Judge took love of law, family throughout his life
George H. Ross, of Shaler, Allegheny County, a former Allegheny County Common Pleas Court criminal judge and Allegheny County’s first public defender, died Thursday, September 25, 2003, of heart problems. He was 80.
All his life, Mr. Ross knew that he wanted to practice law. His long career in public service saw him climb from an assistant in the Allegheny County District Attorney’s Office, to the county’s first public defender to a judge on the court of common pleas.
“He always wanted to be an attorney. He loved the law. Period,” said his daughter, Jo Lynne Ross. “He didn’t care which side he was on; he loved what he did.”
Mr. Ross grew up on Pittsburgh’s North Side and graduated from Oliver High School. After high school, he went on to the University of Pittsburgh. He attended classes for one year before enlisting in the Army to serve during World War II.
In his four years in the Army, Mr. Ross served in the Pacific and attained the rank of 1st lieutenant.
After leaving the military, Mr. Ross returned home and returned to school to finish his degree. He went on to earn his law degree at the University of Pittsburgh.
After graduating from law school, Mr. Ross took a job working in the Allegheny County District Attorney’s Office. After serving under four different D.A.s, he decided to take a run at the position himself. He didn’t win the election, but his run gave him name recognition with two county commissioners.
Jim Flaherty and Leonard Staisey took notice of the lawyer during his campaign and tapped him as Allegheny County’s first public defender.
In 1977, Mr. Ross won a seat as a judge in the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas. He would serve the court until the age of 70, when age restrictions forced him to retire. He went on to serve 10 years as a senior judge, working part time and serving most of his time with the criminal court. All told, Mr. Ross served 28 years as a judge with the court.
Although practicing law was his passion, Mr. Ross always considered his family his greatest blessing. A loving father and grandfather, Mr. Ross never let his professional duties take away from his family, his daughter said.
“He was a wonderful family man. He was the one person in my life that I could always count on, no matter what. He treated me and my sons as if we were the most important people in the world.”
Mr. Ross is survived by his wife, Eleanore; a daughter, Jo Lynne Ross, of Shaler; and two grandsons, Robert Petrini, of New York and Ross Petrini, of Bridgeville, Allegheny County.
He was preceded in death by his brother, Kenneth.
Visitation will be from 7 to 9 p.m. today and from 2 to 4 and 7 to 9 p.m. Sunday at the Bock Funeral Home, 1500 Mt. Royal Blvd., Shaler. Services will be private.