Greg Bassett: Community has lost a great, smart man

When Alfred Truitt Jr. was nearly 5 years old, he witnessed part of the horrific proceedings on the December 1931 day when Matthew Williams was lynched on the Courthouse lawn.

In  later years, when coaxed just right, he could speak of the event and articulate on how it changed the community and the manner in which local people thought of themselves.

His father was Salisbury’s mayor and his close uncle started the newspaper that would become The Daily Times. Public service was in his blood and in his being.

He sat for — and was admitted to — the Maryland Bar, even before he completed law school.

For a dozen years, he served as the county’s local prosecutor. Then, in a career flip, he became the first public defender in the county’s history. He went from aggressively working to put bad people in jail, to ensuring that everyone received a fair legal defense.

He became a judge in 1977, and it was there that his upbringing, education and legal experience were brought to full bear. His no-nonsense demeanor, combined with a brilliant mind that could immediately comprehend any issue or situation, made him among the greatest to ever serve the judiciary.

There are few people in this community that I have admired more than Judge Truitt.

Last winter at an event for Coach Butch Waller, the judge and I spoke about the new newspaper, and traded stories about his editor-uncle Charlie. At the time, the judge’s wife was in hospice care, and he agreed to sit for one of our Q&A interviews this summer.

Judge Truitt died of a heart attack on Saturday, so we won’t have that interview opportunity. That’s especially sad for me and our newspaper readers, as his insights and remembrances — especially here in his final years — merited a public airing.

 

Greg Bassett is editor and general manager of Salisbury Independent. Reach him at gbassett@newszap.com

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