William Donald Schaefer, Governor

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William Donald Schaefer

Birthdate: (90)
Death: 2011 (90)
Immediate Family:

Son of William Henry Schaefer and Tululu Irene Skipper

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Immediate Family

About William Donald Schaefer, Governor


William Donald Schaefer (November 2, 1921 – April 18, 2011) was an American politician who served in public office for 50 years at both the state and local level in Maryland. A Democrat, he was mayor of Baltimore from 1971 to 1987, the 58th Governor of Maryland from January 21, 1987 to January 18, 1995, and the Comptroller of Maryland from January 20, 1999 to January 17, 2007. On September 12, 2006, Schaefer was defeated in his reelection bid for Comptroller by Maryland Delegate Peter Franchot in the Democratic Party primary.

Early life and career

Schaefer was born in Baltimore, Maryland to William Henry and Tululu Irene Schaefer, Lutherans of German descent, on November 2, 1921. He spent his childhood at 620 Edgewood Street in the Edmondson Village of Baltimore.[4] He received early education in Baltimore's public schools, and later graduated from Baltimore City College in 1939.[3] Schaefer received an LL.B. degree from the University of Baltimore School of Law in 1942 and an LL.M. in 1954. He was a member of the Order of DeMolay in Baltimore as a youth. He was later inducted into the DeMolay International Hall of Fame. Governor Schaefer was also a Freemason and a member of the Grand Lodge of Ancient Free and Accepted Masons of the State of Maryland.[citation needed] He was also a member of Howard Lodge No. 101 in Elkridge, Maryland.

When the United States entered World War II, Schaefer joined the United States Army and achieved officer rank, taking charge of administering hospitals in England and the rest of Europe. He remained in the U.S. Army Reserves until 1979, when he retired with the rank of colonel.

Schaefer resumed his legal career afterwards, 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.[citation needed] Except for his military service, he lived unmarried with his mother in two different very plain West Baltimore row-houses all his life, until moving to the Governor's Mansion at age 65.

Schaefer ran for a seat in the Maryland House of Delegates in 1950 and again in 1954 and lost both elections. He was successful in his campaign for a seat on the Baltimore City Council in 1955 when his concern for city planning and housing issues propelled him to a seat representing the 5th District. In 1967, Schaefer ran successfully for Baltimore City Council president and, four years later, he ran successfully for the mayor's office.

Mayor of Baltimore

Schaefer served four terms as mayor, being re-elected in 1975, 1979 and 1983, each time receiving 85% or more of the vote. He was known for his attention to detail, taking notes of strewn garbage and other violations as he rode around, and ordering them fixed immediately. A famous photograph shows him dressed in an old-fashioned striped bathing suit, in the seal pool at the then-new National Aquarium in Baltimore to settle a wager that it would not be opened in time. In 1984, in a political move to give the majority African-American population more power in the city of Baltimore, Schaefer named Bishop L. Robinson as the Baltimore Police Department's first African-American Police Commissioner, a position previously dominated by Irish American and Italian American members of the police department.

Throughout his tenure as mayor Schafer realized that the closings of large manufacturing plants like Bethlehem Steel and General Motors would negatively impact the quality of life in Baltimore and add to the city's unemployment rate. His administration turned to tourism as a possible alternative. He pushed for and saw built a new convention center in downtown Baltimore as well as the opening of Baltimore's famed Harborplace. Schaefer was hailed for transforming a deteriorating city into a hub of national tourism. With new businesses, new hotels, a new National Aquarium and the new convention center, Baltimore had been revived. Harborplace had 18 million visitors its first year, 1980-81. In 1984, Esquire Magazine named him "the best mayor in America".

