William Donald Schaefer, the dominant political figure of the last half-century of Maryland history, died Monday after a "do-it-now" career that changed the face of Baltimore while bringing a new burst of energy to the city he loved.
Mr. Schaefer was 89.
In four terms as mayor and two as governor, he was a champion of big projects that transformed Baltimore: Harborplace, Camden Yards, the National Aquarium, the Convention Center and the light rail among them. Yet he was also intensely involved with the mundane details of city neighborhoods. As mayor, he would patrol the city at night and on weekends, calling city officials to demand immediate action to fill a pothole or clean a garbage-strewn alley.
While no cause of death was immediately announced, Mr. Schaefer had recently been treated for pneumonia. His spokesman, Michael Golden, said longtime aide Lainy LeBow-Sachs was holding his hand as he died peacefully at the Charlestown retirement community.
Gov. Martin O'Malley announced Mr. Schaefer's death Monday evening and said he will lie in state at the State House and City Hall.
"I think one of the tremendous qualities that he brought to office was that sense that everyone had that he marched to the beat of his own drum. He was not the sort of person who was going to be pushed around or bullied by other elected officials or by the fashions or the whims of the politics of the day. He was a person who had pretty strong opinions and he was a person who was not shy about sharing them," Mr. O'Malley said.
"There wasn't a person in the city of Baltimore that didn't feel like they couldn't stop him and approach him with a problem. ... They knew he was always their mayor and he was always on their side," Mr. O'Malley said at the State House.
Asked to name Scahefer's most important legacy, O'Malley said on Tuesday that many would point to edifices like Camden Yards, Harborplace or the light rail."But I think the legacy he would like the most is that people know that he cared, and there are hundreds of thousands of people all across our state who are remembering today their encounters with Mayor Schaefer or Governor Schaefer when they were looking for a job, when they needed to get a son or daughter into drug treatment, when nobody would come to address the problem of the illegal dumping in their alley or their broken swing sets in the park. And Governor Schaefer cared and he did something about it and he made sure government acted now for the people, government is meant to serve. And I think that is his most enduring legacy, really. I think that will live long after some of the memories of the built environment."
Flamboyant but private, irascible but sentimental, quirky but hard-headed, Mr. Schaefer won immense and enduring popularity among voters for his blunt talk and passionate dedication to public service. He prided himself on saying what ordinary people were thinking — even when it went counter to prevailing political norms — but his outspokenness would eventually contribute to his ouster as comptroller in the 2006 Democratic primary.
Mr. Schaefer's temper was legendary, but his eruptions were often calculated for maximum effect. He loved intensely — his mother, his friends, his city and state. And he hated fiercely — most notably in his poisonous relationship with former Gov. Parris N. Glendening and enduring contempt for the late Colts owner Robert Irsay.
As mayor, he was a tireless promoter of Baltimore. As governor, he was a builder whose second term soured in a wrenching fiscal crisis. By the time he left office, a series of gaffes — abusive letters to critical private citizens and his use of a derogatory term to describe the Eastern Shore — had dimmed his popularity.
In his final office, state comptroller, which he won in 1998 after four years of misery in retirement, he acted as an unofficial state gadfly — scolding governors and lesser officials and igniting controversies that might have sunk a lesser politician. But away from the spotlight, the comptroller also moved effectively to restore the reputation of the state's scandal-ridden pension system.
In no other office did he seem quite as happy as when he was the leader of his city.
Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, who noted that she was born just a year before Mr. Schaefer was elected to the office she holds, said in a statement that he "set the standard for what it means to be the mayor of an American city."
Ms. Rawlings-Blake shared her recollections of Mr. Schaefer in front of his statue at the Inner Harbor on Monday evening.
"He was so important, particularly for my generation, he was the first mayor we all knew," Ms. Rawlings-Blake said. "We have lost a true giant, a part of history."
"His biggest gift was his spirit, a spirit of possibility, that we have a promising future," she said.
A lifelong Democrat, Mr. Schaefer transcended political party and played by his own political rules. He supported Republicans over fellow party members when it suited him but held to a fundamental belief that government can be a positive force in people's lives. Philosophically, he defied classification — except as an unrelenting advocate of the real people who were affected by government policies.
"He had Schaeferism. He had his own philosophy," said retired Judge Edgar Silver, a longtime friend.
While he was a serious, hands-on leader who immersed himself in policy details, Mr. Schaefer was also a master of goofy theatrics that sacrificed personal dignity for belly laughs and free publicity.
