George Mitchell, a former Labour councillor, Alderman and deputy mayor of Croydon, a teacher, musician and magistrate, has died. He was 95.
A resident of the Whitgift House care home, Mitchell’s passing is thought not to be connected to covid-19.
Mitchell was a councillor for Whitehorse Manor ward from 1971 to 1982.
One of his former Town Hall colleagues, Councillor Jerry Fitzpatrick, remembers him as “a devoted representative not just of his ward but the people of north Croydon generally”.
Fitzgerald said, “Everyone who had the good fortune to know George – whatever their own political convictions – will remember him for the staunchness of his commitment to social justice, his commitment to the community of which he was a part, and the uprightness of the conduct of his life.”
In a rich and varied lifetime, Mitchell turned his hand – usually with some success – to a range of activities, starting with woodwork craftmanship which began with a joinery apprenticeship that saw him serve as an army camp carpenter in his teens during World War II.
His craft saw him become involved in trades unionism, and through that politics, ultimately getting elected to the council in 1971.
According to a 2015 Whitgift Care newsletter, “From improving road safety to supporting recovering alcoholics and women experiencing domestic violence, George tirelessly focused his energy on helping local people.”
Mitchell was deputy mayor of the borough in 1976 and in 2007, at the age of 82, in recognition for his tremendous service, he was appointed an Honorary Alderman for Croydon.
He taught at a further education college in south-east London, and also learned to play the trombone, which saw him exercising a passion for jazz, playing in the Frank Clark Seven that performed regularly at the Fairfield Halls.
He wrote what is considered to be one of the primer texts for carpentry students, Carpentry and Joinery, which can still be bought via Amazon today, and he even managed to write and self-publish an autobiography.
For 21 years, Mitchell served as a governor of Broadmead School, including as chair of governors.
In 1968, at the relatively young age of 43 for a JP, Mitchell became a magistrate.
Years later, he recalled that his most terrifying moment was having a suspected IRA bomber in the courtroom surrounded by armed police officers.
According to the newsletter, “I looked at them and thought, ‘What have I got myself in for?’ On refusing to give his name, the prisoner decided to make a dash for it, so the police pushed him up against a rifle. I thought a gun was going to go off!”
After 30 years as a Justice of the Peace, Mitchell rose to hold the position of chairman to the bench, something he regarded as one of his finest achievements.
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I had the privilege of knowing George when we were both members of Croydon Council in the late 1970s. He was an exceptionally civil and friendly person, always willing to devote time to others.
For the last 20 years or more of his life he suffered from a debilitating illness (Parkinson’s I believe) which he bore with great fortitude. I remember seeing him at the funeral of Labour councillor Trevor Laffin in 2004. George’s mobility was already impaired. He had walked to Mitcham Road crematorium from his home. After the service I offered him a lift home. He cheerfully said he’d rather walk as he liked to get lots of exercise!