Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Some reflections upon Md. Gov. Marvin Mandel

Md. Gov. Marvin Mandel passed away on Aug. 30, 2015

I was out of town when Md. Gov. Marvin Mandel, 1969-1979, passed away on Sunday August 30, 2015. His passing made me quite sad. He is arguably one of the most influential Maryland elected officials of the 20th Century. And he was one of the first statewide Maryland politicians that I got to meet and interact with and he made quite a good first impression – that was a lasting impression.

An article in the Baltimore Sun on August 31, 2015, “Former Gov. Marvin Mandel dies,” by Michael Dresser and Colin Campbell, explained, “Former Gov. Marvin Mandel, who won acclaim during two tumultuous terms in the State House as one of Maryland's most effective chief executives only to be forced from power on corruption charges in 1977, died Sunday afternoon, his family said. He was 95.”

It is under-reported was that “in 1988 the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court ruling that threw out the mail fraud and racketeering convictions of Mr. Mandel and his five co-defendants in the case…” according to the August 31, 2015 article in the Baltimore Sun.

Also, for the most part under-reported, Gov. Mandel was also a pioneering civil rights leader who advocated opening opportunities for qualified women and African-American leaders.

He also pioneered the University of Md. Medical Center shock trauma system and worked hard on health care issues...

Above please find one of the last pictures of me and Gov. Mandel taken November 1, 2011, at the annual Maryland Municipal League fall conference at the Hyatt resort in Cambridge, Md.

Although I no longer remember the particulars, I first met the governor in the early to mid-1970s. He was very approachable, accessible and it was nice to talk with him. He was engaging almost to the point of mesmerizing.

Although I was a student of political science and government of the time, I oddly met him by happenstance on a trip to Annapolis looking for information about my cousin, Del. Wilbur Magin, 1959-1966, and my distant great Uncle, Gov. Warfield, 1904-1908.

Although we did talk about Gov. Warfield and Del Magin; much of our conversation was about a bridge construction matter. Go figure…

I was working steel and concrete pans on bridges at the time. For example I worked on the Francis Scott Key Bridge that spanned the outer Baltimore harbor in, I believe 1974?

I no longer remember if it was on the Francis Scott Key Bridge or not; but we had an issue that involved structural steel girders being delivered to bridge sites with the suds already welded on to the beams. This made it difficult – if not dangerous, to walk around and negotiate while working the bridge structural beams several stories off the ground.

He listened and cared and subsequently, under his watch, the problem was solved.

I subsequently met him several times while I was in office as a Westminster elected official, 1999-2005. He was always warm, eager to talk about my distant relatives who had served as Maryland elected officials and he loved to talk about the history of Maryland government.

Years later, in 2011, he still remembered the conversation and that I was related to Gov. Warfield and Del. Magin. I found this absolutely extraordinary. You simply cannot make something like that up.

The Baltimore Sun article best explained Gov. Mandel’s ascension to the Md. Statehouse in 1969, “Mr. Mandel was selected overwhelmingly for the governorship by the legislature in 1969 to succeed Spiro T. Agnew, who had resigned to become Richard M. Nixon's vice president. At the time the state had no lieutenant governor, and as the speaker of the House of Delegates, Mandel had the inside line to succeed Agnew. Mr. Mandel served in the House for 16 years before his peers selected him to be governor…”

Many will agree with the Baltimore Sun August 31, 2015 article, “Beginning as an accidental governor chosen by the legislature, Mandel, a Baltimore native, quickly established himself as a formidable statewide politician. Twice he was elected governor by thumping margins, and he used those mandates to bring about a sweeping modernization of state government…”

Of his many accomplishments, Gov. Mandel is considered the architect of modern government in Maryland. Under his watch, state government was re-structured and modernized and made into what it is today as a cabinet form of government.

According to the August 31, 2015 Baltimore Sun article, “Mr. Mandel served in the House for 16 years before his peers selected him to be governor. During the 1969 and 1970 legislative sessions, the General Assembly adopted 93 of the 95 measures sponsored by the Mandel administration.

“The governor's legislative program included eight constitutional amendments —including reform of the state's court system — and legislation reorganizing the executive department's 248 agencies and departments into 11 departments headed by Cabinet-level secretaries. Maryland thus became one of the few states at that time to adopt the Cabinet system…”

Writing for Maryland Reporter.com, Len Lazarick and Cynthia Prairie wrote on Monday, August 31, 2015:

Former Gov. Marvin Mandel died Sunday, ending a remarkable life that made him one of the most influential Maryland governors of the past century and one of the most colorful, with personal drama providing flourishes to his large public accomplishments.