Most famously, in an act of carefully choreographed buffoonery, he donned an 1890s bathing suit and waded into the seal pool of the National Aquarium in Baltimore to atone for the city's failure to open the tourist attraction on schedule. The 1981 photo of the bathing suit-clad, straw-hatted, stern-faced mayor with rubber ducky in hand would be seen around the world — gaining the city attention money couldn't buy.
Leaving City Hall for the State House in 1987 after 15 years as mayor, Mr. Schaefer had himself hoisted in a crate aboard a cruise ship for the trip from the Inner Harbor to Annapolis.
Moments later he emerged from the crate on the ship's deck clad in a naval officer's dress whites — gold epaulets and all. The crowd roared, the cannon on the nearby Constellation boomed and police boat sirens wailed.
Mr. Schaefer's antics could also take a darker turn. Behind closed doors, and sometimes in public, he could abuse aides unmercifully. His public tirades invited comparisons to a child's tantrums. At times, he embarrassed his most devoted supporters.
Cartoonists loved him. With his mottled forehead, sagging jowls and oversized ears, he was a caricature waiting to be drawn. The Sun's former editorial cartoonist Kevin "KAL" Kallaugher would portray him as the clown-suited King Don I and as the caped superhero Kaptain Keno — lampooning the gambling game he brought to Maryland. Mr. Schaefer said he was not amused.
Mr. Schaefer, who never married, had interactions with women that were contradictory and sometimes controversial. Pro-feminist in deeds, he was ahead of his time in putting strong, intelligent women in positions of great responsibility. They repaid his confidence with lifelong loyalty and protectiveness.
At the same time, Mr. Schaefer showed an old-fashioned disdain for political correctness. He routinely referred to his female employees and supporters as his "little girls." But most of the women on whom he bestowed that title — many of them committed feminists — wore it as a badge of pride.
Once Mr. Schaefer achieved high office, the only woman with whom he had a public dating relationship was Hilda Mae Snoops, a divorced mother of three. They had met in 1959.
They traveled together regularly but invariably booked separate rooms. When he was elected governor, she would become his official hostess and the dictatorial mistress of Government House. Despite her frequent clashes with his staff, he remained loyal to her until her death at 74 in 1999.
Neither he nor Mrs. Snoops explained why they never married. "I guess I've never been the marrying kind," he told an interviewer.
Friends speculated that he was simply too busy with his political career.
"He gave his whole life to public service, and the people of this state are his extended family," Judge Silver said.
Early interest in politics
William Donald Schaefer was born Nov. 2, 1921, in Baltimore, the son of William H. Schaefer, a title lawyer, and Tululu Irene Skipper Schaefer, a housewife.
Mr. Schaefer's father died in the late 1950s, but his mother lived to 89 and remained a strong influence in her son's life until her death in 1983.
Young Don Schaefer grew up in a two-story brick rowhouse at 620 Edgewood St. in a tree-lined section known as The Hill. Mr. Schaefer continued to live there for decades, but he moved to a townhouse in Anne Arundel County after his years as governor.
He was educated in city public schools, graduating from City College in 1939. Skipping undergraduate studies, Mr. Schaefer worked for the Maryland Title Guarantee Co. while attending law school at the University of Baltimore. He received a bachelor of laws degree in 1942.
Mr. Schaefer left active duty at the war's end with the rank of major, resumed the private practice of law and continued his legal studies at the University of Baltimore, which awarded him a master of laws degree in 1951.
He became a member of the vestry of Bishop Cummins Memorial Church, and though shy as a young man, went to some lengths to meet people by joining such groups as the Shriners, the Citizens Planning and Housing Association, and numerous improvement associations and Democratic clubs.
Mr. Schaefer became interested in politics in the early 1950s when his church tried to buy a parcel of land but failed because, he said, "the politicians sold it to somebody else." The experience prompted him to make two runs for election to the House of Delegates. He lost both times.
Nevertheless, he worked at building a political base through neighborhood associations and, in 1955, caught the eye of Irvin Kovens, a West Baltimore businessman and unmatched political fundraiser.
Mr. Schaefer ran for the City Council from the 5th District that year with the help of Mr. Kovens and was elected. More importantly, they became lifelong friends and formed one of the most effective political alliances in Maryland political history.
"From the day I met him till this minute he was the greatest," Mr. Kovens said in a 1979 interview with The Sun. "He's as nice a guy that ever walked in shoe leather."
Mr. Kovens died in 1989 after a prolonged illness. Shortly before his death he asked Mr. Schaefer to deliver the eulogy at his funeral. The governor characterized the request as "the highest honor for me."
