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Gary Wilmer Christopher

Gary Wilmer Christopher

Apr 5, 1950 - Mar 31, 2024

Gary Wilmer Christopher - Obituary


ary Wilmer Christopher, 73, of Edgewater Md. died peacefully in his sleep on March 31, 2024 from complications of Parkinson’s Disease. Gary was devoted to his family, Orioles baseball and Carolina basketball. He was a croquet enthusiast, occasional journalist, saxophone player, hobby genealogist, amateur actor, once aspiring pastor and an attorney who was instrumental in abolishing 375 years of capital punishment in the State of Maryland. Gary was born on April 5, 1950 in Easton Md and grew up on his beloved Eastern Shore in Federalsburg. He graduated from Colonel Richardson High School, and went on to earn an English degree from North Carolina Wesleyan University and a law degree from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Upon graduation, Gary clerked for Judge Marvin H. Smith of the Maryland Court of Appeals (now Supreme Court) and then spent 35 years as a state and federal public defender in Anne Arundel County and Baltimore City. Though not his direct client, Gary’s interventions on behalf of Kirk Bloodsworth led to Bloodsworth’s eventual release from prison and not-guilty finding after becoming the first person on death row in the United States exonerated by DNA evidence. Gary participated on numerous commissions and task forces. Among those was an appointment by Governor William Donald Schaeffer to the 1993 Commission on the Death Penalty, which recommended further study into the causes of the racial disparities in Maryland’s administration of the death penalty. In the waning years of capital punishment in Maryland, he represented the last person executed by the State of Maryland, Wesley Baker. Gary’s decades of advocacy for his clients and for a fairer justice system helped lead to Maryland becoming the 18th state to abolish the death penalty in 2013. As taxing as it could be at times to be a public defender, Gary made sure to be at his best outside of the courtroom with his family, friends and colleagues. He would often say that you cannot judge a person by the worst day of their life. His mentality as a public defender and his Unitarian Universalist faith required an unwavering belief that each person has inherent worth and dignity, a principle his children have adopted. Gary shared his unique blend of kindness, generosity and unending curiosity with everyone around him. He researched and wrote the definitive history of his wife’s family genealogy and history primarily in Maryland dating back to the 1640’s. He coached youth baseball and for years administered an NCAA basketball tournament pool (for fun only) for dozens, including lawyers and some judges across the state. After retiring from the Federal Public Defender’s office in 2015, he maintained a small solo practice for a few years, traveled, gardened, made ambitious family dinners, rediscovered the saxophone and took up boxing. He was always up for fishing with his brother-in-law in the waters of Anne Arundel County and the Northern Neck of Virginia where they had secret spots where the rockfish were always running. He never hesitated to be there for his grandchildren, whether it was an unexpected school snow day or a week of Camp PopPop hunting for shark’s teeth at Calvert Cliffs. Gary is survived by his wife of 41 years, Margaret Evelyn Spurgin, their children, Rebecca Christopher (Kevin Hilgers) of Mt. Ranier Md and Ben Christopher (Jessica Deardorff) of Baltimore; five grandchildren, August, Maeve, River, Eloise and Charlie; sister Kate Mitchell of Baltimore and brothers David Christopher of Baltimore and Bill Christopher of East New Market. He was predeceased by his parents Jack Christopher and Clara Mae Morris Woodman and brother John Christopher. The family is immensely grateful for the compassionate care he received the past two years at BrightView South River. A memorial service is scheduled for May 19, 2024 at 2:00 PM at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Annapolis, 333 Dubois Rd., Annapolis MD. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Unitarian Universalist Church of Annapolis or The Parkinson’s Foundation. Please leave a condolence for the family by signing the guestbook at the Memories tab located on the left side of this page.