Colts leave

Main article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baltimore_Colts_relocation_controversy

Schaefer constantly battled Robert Irsay, the owner of the Baltimore Colts of the National Football League. Irsay and Orioles owner Jerrold Hoffberger complained that Memorial Stadium, which the Colts and the American League's Baltimore Orioles shared, was antiquated due to a lack of quality seats and inadequate parking. Schaefer extracted a promise from Irsay that the Colts owner would call Schaefer first before moving the team. However, after one of the houses of the Maryland State Legislature passed legislation giving the city of Baltimore the right to seize ownership of the team by eminent domain[11] – an idea first floated in a memo written by Baltimore mayoral aide Mark Wasserman – Robert Irsay called Indianapolis Mayor William Hudnut that afternoon and began serious negotiations in order to move the team before the Maryland legislature's other chamber could pass similar legislation.[12] In the early morning hours of March 29, 1984, Mayflower moving vans began relocating the Colts from the team's Owings Mills training facility to Indianapolis. Schaefer lamented that "[Irsay] didn't call his old friend, Don" before the move.

Ravens arrive

Main article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cleveland_Browns_relocation_controversy

The Colts were not the first professional sports team to leave Baltimore on Schaefer's watch. In 1973, the Baltimore Bullets moved to Landover, Maryland and were renamed the Capital Bullets, and later, the Washington Bullets. In his last years as mayor, and later during his two terms as governor, Schaefer led the push to build Oriole Park at Camden Yards for the Orioles and M&T Bank Stadium for a new NFL team, which came to fruition in 1996 when Art Modell moved the Cleveland Browns to Baltimore, giving credit to Schaefer for the transaction:

“He's the reason the Ravens are here, he laid the foundation first as Baltimore's mayor and as governor of Maryland when he championed the funding of a new stadium. In fact, champion is the right word. Gov. Schaefer was a champion for Baltimore, for Maryland and for the common man.”

Governor of Maryland

Schaefer at the unveiling of a Monument dedicated to the "Maryland 400", Prospect Park, August 27, 1991. Schaefer, with running mate Melvin Steinberg, was overwhelmingly elected the 58th governor of Maryland in 1986, defeating Republican challenger Thomas J. Mooney with 82% of the vote, the largest percentage total ever for a contested statewide election in Maryland. He was re-elected in 1990 with almost 60% of the vote. Immediately upon taking office, Schaefer sought to take on the state's problems regarding unemployment. After learning of a proposed closing of a major corporation in western Maryland, he personally went to Allegany County with his top advisors and the Maryland Congressional delegation and devised a plan of state and federal action to meet the needs of the faltering company. The corporation kept headquarters in Allegany County, saving 600 jobs. Schaefer's legacy includes the construction of Oriole Park at Camden Yards, stricter measures taken against preventing and solving the Chesapeake Bay pollution problem, and higher standards for public schools.

Schaefer as governor also pushed for the light rail line of electric trains that run 30 miles from Hunt Valley in Baltimore County, through Baltimore, past Oriole Park at Camden Yards, to Cromwell Station/Glen Burnie in Anne Arundel County, near BWI Airport. The first 22.5 miles of the light rail line was opened in April 1992 at a cost of near $400 million. Three extensions totaling 7.5 miles opened in late 1997 at a cost of $106 million.

Detractors remind the public that, in the winter of 1991, Gov. Schaefer compared Maryland's Eastern Shore to an outhouse (he referred to the region as a "shithouse"). When the remark circulated, Eastern Shore residents erupted in protest.

In the 1992 presidential election, Governor Schaefer endorsed Republican President George H.W. Bush over Democratic challenger Bill Clinton. "He was a great man. I liked him; he was a friend. I went up to Camp David with him."

Schaefer stepped down from his position as governor on January 18, 1995 after serving the maximum two four-year terms.

Post-gubernatorial activities

Following his career as governor, Schaefer became Of Counsel to the law firm of Gordon, Feinblatt, Rothman, Hoffberger & Hollander, LLC, in Baltimore until 1999. The William Donald Schaefer Chair was established at University of Maryland, College Park's School of Public Affairs in 1995. Schaefer held the position until 1999, at which time the program was expanded to include funded internships.

