Joseph A. Mattingly Sr., 83, a retired St. Mary's County Circuit Court judge who also had served as a Democratic member of the Maryland House of Delegates and Senate, died Dec. 28 at St. Mary's Hospital in Leonardtown. He died of complications related to a bleeding ulcer.
Judge Mattingly also had served as state's attorney for St. Mary's County, as a member of the Maryland Board of Parole and Probation and as an assistant Maryland attorney general. In that capacity, he represented the Maryland State Roads Commission.
In 1972, he was elected Circuit Court judge, winning in both the Republican and Democratic primaries, and he served on the bench until reaching the mandatory retirement age of 70.
A lifelong resident of St. Mary's County, Judge Mattingly came from a family that was steeped in a tradition of public service and traced its roots in the county to 1665. His father operated a farm in St. Mary's and also served in the Maryland Senate and as clerk of the Circuit Court.
As the lone Circuit Court judge for the predominantly rural St. Mary's County, Judge Mattingly was responsible for major criminal and civil cases. He acquired a reputation as an independent jurist with an inclination for the unorthodox. He once ordered a first-time drug offender banished from St. Mary's for three years, and he directed another first-time offender to attend church regularly and to seek counseling from her minister.
"Church and a prayer, I don't think ever hurt anybody," he told The Washington Post in 1980.
He defended the sentence of banishment from St. Mary's on the grounds that it was an effective weapon in the war on drugs. "I have tried to keep it [drug use] to a minimum," he said. "I think there was a court of appeals case which frowned upon it, but what does the Bible say? If the eye is scandalized, you pluck it out."
While presiding in court, Judge Mattingly had a habit of leaning back in his chair with his eyes closed. He was sometimes called "Sleepy Joe," but he insisted he never slept in a courtroom. The nickname, he said, stemmed from his college days. "I'm sort of slow moving, slow talking," he said.
The judge was said to have been an old-fashioned moralist and romantic who disliked divorce cases and preferred uncontested adoptions to any other legal proceeding because " . . . there's so much love and affection. Everyone leaves happy."
As a young man, he attended St. Mary's College in Emmitsburg and graduated from the University of Maryland. He also graduated from the University of Maryland law school in Baltimore.
During World War II, he served in the Navy in the Pacific, then returned to St. Mary's, where in 1947 he married Mary Catherine O'Connell. They raised 12 children on the Mattingly family farm on Breton Bay in Medley's Neck, just outside Leonardtown.
Judge Mattingly began his public service career in 1947 as a member of the Maryland House of Delegates, in which he served four years. He was a Maryland state senator in the mid-1950s, and in that role was chairman of the tidewater fisheries committee. From 1951 to 1954, and again from 1958 to 1961, he was state's attorney for St. Mary's County.
He was a member of the Maryland Board of Parole and Probation from 1961 to 1966 and a Maryland assistant attorney general from 1966 until 1972.
In retirement, Judge Mattingly raised Black Angus cattle and traveled to Africa, England, Texas and Wyoming. He was a member of the Knights of Columbus, the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion.
In addition to his wife, survivors include their 12 children, Joseph A. Mattingly Jr. and Robert C. Mattingly, both of Leonardtown, Helen Victor of Falls Church, Jane Beavers and Louise Mann, both of Hollywood, John F. Mattingly of Houston, Martha Derksen of London, Patricia Strittmatter of Bowie, Christopher O'C. Mattingly and Leila Rothschild of Austin, Thomas H. Mattingly of Ocean City, Md., and Lillian Mills of Lake Toxaway, N.C.; and 17 grandchildren.