Maryland Bar Bulletin
Publications : Bar Bulletin : July 2006

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Sailor's Delight

The legal profession may not be what it was when Harris "Bud" George first set up his own general law practice in Towson in 1960, but George's approach to it has changed little.

"You've got to have fun when you practice law," he adds, cracking a sly grin as he recalls a case which involved a meeting in the offices of an area law firm.

"I was sitting in their conference room, and the loudspeaker said, ‘Will a lawyer pick up line four?'" he recalls. "So I got up, and the guy said, ‘Where are you going?' I said, ‘Well, I'm a lawyer, I'm going to pick up line four – it might be a good case!'"

I traded my little
black book of airline
stewardesses based
in Norfolk for a book
of Quantas Airlines
stewardesses based in Singapore.

Harris "Bud" George

To be sure, George's sense of fun permeates his 248-page memoir By George, published in late 2005 by Baltimore-based imprint BrickHouse Books, Inc., and distributed by Itasca Books (www.itascabooks.com). The impetus for the book came about five years ago, when a bad case of insomnia (and a worse case of late-night television) inspired George to revisit diaries that he had kept during his service in the United States Navy from 1953 to 1957.

"I pulled out the old Navy cruise box – which is a big wooden chest they give you when an officer gets out of the Navy – into which I had thrown all the diaries that I had," George recalls. "I started reading these diaries and chuckling to myself because I had written about a lot of amusing things that happened in the Navy."

Following his 1953 graduation from the University of Maryland School of Law, George spent the next four years touring the world as a legal officer aboard the aircraft carrier USS Midway (www.midway.org) and the USS Forrestal (www.forrestal.org), the world's first super aircraft carrier.

"All captains call their legal officers ‘legal eagles' – they love that phrase," George notes. "Primarily, the legal officer's job is to keep the captain out of trouble, because every captain of a large ship is going to become a rear admiral – unless he screws up. If he screws up, it's going to be bad for the legal officer."

From Gibraltar to the Philippines, Portugal to Hong Kong, the Caribbean to South Africa, George helped keep his captains and crews (as well as himself) out of trouble and, at every opportunity, in good times.

"I learned on my very first two-week cruise that an officer has a lot of free time," George explains. "If you're not on watch, you've got to do something. After the first cruise, I came back – we were about to leave on a six-month cruise around the world, so I went out and bought decks of cards, a dartboard, two Monopoly sets, a cribbage board. Then, when we were at sea, every night I would have a game night in my bunk room."

And for a bachelor at sea, there was, of course, the fun promised by every port – take Singapore, for example.

"I had big social plans in Singapore," George chuckles. "I had traded my little black book of airline stewardesses based in Norfolk for a book of Qantas Airlines stewardesses based in Singapore. "I had nine bachelor officers lined up from the Midway to party at the Raffles Hotel in Singapore with nine stewardesses from Qantas Airlines. It was going to be a great party." (The outcome is documented in By George.)

George – whose father established himself as Towson's first Greek businessman when he opened a candy store there in 1912 – also drew upon his heritage in broadening both his professional and social circles, as illustrated by one story in which he recalls a visit to Cape Town, South Africa.

"There was a lot of publicity about the Midway coming into Cape Town," he recalls. "We arrived there on a Saturday. Well, everyone else rushed into the bars and had drinks and all that kind of stuff, but I went to the concierge of the big hotel in Cape Town and said, ‘Look, I want to find a Greek Orthodox church.' Well, they told me where it was, I put on my dress blue [uniform] on Sunday morning and was taken by cab to the church. After the services, I'm noticed, of course – I'm the only guy there in a United States Navy uniform. Several of the parishioners gathered around and invited me to lunch."

He pauses, a coy smile spreading across his face. "I picked the one who had a young daughter standing next to him," he admits. "You can imagine the reaction of my friends on the Midway when I was driven back to the ship in a convertible with a young lady."

"I had a built-in social network because of my Greek heritage, [and] because I utilized it," he admits. "I mean, I could have ignored it, but it would have been stupid of me to do so."

George ultimately decided to dictate the stories he had recorded nearly a half-century earlier. His secretary, Michelle Horner (whom George thanks in his acknowledgements), then transcribed the stories, which George then edited.

"When I finished the Navy stories, I said, ‘Well, you know, I should really put something in about my father,'" George explains. "He was an orphaned Greek immigrant who at 16 was sent to this country with 50 dollars in his pocket and a job.

"The book is sort of arranged chronologically; [it] starts off with stories about my father, and then my mother, my older brother, and then I get into my career. [After going] through the Navy stories, I then figured, ‘Well, I've had a few interesting cases in a wide-ranging civil practice, so I ended up with that."

But the bulk of By George focuses on its author's days at sea.

"I believe being in the service is of great benefit," notes George, who continued to travel the world long after his discharge from the Navy. "It's a great maturing influence, and it's one that I treasure. My God, who else would have gotten the opportunity to see as many countries and cultures – [and] at government expense?"

"I could have written a book about all of the bad things that happened in the Navy. There were many miserable things that happened, but the purpose of this book is to get people to laugh – a good laugh, an amusing time. A realization that, even in the service, you can have fun if your attitude is right. It's not in the book, but in my bunkroom…there was one guy who was miserable. He went to the University of Notre Dame. He hated the Navy, he hated being on a ship. We'd be playing poker in the middle of the room, [and] he'd be there writing a letter to his mother about his miserable life. And I kept saying, ‘Why don't you lie and tell her you're enjoying it? Why do you burden your poor mother?' I mean, I had every minute planned for maximum enjoyment. This guy was sitting there burdening his poor mother – as if she could do anything about it – instead of making her feel good."

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Publications : Bar Bulletin: July 2006

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