Schaefer had a long-time companion in Hilda Mae Snoops, who was his "official hostess" in the Governor's mansion. She commissioned a controversial Victorian-style outdoor fountain and helped design a rose garden and walkways. The fountain is included in her First Lady-style portrait. After Snoops' death in 1999, the fountain became a source of controversy as Schaefer accused his successor, Parris Glendening, of using it to get political revenge by turning it off, supposedly to save water even though it recycles existing water. Upon becoming Governor, Robert Ehrlich held a ceremony to turn the water flow back on in the fountain. Snoops is interred in the mausoleum at Dulaney Valley Memorial Gardens, with an adjacent place reserved for Schaefer.

Comptroller of Maryland

In 1998, after the sudden death of longtime (forty years in office) Comptroller and Maryland political legend Louis L. Goldstein, Schaefer ran for the position of Comptroller of Maryland against Republican Mark Epstein. Schaefer won by a substantial margin, 62% to 38%. He came into the office on January 25, 1999. In 2002, Schaefer remained extremely popular in Maryland and received almost 68% of the vote in the general election.

Schaefer feuded frequently with Governor Parris Glendening at the bi-monthly Board of Public Works (BPW) meetings. Schaefer once called Glendening a "despot" and often chided him. Schaefer frequently referred to Glendening as "Ayatollah." Schaefer enjoyed considerably warmer relations with Governor Robert Ehrlich, the Republican who succeeded Glendening on January 15, 2003.


As Comptroller, Schaefer regularly spoke critically of immigrants who cannot communicate in English. He was particularly well known for his May 2004 comment about a non-English-speaking McDonald's cashier.

Schaefer also stirred up controversy on October 12, 2004, when he called people with AIDS "a danger". He said that those with the disease "brought it on themselves." From the 1990s, he had repeatedly called for a public registry listing HIV-positive Maryland residents. "As far as I'm concerned, people who have AIDS are a danger," Schaefer said. "People should be able to know who has AIDS."

On February 15, 2006, Schaefer made suggestive comments to Elizabeth Krum, a 24-year-old assistant to then-Governor Robert Ehrlich. Responding to Schaefer's request for tea, Krum set a thermal mug in front of him. Schaefer watched her walk away, then beckoned for her to return. When she obliged, he told her, "Walk again," staring after her as she left the conference room. Schaefer initially refused to apologize, saying, "She's a pretty little girl. She ought to be damn happy that I observed her going out the door. The day I don't look at pretty women is the day I die." (Schaefer long called the women with whom he worked "little girls.") However, within days of the leering incident, Schaefer issued a handwritten letter to Krum informing her she had handled the affair as a "trouper."

On July 5, 2006, Schaefer launched into a rambling commentary on immigration as the public works board considered a contract to provide testing services for the English as a Second Language (ESOL) program in Maryland schools. As state education officials tried to explain the contract, Schaefer demanded to know whether the program would benefit Korean students. "Korea's another one, all of a sudden they're our friends, too, shooting missiles at us," he said. Schaefer was apparently referring to North Korea's test launch earlier that week of a long-range missile, which fell into the ocean. Schaefer refused to apologize for his comments after a meeting with South Korean community leaders. Later that same day, when he was questioned by a female Baltimore Sun reporter about the ESOL program, Schaefer's response was to call her a "sweet little girl."

2006 re-election campaign


Schaefer faced a competitive primary challenge for Comptroller in 2006. He was challenged by Anne Arundel County Executive Janet S. Owens and Delegate Peter Franchot (District 20). The campaign initially looked like a struggle between Schaefer and Franchot. After deciding against running for the U.S. House seat being vacated by Benjamin Cardin (so that Cardin could run for the U.S. Senate), Owens decided to jump into the race for Comptroller.