MARVIN MANDEL DIES: Michael Dresser and Colin Campbell are reporting that former Gov.

 Marvin Mandel, who won acclaim during two tumultuous terms in the State House  as one of Maryland's most effective chief executives only to be forced from power on corruption charges in 1977, died Sunday afternoon, his family said.

If you live long enough in politics, all may not be forgiven, but most is forgotten, and if you're lucky, only the good stuff is remembered, MarylandReporter.com wrote in May. That's certainly true of Mandel, who turned 95 in April and was feted at a birthday celebration that was an old-timers reunion for a man who left office 36 years ago. It's nice to be able to hear your eulogies before you pass away.

Mandel had heart ailments and died in St. Mary's County, a son said. Bart Barnes of the Post writes that in January 1969, Mandel, then speaker of the Maryland House of Delegates, was elected governor by the state legislature to serve the remaining two years of the governorship of Spiro T. Agnew, who resigned to become Richard Nixon's vice president.

Mandel died after spending two days with family while celebrating his son's 50th birthday, according to a statement from his family. The Annapolis Capital is reporting that Gov. Larry Hogan on Sunday night ordered flags to fly at half-staff in honor of Mandel.

Bryan Sears of the Daily Record quotes a statement from Mandel's son Paul Dorsey: "Governor Mandel was a great governor but more importantly a great father and grandfather. He spent his final weekend with family in St. Mary's County eating crabs and enjoying the beautiful scenery that St. Mary's has to offer. He lived life to the fullest."

Md. Comptroller Peter Franchot said August 31, 2015, ““Marvin Mandel is a monumental figure in the history of our great state, and more importantly, he was fundamentally a good man and public servant. As a Marylander and as Comptroller, I will forever be grateful for his determination as governor to modernize and streamline state government operations which earned national renown and were vital to Maryland's longstanding reputation for sound fiscal stewardship.

“On a personal note, I will always treasure his gestures of friendship, whether it was spending an afternoon in my office discussing World War II with my father, offering sage advice, or sharing one of his patented stories from days gone by. It is with deep affection and admiration that Anne and I extend our love and prayers to his family during this sad time.”

On August 31, 2015, U.S. Senator Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.) said, “I extend my heartfelt condolences to Governor Mandel’s family on the death of this respected and forward-looking leader for Maryland.

“Governor Mandel was a brilliant administrator who was rightly proud of his extraordinary legacy of modernizing and reorganizing Maryland state government. He will also be remembered for his many other innovative initiatives, including reducing the burden of school construction costs on counties, and helping to build subway systems in both Baltimore and the metro areas around D.C.

“Governor Mandel lived a full and accomplished life, and I join with many across Maryland in mourning his passing.”

On September 4, 2015, Maryland Reporter.com reported, “MANDEL'S LIFE HONORED AT FUNERAL: To those who followed him into the Maryland governor's mansion, Marvin Mandel was a wise and generous advisor, regardless of their party affiliation. To the past and present officeholders who gathered for his funeral in Baltimore County on Thursday, he was a master vote-counter and coalition-builder, writes Jean Marbella for the Sun. And to his family? Mandel was a garment-cutter's son and first in his family to go to college, and a father and grandfather so devoted to his Maryland Terps that he once bit through the stem of his pipe during a particularly stressful game.

Josh Hicks of the Post reports that amid many eulogies on Thursday praising former Maryland governor Marvin Mandel as a political giant, his eldest son reminded mourners that his father was also an adored and dedicated family man. "There was life before Annapolis," Gary Mandel said to the crowd gathered at Sol Levinson & Bros. Funeral Home in Pikesville. "I want everyone to know that he was more than just a politician."

The AP's Brian Witte, in a piece in the Daily Record, writes that  former U.S. Rep. Kweisi Mfume, who also once headed the NAACP, described Mandel as "a stalwart in the storm. ... Small in stature, but big in belief, he played as hard as anyone until the clock on the scoreboard ran out."

In an op-ed for the Sun, retired federal Judge Alexander Williams writes extensively about Mandel's civil rights record. As governor, he is lauded with appointing a number of "firsts" including Joseph Sommerville as the first black sheriff for St. Mary's County and Benjamin King as the first black member to the State Board of Certified Public Accountants.

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