Corts, who served two terms on the bench between 1979 and 1991, was remembered Monday by those who knew him as a sharp jurist and gentleman.
“He was a fine person, a real gentleman and I couldn’t ask for a better friend,” Elyria attorney David George said after learning of Corts’ passing.
Corts also spent six years as a Republican state senator and Lorain County Republican Party Chairwoman Helen Hurst recalled him not only as a staunch supporter of the GOP, but also someone who could set aside politics for the right reasons.
“He drew no lines,” she said. “If you needed help, he was there to help you. He was also a classic judge, beyond reproach.”
Before he took the bench, Corts served as a defense attorney, worked as law director for several local communities and was a special assistant in the Ohio Attorney General’s Office for 10 years in addition to several other posts that included a stint on the Lorain County Board of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities.
Probate Judge James Walter, a Democrat, said everyone knew Corts was a Republican, but that never mattered once he was on the bench.
“He was the biggest Republican around, but when he went through the courthouse doors he left that behind and I’ve tried to copy that since I became a judge,” Walther said.
Walther said after Corts retired from the bench, he continued to serve as a visiting judge both locally and across the state. He said he got to know Corts while he was working as a staff attorney for now-retired Common Pleas Judge Edward Zaleski.
Walther said Corts would sometimes fill in for Zaleski on trials and after the jury went back to deliberate Corts would come into his office to talk about the case, politics and other subjects.
County Common Pleas Judge Christopher Rothgery said he too had a high regard for Corts.
“He was a great guy, a great judge and part of the Greatest Generation who served in World War II,” Rothgery said.
Corts was born in Cleveland in 1917 in Cleveland and graduated from Elyria High School in 1935. He went on to graduate from Miami University and later earned his law degree from Harvard University on the G.I. Bill following his service during World War II.
Robert F. Corts, his son, said his father served in the U.S. Army, entering as a private and leaving with the rank of major. The elder Corts served with the Army’s 526th Armored Infantry Battalion Tank Unit, which saw action, including the Battle of the Bulge during the liberation of Belgium, after landing on European shores a few weeks after D-Day.
He said his father rarely talked about the war, during which he earned the Bronze Star and Combat Infantryman’s Badge.
The younger Corts, a former assistant Lorain County prosecutor now working as an assistant U.S. attorney, said his father was his inspiration to enter the legal profession.
He said his father, a lifelong Cleveland Indians fan, wanted to make his community a better place and that was a reason he decided to stay in the area and raise his family, which included four children with his late wife, Patricia Ann Corts.
“He’s from Ohio, from Elyria. He just always wanted to be here and serve his community,” the younger Corts said. “He was just a pillar in our family, kind and giving. You learned the right way from him.”
Judge Corts also had several grandchildren and a great-granddaughter, and he especially loved Sunday dinner with them, according to his obituary.