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John Hanson Briscoe died at his home in Hollywood on New Year’s Day after a lengthy battle with cancer. He was 79.

Briscoe, born and raised in Leonardtown, was a circuit court judge in St. Mary’s County from 1986 to 2002, following a career as a state legislator. He was elected in 1962 as a Maryland delegate on a Democratic reform ticket with J. Frank Raley Jr., who was elected to the Maryland for state senate.

Briscoe went on to become speaker of the Maryland House of Delegates, a leadership post he held from 1973 to 1979.

Briscoe chose to retire from politics and returned to his law practice. He was selected as circuit court judge in December 1985.

“He was a true modern-day statesman and he’ll truly be missed,” said Del. John Bohanan (D-St. Mary’s).

As president of the Historic Sotterley Foundation, he was dedicated to Sotterley’s establishment as a National Historic Landmark and its preservation as a vital public museum and educational site. He also served as president of the Historic St. Mary’s City Commission and as president of the St. Mary’s County Historical Society.

As a long time member of the Lexington Park Rotary Club, he served as announcer of the oyster shucking contest at the St. Mary’s County Oyster Festival for several decades.

As a legislator, he was instrumental in the passage of state civil rights laws, the expansion of Point Lookout State Park and the creation of Greenwell State Park and the College of Southern Maryland. He took pride in his environmental efforts and accomplishments throughout the state. He spent several years raising cattle and tending to his family farm in Hollywood and was an avid fisherman and hunter.

Family will receive friends on Tuesday, Jan. 7 from 4 to 8 p.m., with prayers at 7 p.m., at St. John’s Regis Catholic Church in Hollywood. A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated by the Rev. Raymond Schmidt on Wednesday, January 8, 2014 at 10:00 a.m. Interment will follow at St. Aloysius Cemetery in Leonardtown, MD.

Memorial contributions may be made in John Hanson Briscoe’s name to Historic Sotterley Inc. , P.O. Box 67, Hollywood, MD or online at

Arrangements are by Brinsfield Funeral Home in Leonardtown