In early July 2006, when asked if he would debate Owens, he said he "wouldn't debate her on how to bake a chocolate cake." Franchot campaigned strongly as the "only real Democrat in the race." On September 5, 2006, Schaefer told Washington Post columnist Marc Fisher that Janet Owens is a "prissy little miss" who wears "long dresses, looks like Mother Hubbard – it's sort of like she was a man." He made additional comments that she was "getting fat." Later, in an on air interview with reporter Tyler Evans of local news station News Channel 8, he further commented: "She's got these long clothes on and an old-fashioned hairdo. You know it sort of makes you real mad." On September 8, 2006, another local news station, WUSA9, showed an off-screen reporter asking him, "Did you call her an Old Mother Hubbard?" to which he responded, "Well, what does she look like? ... Old-fashioned hairdo; long dress ... If I lose or win - whatever I do - I'm gonna send her some Style magazines." His campaign called a press conference, but he failed to show. Owens commented that perhaps Schaefer had become too old to run, saying that running against him was like a granddaughter "taking the keys away from grandpa." In response, Schaefer and his campaign hinted that Owens was lashing out at him in an act of age discrimination. One viewer wrote in, suggesting that perhaps Schaefer was showing signs of dementia. The anchor responded that the caller had pointed out "the elephant in the room" that, until then, the media was hesitant to suggest.[23] Schaefer refused to apologize for his comments regarding Owens' appearance, saying, "An apology? An apology for what? I can't help it how she looks." Asked about his heated exchanges with Owens, Schaefer said, "This was started not by me." He added, "There's dirty politics, and then there's filthy politics."

On September 12, during the Democratic primary election, Schaefer and Owens were both defeated by Franchot. Thus ended Schaefer's long career in elected office. The tight three-way race saw Franchot winning the Washington, D.C., suburbs (Montgomery County and Prince George's County), Owens winning in Central Maryland (Howard County and Anne Arundel County), and Schaefer holding his own in the Baltimore area (Baltimore City and Baltimore County). The three candidates finished in the following order: Franchot, Owens, and Schaefer. There were fewer than 15,000 votes between Franchot and Owens. This was Schaefer's first campaign loss since 1954.

Schaefer's last day at work as Comptroller was January 19, 2007. He was succeeded on January 22 by Franchot, who won the general election, and was not present for Franchot's swearing in. After retiring, he moved into the Charlestown Retirement Community in Catonsville, Maryland. His health declined quickly and he made few public appearances in his final years.


Schaefer died at the age of 89 on April 18, 2011, at his Catonsville home. He had recently been hospitalized due to pneumonia at St. Agnes Hospital in Baltimore. He was receiving hospice care at the time of his death.

Schaefer's body lay in repose at the Maryland State House in Annapolis, April 25, 2011, and later that day, there was a procession through some of Schaefer's favorite spots in Baltimore City including the Inner Harbor and Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Schaefer's body was then taken to Baltimore City Hall, where it lay in state that evening and the next day, April 26, 2011.

His funeral was held in downtown Baltimore, April 27, 2011, at the Old Saint Paul's Episcopal Church. Lainy Lebow-Sachs, U.S. Senator Barbara Mikulski and former U.S. Representative Kweisi Mfume offered reflections. Governor Martin O'Malley, his wife Catherine Curran O'Malley, former Governor Robert Ehrlich, his wife Kendel Ehrlich, Lt. Governor Anthony G. Brown, Comptroller Peter Franchot, Robert M. Bell, Chief Judge of the Maryland Court of Appeals, Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and former Mayor Thomas D'Alesandro, III were among the attendees. Schaefer was buried at Dulaney Valley Memorial Gardens in Timonium, Maryland.


In 2008, Schaefer moved the “Civic Fund”, which he had established and used while Mayor of Baltimore to make small grants to neighborhoods for projects such as erecting flagpoles or cultivating community gardens, to the Baltimore Community Foundation, adding to it his leftover campaign funds and proceeds from the sale of his house. After its settlement, $1.4 million from the late governor's estate was added in 2012 to this fund. The William Donald Schaefer Civic Fund is a permanent endowment which continues to provide small grants for neighborhood projects.

Several buildings have been dedicated in Schaefer's honor:

William Donald Schaefer Building in Baltimore, Maryland.
William Donald Schaefer Engineering Building at Morgan State University
William Donald Schaefer Hall at St. Mary's College of Maryland
Governor William Donald Schaefer International Terminal (Concourse E) at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (BWI)
William Donald Schaefer Auditorium at Baltimore City College
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William Donald Schaefer, Governor's Timeline

Age 90