Before beginning the eulogy, Mr. Schaefer was all but overcome with sobbing, exhibiting the deeply emotional side of a competitive and demanding public official.
As a neophyte councilman, Mr. Schaefer gained a reputation as one of the hardest-working elected officials in the city government. In his early years, he concentrated on bread-and-butter matters such as home rehabilitation, trash collection and school maintenance. Later, as chairman of the Judiciary Committee, he shepherded through the council much of the city's housing and urban renewal legislation of that period.
The future mayor first ran on a citywide ballot in 1967 when he won the council presidency. In a departure from past practice, he worked at the $15,000-a-year post full time.
In 1971, when Mayor Thomas J. D'Alesandro III decided not to seek another term, Mr. Schaefer jumped into the race. He won the Democratic primary with nearly 54 percent of the vote, but in a sign of Baltimore's changing demographics, his closest competitor was City Solicitor George Russell, an African-American.
The general election was a cakewalk, with Mr. Schaefer receiving 84 percent of the vote in a matchup with Dr. Ross Z. Pierpont, a perennial Republican candidate.
Mr. Schaefer quickly established himself as the city's No. 1 cheerleader — even though there was little to cheer about.
The city was in the throes of a transformation — accelerated by rioting after the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in April 1968 — from a middle-class ethnic European stronghold to an impoverished urban center with a black majority. Block-busting and white flight were devastating its neighborhoods, while a corporate exodus was bleeding away the employment base.
Mr. Schaefer brought to City Hall an intensity rarely seen in public life. He built a strong, energetic team of aides who would go on to long careers in municipal leadership — housing commissioner Robert C. Embry Jr., finance director Charles L. Benton, chief of staff Joan Bereska, lobbyist Janet Hoffman and tourism chief Sandy Hillman, to name a few.
During his first term, Mr. Schaefer conducted a frenzied campaign of boosterism. He encouraged "urban homesteading" in once-blighted neighborhoods and relentlessly promoted tourism in a city travelers went out of their way to avoid. To bring a splash of color to the city's Christmas, he ordered lights hung from the once-sacrosanct Washington Monument. He launched a renovation of the decrepit City Hall.
"It was a period when Baltimore was a bit lethargic, so suddenly comes along this unlikely mayor who takes Baltimore and shakes it by the lapels — and people wanted to have their lapels shaken," said Mark Wasserman, a longtime aide in both city and state government.
It was during these years that "Do It Now" became the catchphrase for Mr. Schaefer's approach to governing — and it would follow him through his career. But the phrase also came to embody his unrelenting pressure on his staff. Over the years, some of his closest associates would burn out and move on to less stressful jobs.
With the city's finances ailing, Mr. Schaefer trolled aggressively for every federal and state dollar he could bring to Baltimore. In Annapolis, he could count on Gov. Marvin Mandel — another Baltimore politician of the old school — for consistent support. But his cantankerous and successful begging raised hackles in the General Assembly. If Mr. Schaefer cared, he never showed it.
By 1975, Mr. Schaefer had solidified his political base to the point that no credible candidate thought of challenging him. He won re-election easily and began what might have been the most productive period of his mayoral career.
First, however, would come a brush with death that would haunt him for years. On April 13, 1976, a deranged Charles A. Hopkins invaded the temporary city hall in the old USF&G building on South Calvert Street. Taking a handgun from a paper bag, he shot a receptionist and ordered an aide to tell him where Mr. Schaefer was.
The aide lied, telling Hopkins that Mr. Schaefer was in Annapolis. The gunman then rampaged through the building, looking for city councilmen. He killed one, Dominic Leone, wounded Carroll Fitzgerald and took a shot at Joseph Curran that might have contributed to his death within a year of a heart condition.
The mayor emerged from his office after hearing the noise, but by then a policeman had shot Hopkins six times. Mr. Schaefer would become an ardent advocate of limits on handguns — crossing swords with the National Rifle Association as governor.
Later that year, Gov. Jimmy Carter would be elected president. The two Democrats never hit it off personally, but the Carter presidency brought a comparative flood of federal money into the nation's cities.
Few mayors exploited the slew of Carter urban programs as aggressively as Mr. Schaefer, who used the largess for summer jobs programs and public works projects. Using federal dollars to fill key gaps in the financing, he persuaded the head of the Hyatt chain to build a sparkling new hotel on Light Street. It would become a centerpiece for the future development of the Inner Harbor.
Mr. Schaefer proved equally adept in working with state government — particularly during the Mandel administration. In 1976, with Mr. Mandel's help, he won approval of two giant projects in a single legislative session: the Baltimore subway and Convention Center.
