Obituaries: Former Mayor, Governor And Comptroller: William Donald Schaefer, 1921-2011

Monday, April 18, 2011 – WBAL Radio
 
William Donald Schaefer passed away at the Charlestown Retirement Community in Catonsville.  He was 89.

Schaefer had been in declining health for some time.  Earlier this month, he was treated for pneumonia at St. Agnes Hospital.

Longtime aide Lainy Lebow-Sachs was at Schaefer’s side when he died.

She told WBAL’s Jayne Miller that Schaefer died “peacefully.” Earlier in the day Monday, Lebow-Sach said Schaefer talked to other long time aides in a conference call.

Schaefer’s funeral will take place next week.

Schaefer will lie in repose at the Maryland State House in Annapolis, next Monday, April 25,  from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. Later that day, there will be a funeral procession through some of his favorite spots in Baltimore City including the Inner Harbor and Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

His body will lie in repose at City Hall in Baltimore from 5 p.m. until 9 p.m., on Monday April 25, and then again from 9 a.m. until 9 p.m.next Tuesday, April 26.

The funeral service will take place at Old St. Paul’s Church in Downtown Baltimore on April 27. The time has yet to be determined.

Schaefer was a life-long Maryland resident, born in West Baltimore on November 2, 1921. He was educated in Baltimore’s public schools and graduated from Baltimore City College in 1939. Schaefer received his law degree in 1942.

Schaefer’s legal career was put on hold by the U.S. entry into World War II. He joined the Army, achieved officer rank, and took charge of administering hospitals in England and Europe. Following his tour of duty, he remained in the U.S. Army Reserves and retired in 1979 with the rank of Colonel.

After the war, Schaefer resumed his legal career, practicing real estate law. He earned a Master of Law degree in 1954 from the University of Baltimore School of Law and formed a general practice law firm with two colleagues. His concern for city planning and housing in the city propelled him to a seat on the Baltimore City Council in 1955.

In 1967, Schaefer ventured into citywide politics by running successfully for Baltimore City Council President. Four years later, he also ran successfully for Mayor, serving four consecutive terms until he was elected Governor in 1986.  He later was elected Maryland Comptroller.

Schaefer put Baltimore on the map, and the city returned the favor.

As the city he loved and served for decades saw its star begin to rise on the national stage in the 1980s, Schaefer also became something of a national celebrity and de facto expert on revitalizing America’s aging and run-down urban areas. He will be forever associated with Harborplace, which became the kind of icon for urban renewal that Oriole Park at Camden Yards would become for a new generation of American baseball stadiums a decade later.

In later years, his political career was centered in Annapolis, where he served two terms as governor and two more as Maryland’s comptroller, but it was the city of Baltimore where he was born and served for decades as a city councilman and mayor that always enjoyed the spot closest to his heart.

On November 2, 2009, Schaefer was honored with a statue unveiled at his beloved Inner Harbor.  Here are scenes from that day.

Governor Martin O’Malley made the official announcement of the passing of Maryland’s 58th governor by saying in a statement: 

“I join all Marylanders in mourning the loss of one of our own – Maryland’s indomitable statesman, William Donald Schaefer,” said Governor O’Malley.  “William Donald Schaefer loved his city and his state with great exuberance because there was nothing more important to him than the people that he served with such loyalty.  From his famous ‘no excuses’ leadership style, to his celebrated public persona, William Donald Schaefer demonstrated an unrelenting drive to make Maryland a better place.  His legacy lives not merely in the buildings that bear his name, nor the statue that bears his likeness, but in the lives and hearts of all those fortunate enough to have known him and lucky enough to have been served by him.”

Governor O’Malley has directed that the former governor will lie in state in the State House in Annapolis and the Rotunda of Baltimore City Hall.  Times and dates for lying in State and funeral services will be announced.

Statement from Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings Blake

Today, I join people from Baltimore and across Maryland to mourn the loss of William Donald Schaefer.  In his fifty years as a public servant, he personally touched the lives of thousands—if not millions—of people as he worked to make Baltimore and Maryland stronger and more prosperous. 

I was born in 1970, and the following year William Donald Schaefer became Mayor of Baltimore.  For me, and an entire generation of residents, he set the standard for what it means to be the Mayor of an American City.  He insisted on being an honest, no-nonsense leader who celebrated our City’s strengths while implementing a vision for the future, always believing that Baltimore’s best days are ahead.  Under his leadership, Baltimore’s Inner Harbor was transformed into the economic engine for the City and a source of great pride for citizens in every neighborhood. Mayor Schaefer was more than a visionary leader, he was Baltimore’s greatest cheerleader. 

