters, Anne Boone Simanski of Reisterstown and Tiffany Boone Leech of Queenstown; a brother, William Kennedy Boone of Hagerstown; and eight grandchildren. A previous marriage to Sylvia Hayes Badger ended in divorce.