Raymond E. Beck Sr., Retiring judges generally leave behind law books and rulings, and occasionally a change of wardrobe. But when Circuit Judge Raymond E. Beck Sr. retires today, he will also leave a courthouse that he was instrumental in getting built.
During his 15 years on the bench, Beck led a decade-long crusade to get a new district courthouse built in Carroll County. He used his experience as a former legislator to wage a campaign for the building, which cost the state nearly $7 million. His campaign for the facility saved the county from financing a new Circuit Court building.
Today is Beck's latest farewell in a lifetime of careers that included being a private lawyer, a state delegate and senator, and an officer in the Maryland Army National Guard.
But at 65, five years younger than the mandatory retirement age for Circuit Court judges, he said his "inner clock has seen enough. It's time to move on. ... I'm escaping statutory senility. There's something to be said about retiring on your own terms."
Appointed in 1989 to a new seat on the Carroll County Circuit Court bench that previously had only two judges, Beck also took over the role as administrative judge from Judge Luke K. Burns Jr.
Beck's appointment reflected the growth in Carroll and the Circuit Court's need to expand. Circuit Court and District Court cases were then heard in the same Courthouse Annex building.
"Judge Beck really did carry the flag on this effort," said Steven D. Powell, county chief of staff. "He was instrumental in securing the state's willingness to build a separate facility."
Until he packed his personal belongings, Beck kept the shovel from the courthouse groundbreaking - held April 17, 2001 - in his office. The 42,000-square- foot District Court building opened in 2002.
"The district courthouse should be named the Beck-Dixon District Court," joked Richard N. Dixon, a former state treasurer and former Carroll County delegate.
Dixon, a Westminster native, met Beck, a South Baltimore native, in the late 1960s. They were also colleagues in the state legislature.
"It's an example of where a Republican and Democrat worked together to get a courthouse built," Dixon said.
After graduating from Baltimore City College in 1956, Beck spent three years in the Marine Corps, married and then earned a law degree from the University of Baltimore while working days as a machinist at Bethlehem Steel.
In law school, Beck met Francis Arnold, whose five children were in college by the time Arnold decided it was his turn to go back to school. Arnold, who later joined Beck as a judge on the Circuit Court, persuaded Beck to switch to the Republican Party.
Beck was appointed to the House of Delegates in 1972 and won his first election two years later. In his final four years as a delegate, he was elected minority leader. He also served in the state Senate from 1983 to 1989.
"It was very hectic," Beck said of his legislative days. "After 17 years in the legislature, I found myself lonely in crowded rooms."
When the legislature was not in session, Beck practiced law at a firm he co-founded in Westminster in 1968. He re-entered military service in 1981, when he was appointed an assistant staff judge advocate with the rank of major in the Maryland Army National Guard. Beck also commanded a training regiment and jumped out of a plane by the time he retired as a brigadier general in 1999.
While hearing criminal cases, Beck developed a reputation as a fair judge but one who was tough on probation violators and repeat offenders.
"He has a reputation for being a tough sentencing judge," said Judge J. Barry Hughes, who was sworn in to replace retired Judge Luke K. Burns Jr. last week. "But I have found that in cases where an offender was a nonviolent substance abuser, he's shown a lot of compassion. He's put rehabilitation before punishment."
Hughes shared a law practice with Beck from 1983 to 1989.
Beck joked, "Fifteen years ago, [Hughes] kicked me out of my office, and now he's doing it again."
Prosecutors said they will miss Beck's directness and emphasis on courtroom etiquette.
"Judge Beck does not suffer fools gladly, and if you've spent any time in Circuit Court, you see that there is no shortage of fools," said David P. Daggett, deputy state's attorney for Carroll County. "Judge Beck always seems to apply common sense to the law, and that, I believe, makes for good, solid rulings."
In his retirement, Beck plans to go fishing on his 25-foot boat, docked at his waterfront home on the Eastern Shore, and go waterfowl hunting in countries such as Argentina.
A military history buff, he is also eager to retrace his great-grandfather's Civil War battles. But mostly, he says, he is ready to spend time with his family: his wife and their daughter, three sons, three grandsons and two granddaughters.