Since becoming Mayor, I have come to understand what Mayor Schaefer meant when he said that being Mayor of Baltimore is the greatest job he ever had.  As Mayor, you have an opportunity be close to the people you serve, and make a real difference for people in the day-to-day governing of the City.  Every Baltimore Mayor since William Donald Schaefer—and for generations to come—walks into office knowing that they have to live up to an impossible standard: do it now!

Today, I am declaring a moment of silence across the city of Baltimore tomorrow morning at 9:00 a.m.  I urge every resident, visitor and friend of the city to take part in remembering William Donald Schaefer, one of the greatest Mayors in American history.

Reaction to the death of former Gov. William Donald Schaefer:

– “William Donald Schaefer loved his city and his state with great exuberance because there was nothing more important to him than the people that he served with such loyalty. From his famous ‘no excuses’ leadership style, to his celebrated public persona, William Donald Schaefer demonstrated an unrelenting drive to make Maryland a better place. His legacy lives not merely in the buildings that bear his name, nor the statue that bears his likeness, but in the lives and hearts of all those fortunate enough to have known him and lucky enough to have been served by him.” – Gov. Martin O’Malley, D-Md.

– “He insisted on being an honest, no-nonsense leader who celebrated our city’s strengths while implementing a vision for the future, always believing that Baltimore’s best days are ahead. Under his leadership, Baltimore’s Inner Harbor was transformed into the economic engine for the city and a source of great pride for citizens in every neighborhood. Mayor Schaefer was more than a visionary leader, he was Baltimore’s greatest cheerleader. ” – Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, Democrat.

– “He wanted to create jobs and he wanted to create opportunity for all the people of Maryland. For him it was always about the people. He was about building schools, keeping the libraries open and creating jobs. And he wasn’t going to let anything get in his way.” – U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md.

-“This is a sad day for all of us.  Don Schaefer was an indomitable force who dedicated his life to the people of Maryland.  His vision paved the way for Baltimore City’s renaissance and helped ensure Maryland’s preeminence as an innovative, progressive state that is able to meet the challenges of the 21st Century.  There was no problem that was too small for his attention and his forceful ‘do-it-now-style’ focused attention on finding solutions and getting results.  Personally, it was a privilege to have known him and he leaves a legacy of strong, visionary leadership that transformed a city and a state.”- U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin (D)  

-“William Donald Schaefer will be remembered as a statesman who embodied public service and spent more than a generation improving the lives of men, women and children throughout Maryland, especially his beloved City of Baltimore. The news of the passing of former Governor and Baltimore Mayor Schaefer will leave a void in the hearts of Marylanders. He is a reminder of a time when politics was dominated by a desire to serve your neighbors. Gov. Schaefer, as a community activist and politician, helped to turn around Baltimore. In the process he showed an entire generation of young people what could be done with a dream and a profound passion for service.I know I join countless individuals in expressing my deepest sympathies and regret at the passing of a true giant of a man.” -Baltimore City Council President Bernard “Jack” Young

– “I am deeply saddened by the passing of William Donald Schaefer, who was a close friend of my father. Governor Schaefer was a Baltimore icon who loved his city and state and dedicated his life to the service of its people. A master of politics, he reminded those of us in office to never forget the constituents we represent. From potholes to Baltimore’s magnificent Inner Harbor, he worked hard every day to improve his community. His colorful personality has contributed to some of Maryland’s most memorable moments and he will be sorely missed.”- U.S. Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger D-2nd District

-“William Donald Schaefer was an icon and a true Maryland treasure.  His tenacity and forceful advocacy on behalf of all Marylanders will forever serve as guidance to me as comptroller.  His compassion and steadfast commitment to his community should serve as a role model to all public servants and to all Marylanders, as well. Whether as mayor, governor or comptroller, William Donald Schaefer was never satisfied with the status quo and always believed government was there to create a climate of opportunity for all citizens.  No detail was too small to escape his notice and nothing was beneath him when it came to fulfilling his lifelong goal of ‘Helping People’.  His legacy of a thriving Inner Harbor and downtown Baltimore, of a progressive and more compassionate and efficient state government will live on for generations.  We all will remember and miss Governor Schaefer.  While this is a difficult time for his friends and all Marylanders who loved him and cherish his legacy, we can celebrate a life well lived and over 50 years of unequaled public service.”- Comptroller Peter Franchot (D)

Here is a bio of Schaefer, prepared by his former staff:

Baltimore City Councilman, City Council President, Mayor, Maryland Governor and Comptroller William Donald Schaefer implored his staff for more than 50 years to help people—the most important part of public service. To him, it was even more important than “Do It Now.” To say he was not a typical politician is an understatement. But his populist antics (including wearing silly hats and jumping into the seal pool at the National Aquarium) were designed to engage citizens in their government. And they worked. Tens of thousands of people followed his lead and volunteered such as at a City Fair, community festival or neighborhood center. As he left public office in 2007 he was asked how he’d like to be remembered. He summed up 50 years of public service in two words: “He Cared.” William Donald Schaefer cared about helping people.

