Edward O. Wayson Jr., 54, an influential lawyer and lobbyist in Annapolis who was a longtime proponent of gambling interests in Maryland, died Dec. 4 of complications from an aortic aneurysm at Washington Hospital Center. He had moved recently from Annapolis to Lothian.
A hefty, hearty man whose lifelong nickname was "Moose," Mr. Wayson had a gregarious personality and, for more than 20 years, was a powerful behind-the-scenes presence in the Maryland State House. He was a senior partner in the law firm Cooter, Mangold, Tompert & Wayson and also was a managing member of Capitol Strategies, an Annapolis lobbying firm.
Edward O. Wayson Jr. was known for championing casino gambling in Maryland.
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He represented more than 400 companies or associations before every branch of the state government and had connections in politics, law, banking, gambling and real estate. He was known in recent years for championing the cause of casino gambling in Maryland.
"He was a truly larger-than-life character," said Anne Arundel County Executive Janet S. Owens (D), who had known Mr. Wayson since childhood. "He was always near anything that was happening. He was very facile at understanding current events, politics and policies."
Born into an old Maryland family, Mr. Wayson could trace his roots in Anne Arundel County back more than 300 years. Since the 1920s, when his grandfather opened a sandwich shop, his family had operated a series of restaurants and stores in the southern part of the county at what is now called Waysons Corner.
In the late 1950s, his father opened a bingo and slot machine parlor in an old warehouse at Waysons Corner. After the state outlawed slot machines in the 1960s, the family kept the business open as Wayson's Bingo, a 750-seat hall that is still owned by the Wayson family. Steve Wynn, the Las Vegas magnate of the Bellagio and Mirage resorts, got his start in the gambling business at Wayson's Bingo. For many years, Mr. Wayson was Wynn's legal adviser.
"If you met Ed," said his law partner Dale A. Cooter, "you'd say he's a big, likable guy who knew everybody. I always thought of Ed as a good ol' boy who could count."
Mr. Wayson was born in Upper Marlboro and graduated from Charlotte Hall Military Academy. He later graduated from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and from Howard University's law school.
He said he felt most at home with the tobacco farmers of Southern Maryland, but he also moved easily in the corridors of power. He had been an aide to former representative Marjorie S. Holt (R-Md.) and a law clerk to former Prince George's Circuit Court judge William B. Bowie.
Mr. Wayson was senior partner with Blumenthal, Wayson, Offutt, Klos & Delevan from 1982 to 1994 before opening his own law firm. He joined Cooter, Mangold in 1998. Throughout his career, he mixed politics, law and business with a juggler's ease.
He invested shrewdly in banks and real estate, which led in the early 1990s to a brief investigation for alleged conflict of interest by federal banking examiners. Mr. Wayson resigned from the board of a savings and loan that financed a hotel he had invested in, and no charges were filed against him.
In Annapolis, he was a well-known and well-liked figure. He weighed more than 300 pounds and often could be seen working out at health clubs. He supported candidates of both parties, which one acquaintance said was a family trait.
"A standing joke with the Waysons," former Anne Arundel County executive Robert R. Neall told The Washington Post in 1991, "is that even during the Civil War they were selling to both sides, making money each way."
After many years of arguing against the introduction of slot machines in Maryland, Mr. Wayson began to lobby for large-scale gambling in the state, outlining a proposal to open three big casinos that would make Maryland the third-leading gambling state in the country, after Nevada and New Jersey.
Mr. Wayson was known for his generosity to charities, including the Annapolis Boys and Girls Club, Archbishop Spalding High School and the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center. His hobbies included coin collecting. He was a member of St. Anne's Episcopal Church in Annapolis, where he was an usher.
His marriage to Beth Peters ended in divorce.
Survivors include his wife of nine years, Jeannine Mary Wayson of Lothian; two daughters from his first marriage, Sarah Elizabeth Wayson and Anne Catherine Wayson, both of Annapolis; a stepdaughter, Kacey Marie Stephens of Lothian; his mother, Ruth Ann Wayson of Denver; a brother, D. Boone Wayson of Annapolis; and a grandchild.