90-year-old Circuit Court bailiff has no plans to retire

November 08, 1992|By Mike Farabaugh | Mike Farabaugh,Staff Writer

It took a judge's cajoling to get Harford Circuit Court bailiff Charles Gladden to talk to a court observer about himself.

"I don't understand why anyone would want to read about me. All I did was what I had to do to make a living," said Mr. Gladden, who has no plans to retire from his third career.

After all, he's only 90 years old and he took the job in 1983 when his longtime friend and neighbor, Judge Cypert O. Whitfill, asked for his help. When a friend needs a hand, a person just does what he can to help out, Mr. Gladden said.

That neighborly spirit became evident at a recent surprise birthday party for Mr. Gladden as Judge Whitfill, staff members and employees from every courthouse department shared a buffet and stories about "Mr. G" or "Mr. Charlie".

For certain, said Judge Whitfill, "No one will ever accuse Charlie Gladden of blowing his own horn."

That said, it was left for others to paint a lasting tribute to the man who is most uncomfortable with public attention.

Attorney Bill McCarthy remembered once telling Mr. Gladden he was doing work for the Albrights, a farming family from the Rocks area.

"I told him I had seen the Albrights and he said, 'Oh yeah, I knew the Albright boys.'

"I said, 'Mr. Charlie, they're not boys. They're all in their 80s.'

"I guess it depends on where you're looking from," Mr. McCarthy said.

Judge Whitfill recalled asking his former neighbor to take the bailiff position.

"Charlie was the kind of neighbor that would mow his grass and, if I was behind in mowing mine, he'd just do it for me," said Judge Whitfill. "When I asked him to come work here, he asked me why I wanted him. He said, 'You ain't got no grass to mow there, do you?' "

Mr. Gladden had retired from farming north of Rocks before his friendship with Judge Whitfill began in 1963.

"We had a dairy farm, raised poultry and sold milk and eggs," Mr. Gladden said. "After I stopped farming, I sold feed and grain for about 18 years before I retired."

State Delegate James M. Harkins, R-35th District, remembers from his childhood that "Mr. Charlie's visits to the farm were always an event.

"He didn't come just to sell feed. He came for dinner and a visit and left with an order from my father."

Mr. Harkins presented a citation from the House of Delegates to Mr. Gladden.

To Mr. Gladden, his 90th birthday was routine. He arrived early, made the coffee and put fresh water in the courtroom pitchers.

These are routine tasks, but it's the little things that make the courtroom run smoothly. Mr. Gladden believes that to be celebrated for just doing his job was not necessary.

That's why he was overwhelmed by the banners and balloons decorating the grand jury room on the second floor of the court house.

"When I grew up we didn't know what birthdays were," he said. "A birthday was something for somebody else, maybe, but for us it was just another day to work on the farm."

Mr. Gladden and Claire, his wife of nearly 66 years, live in a small retirement community in Glen Arm.

"I just wish she could be here to see all this," he said of his wife, who has been ill.

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