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CHAPTER 4 Against the Legislative Tide By 1954, I was ready to make my first run for a seat in the Maryland General Assembly, but I was stopped from doing so—at least temporarily —by an unlikely obstacle: my father. I was just twenty-six. I had graduated from law school the previous year, was practicing law with the firm of Tydings, Sauerwein, Benson and Boyd, and had been elected president of the Young Democrats of Maryland. Everything seemed to be clicking along right on schedule. But 1954 was also a gubernatorial election year, and my father was backing the candidacy of H. C. “Curley” Byrd, who for nineteen years had been president of the University of Maryland. Dad and most of the Democratic leaders in Maryland could not stand Byrd’s opponent in the Democratic primary, George P. Mahoney, who by 1954 had already run for statewide office twice (for governor in 1950 and for the US Senate in 1952) and had lost both times. Before Mahoney’s long, divisive career was finally over, he would run for either governor or the Senate nine times over twenty years, including once against my father, once very briefly against my mother, and once against me. He never won a general election, but his presence on the ballot was almost always disruptive and more often than not more helpful to Republicans than Democrats. In 1950, Mahoney had taken on the incumbent governor, William Preston Lane Jr., in the Democratic primary. Lane barely won but had been so damaged by Mahoney that he lost the general election to Republican Theodore McKeldin. McKeldin was up for reelection, and Dad wanted to organize Democrats in Harford County and throughout the state for Byrd. He just wasn’t quite sure where I fit into that plan. He knew I wanted to run for the House of Delegates but asked me to hold off announcing my candidacy. I wanted to run on a ticket with an old friend,Thomas J. Hatem, who had been a couple of years ahead of me at both College Park and law 48 CHAPTER 4 school. Tommy’s family owned a store in Havre de Grace, and Tommy often visited me at Oakington. He was from a big Catholic family, and because Mahoney was Catholic, Tommy—like many other Catholics in Maryland—supported him. I think Dad was concerned that if I joined with Hatem, I might be seen as aligned with Mahoney. The other issue that summer—and for many years to come—was civil rights. In May 1954, the Supreme Court under Chief Justice Earl Warren handed down the unanimous Brown v. Board of Education ruling that ordered desegregation of public schools. Mahoney was a staunch segregationist. Byrd favored what he called “home rule,” the squishy concept of letting each jurisdiction decide how it should respond to the Supreme Court ruling. But McKeldin took the honorable position, saying he would support the Supreme Court decision—that is, he would follow the law. In those days, Harford County was represented by one senator and four delegates. We all ran countywide, not by districts. In addition to Hatem, the other Democrats who were running for the House that year were W. Dale Hess, from near Fallston in the upper end of the county, and Charlie Moore, whose father had owned the Democratic Ledger newspaper in Havre de Grace. I had helped Hess get his start in politics by encouraging his election as president of theYoung Democrats of Harford County. Dale and Tommy both backed me when I was elected state president of theYoung Democrats in 1953. They wanted me to declare early in 1954 as part of aYoung Democrats ticket for the House of Delegates. Incumbent delegate William S. James was running for the state Senate seat in the district. I strongly supported Billy, but the others did not. By the time I finally got into the race, Hatem, Hess, and Moore were already running as a team. I joined them at campaign events, but— almost as an early indicator of how my entire political career would unfold—I ran independently. We got along well enough, so they were not going to push me out. But I was more aligned with James than I was with them. All four of us won in the June 28 primary.1 Campaigning was much different in those days than it is today. My big campaign piece was a four-by-seven-and-a-half-inch...


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MARC Record
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