restricted access Chapter 7. A Prosecutor the Organization Didn’t Want
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CHAPTER 7 A Prosecutor the Organization Didn’t Want By early 1961, I had worn out my welcome with the Democratic leadership in the Maryland General Assembly. The prevailing culture in Annapolis, as in most legislatures, is for junior members to be seen and not heard, to avoid making waves, and to obediently follow the lead of their elders. I respected legislative tradition, but I was determined to be my own man, just as my father had been. Over my seven-year tenure in the House, the positions I took on civil rights, reapportionment, slot machine gambling, and other issues were often at odds with the legislative bosses. And my efforts to regulate the savings and loan industry, of course, did not help because S&L operators were padding the pocketbooks of the majority leader of the House of Delegates and other top Democratic politicians. I may have been a Democrat with an inherited pedigree in state party politics, but by my second term in the House of Delegates I was persona non grata with the majority of Democrats who controlled the legislature and the state. I knew they would be delighted to see the last of me. Yet, while they wanted me gone, they wanted me to go anywhere but to the one job that I had my eye on: US attorney for Maryland. The thought that I would become a federal prosecutor simply scared the hell out of some powerful leaders of the entrenched Democratic organization in Maryland. After JFK’s election, I knew that as “one of Kennedy’s young men” I was in line for a federal post, if I wanted one. But I wasn’t sure at first which one I wanted. For advice, I turned to a politically savvy friend, the relatively new US senator from Washington State, Henry M. “Scoop” Jackson. I had met Scoop back in 1953, when he was the Young Democrats ’ Jackson Day speaker. 91 A PROSECUTOR THE ORGANIZATION DIDN’T WANT Scoop and I had become fast friends. He frequently came up to Oakington on weekends and even once dated Ginny’s attractive twin sister, Mary. Scoop was crazy about “Twinny” (as I called her), although he was then in his mid-forties and about twice her age. Scoop knew my long-range ambition was to follow in my father’s footsteps and one day be elected to the US Senate, but as an intermediate step I wanted to make my name as a trial lawyer. Before being elected to Congress, Scoop had been a county prosecutor in Washington State, and he suggested I ask the Kennedys to make me the US attorney for Maryland. He said there was no better way to get broad trial experience, and, if I did a top-rate job, it could improve my qualifications for higher office. So when Bobby Kennedy asked me if I wanted to come to Washington in a sub-Cabinet post or to take a position overseas, I declined and told him I wanted to be US attorney. He was surprised. I asked if he needed me to send him letters of recommendation, which at the time I thought would have been easy to obtain, but he said, “No, no, no, that’s not necessary.” But later, as opposition to my appointment built during the increasingly tense 1961 legislative session, I regretted not having done so. News of my possible move first surfaced publicly within a week of JFK’s inauguration.1 From my perspective, the timing could not have been much worse. I was then in the heat of the bitter legislative battle over my efforts to regulate S&Ls. I feared the spotlight on my personal career could undermine that effort and shift attention away from the political corruption scandal that was steadily being revealed in the newspapers. Opposition to my appointment began surreptitiously at the national level. All six Democrats in the Maryland congressional delegation, accompanied by Michael J. Birmingham, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) member for Maryland, secretly traveled to Connecticut to meet with John Bailey, the new chair of the DNC. They delivered a definitive message: the president could appoint Joe Tydings to any position in Washington or overseas with their support, but he was personally unacceptable to be named US attorney for Maryland. They further 1. John F. Kennedy was inaugurated as the thirty-fifth president on January 20, 1961. 92 CHAPTER 7 agreed that all Kennedy administration appointments in Maryland should first be cleared by a group...


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