Schaefer was born in West Baltimore on November 2, 1921 to William Henry and Tululu Irene Schaefer. An only child, he was educated in Baltimore’s public schools and graduated from Baltimore City College in 1939. He earned an LL.B. degree from the University of Baltimore School of Law in 1942, and an LL.M. in 1954, following his father into the law.

His legal career was delayed when Schaefer enlisted in 1942 during World War II in the United States Army, achieved officer rank and administering hospitals in England and other parts of the front. Discharged in 1946, he remained in the U.S. Army Reserves until 1979, when he retired with the rank of Colonel.

After the war, Schaefer moved back to his West Baltimore row house on Edgewood Street, living with his parents, and formed a general practice law firm with two colleagues specializing in real estate law. His love of the City and his friendships with many prominent Baltimore businessmen and politicians led to his initial, and unsuccessful, run for the Maryland House of Delegates, in 1950. He ran again in 1954. Again, he lost. But in 1955, his concern for city planning and housing issues led him to win a seat on the Baltimore City Council, representing the 5th District.

In 1967, Schaefer ran successfully for Baltimore City Council president, and four years later, he ran successfully for mayor. Schaefer served four terms as mayor, being re-elected in 1975, 1979 and 1983, each time receiving 85% or more of the vote in the general election. Baltimore blossomed under his watch – the Inner Harbor was reborn, the National Aquarium became an instant splashing success, the Baltimore Convention Center was created, and neighborhoods became a focal point of city attention. He was known for his attention to detail, taking notes of potholes in the streets, trash in the alleys, and other daily life travails that he demanded be corrected immediately in action memos to his staff. He is holding one of those Do It Now memos in the Inner Harbor statue. He often said mayor was his favorite job.

His desire for public service and his genuine concern for people led to his overwhelming election as the 58th governor of Maryland in 1986 and his reelection in 1990. His win in the ’86 general election still stands as the greatest margin of victory in modern gubernatorial elections in Maryland. A bachelor, Schaefer’s long-time companion, Hilda Mae Snoops, served as the State’s official hostess. Mrs. Snoops is credited with engineering much-needed repairs to the governor’s mansion, spearheading efforts to create a public fountain depicting Maryland items on the corner of the grounds, creating and installing a stained glass skylight in the foyer of the mansion and improving the landscaping of the grounds to compliment the historic mansion.

Schaefer’s gubernatorial legacy includes the construction of baseball’s Oriole Park at Camden Yards, legislative approval of the adjacent Ravens football stadium, Chesapeake Bay clean-up initiatives, higher standards for public schools, reorganization of higher education, and creation of the light rail line of electric-powered trains that runs through the heart of Baltimore City and County – what today would be touted as a green initiative.

After leaving the Office of the Governor in January of 1995, Schaefer worked as Of Counsel to the Baltimore law firm of Gordon, Feinblatt, Rothman, Hoffberger & Hollander, LLC. The William Donald Schaefer Chair was established at University of Maryland, College Park’s School of Public Affairs in 1995. Schaefer held the University position until 1999, at which time the program was expanded to include funded internships. Nevertheless, he longed for elected public service.

After the passing of longtime Comptroller Louis L. Goldstein in 1998, Schaefer ran for the position and won by a substantial margin. Still a favorite with Maryland voters, he was reelected in 2002. It was during this time that attendance at the Board of Public Works meetings increased tremendously. Mr. Schaefer set a new standard for the checks and balances in government by pouring over every request before the Board, grilling State officials about their projects and often challenging the governor. It was this sparring with Governor Glendenning during his first four years as Comptroller that often received press notice. The confrontations ended with the election of Governor Ehrlich, when the Republican and Democrat developed a much warmer, kinder relationship.

Even in defeat, Schaefer made his mark. His successor, Comptroller Peter Franchot, calls Schaefer his role model and refers to Schaefer as the Babe Ruth of Maryland politics. In truth, Schaefer was not much of a sports fan. He loved football marching bands for the joy they bring people. He pushed for the sports stadia because he knew it helped people. In short, he pushed aggressively and urgently for programs and projects to help people.

He cared…..He cared about helping people.

Now you do what you can to help people in tribute to perhaps Maryland’s greatest public servant.

Do it now.

 
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