Annapolis civil rights activist Carl O. Snowden resigned his post in the Maryland attorney general's office Friday, one month after his conviction on a marijuana possession charge and following an eight-month absence from the job.
Snowden, 59, declined to discuss his resignation, which he called a retirement effective Jan. 8. He said in an email that he would announce his political plans Jan. 18 during a Martin Luther King Jr. awards banquet he founded 25 years ago.
The dinner, his stint on the Annapolis city council, and his roles as a community organizer and government official made Snowden a prominent yet controversial figure in local politics for more than three decades.
High-profile lawsuits and criminal charges marked Snowden's final year as director of the Office of Civil Rights, a job newly created when he took it six years ago.
In addition to the Baltimore drug case, Snowden in recent weeks lost his appeal in a drunken-driving case, which allowed a conviction to stand.
Snowden took a leave of absence in April and gave notice of his intent to sue Anne Arundel County after an indictment of the county executive suggested that information may have been illegally gathered about Snowden. He was charged in the marijuana case the same day he announced his leave. The lawsuit has not been filed, according to online court records, and County Executive John R. Leopold has denied allegations in the indictment.
He recently joined 10 other plaintiffs and the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland in a broader lawsuit contending that Leopold and the county violated their rights by directing police to compile dossiers on Leopold's perceived political enemies.
Allies of Snowden praised his community work Friday. Eugene Peterson, a former school board member who now works for Annapolis Mayor Joshua Cohen, hailed Snowden as someone who "stood up against the odds when they were against him" and as "the voice of people who had no voice and the people who thought they were powerless."
Peterson took over two years ago as head of another Martin Luther King Jr. memorial event, a breakfast Snowden founded and chaired for 30 years. Peterson said Snowden also is "a man who is human with human failings."
"If you're looking at the balance of the ledger, his sheet looks pretty good to me," Peterson said.
Former Anne Arundel County Executive Janet S. Owens, who appointed Snowden to a civil rights post in county government during her tenure, said her former police chief called Snowden "the best appointment I ever made" because Snowden's behind-the-scenes work eased community tensions.
"It's saddened me that he's gotten himself into such a seemingly difficult situation," Owens said.
In announcing his resignation, Snowden included a 700-word history of his civil right career that mentioned he won a settlement after proving the FBI illegally tracked his activities in the 1970s. Snowden's message concluded that "along the way I have made many friends and I have established a number of detractors, however, I remain confident that in the years to come, I will continue to serve Marylanders and my country in many ways."
He added, "God is not through with me yet. All praises belong to God, only the mistakes are mine."