They would soon be followed by the National Aquarium in Baltimore, the idea for which Mr. Schaefer shamelessly borrowed from Boston. But Baltimore's mayor insisted on building the most fabulous fish tank in the country, topped by a rain forest that would become its architectural signature. When his finance people urged him to cut the rain forest to save money, his response was unprintable.
At the time, the most controversial of Mr. Schaefer's downtown projects was a scheme he cooked up with developer James Rouse to build a retail and restaurant complex along the edge of the Inner Harbor. They called it Harborplace.
The proposal met fierce resistance from Baltimoreans who had only recently become accustomed to open vistas and green space along a harbor once dominated by dilapidated piers. It had become a place of fairs and civic gatherings.
Foes of the project took the matter to referendum in November 1979. They started with momentum behind them, but Mr. Schaefer's allies in the business community rallied behind the proposal.
Mounting a sophisticated campaign and forging alliances with African-American ministers, the pro-Harborplace forces won the referendum. The same Election Day, Baltimore voters handed Mr. Schaefer a third mayoral term.
When it opened in 1980, Harborplace was hailed as a model of a new American urban center — the project that brought other Inner Harbor attractions together. As Baltimoreans and tourists flocked to the new attraction, the fierceness of the struggle to build it was largely forgotten.
As was often the case, Mr. Schaefer found it difficult to take pleasure in his achievement.
Ms. LeBow-Sachs, who served him both as mayor and governor, said that when she and Mr. Schaefer got back to City Hall after the dedication of Harborplace, she stopped in his office and commented on what a great day it was for him.
"He said, 'That already happened. What else is going on in the city?' " Ms. LeBow-Sachs recalled.
A unique style of leading
Mr. Schaefer's legendary impatience drove him to find ways to get around the cumbersome processes of city government. He and his allies were heavily criticized after they established a multimillion-dollar development loan bank that The Sun would dub "the shadow government." Operated by nonelected trustees, the bank was used to expedite projects the City Council might take months to approve.
As in many cases in his public career, Mr. Schaefer did not suffer that criticism gracefully.
On one occasion, Mr. Schaefer zeroed in on reporters who had written articles saying the trustees had made an open-ended agreement with a developer that did not receive the approvals required by the City Charter. A furious mayor called Sun reporter C. Fraser Smith — who would later become Mr. Schaefer's biographer — "a liar, a nitwit."
But Mr. Schaefer also found more deft ways to reply to his critics — once posing as Lamont Cranston, "The Shadow" on old-time radio, to lampoon The Sun's coverage of the trustees.
As a manager, Mr. Schaefer was also known for his legendary temper. Ms. LeBow-Sachs recalled that the mayor once ordered his housing director and top aides to meet him at a project that was not progressing to his satisfaction.
When Mr. Schaefer got out of the car, he went "ballistic" — chewing out the unfortunate underlings in the most colorful terms.
"He got back in the car and said, 'That was good, wasn't it?' " Ms. LeBow-Sachs said.
During his last term as mayor, Mr. Schaefer absorbed one of the most disappointing reversals of his political career because of a man whose name would become infamous in Baltimore.
Mr. Irsay, the hard-drinking and mercurial owner of the Baltimore Colts, had been a thorn in Mr. Schaefer's side since his first mayoral term. For more than a decade, Mr. Irsay would periodically shop the NFL team around the country — threatening to move if the city or state didn't spend millions on improvements to Memorial Stadium and other perks.
By 1984, Mr. Schaefer thought he was close to a deal with Mr. Irsay. But that March, enticed by the offer of an $80 million domed stadium in Indianapolis, Mr. Irsay had the team's records and trophies loaded onto Mayflower vans at its training facility in Owings Mills. Overnight, the Colts left Maryland — creating a void Mr. Schaefer would work to fill for the next decade.
"He was a double-crosser. He lied," Mr. Schaefer would say of Mr. Irsay.
Though Mr. Schaefer could be fierce in his hatreds, he could also be forgiving to old adversaries.
Mr. Wasserman recalled that when former City Council President Walter Orlinsky, Mr. Schaefer's longtime nemesis, got out of prison with his life in shambles after a bribery conviction, Mr. Schaefer gave him a job running a tree-planting program.
"Wally did a tremendous job and was forever grateful," Mr. Wasserman said.
On to Annapolis
Mr. Schaefer's last mayoral term would be hobbled as the flow of federal money that watered his pet projects slowed to a trickle under President Ronald Reagan. With strong black support, the mayor easily turned back a challenge by William "Billy" Murphy Jr., an African-American candidate, in 1983.
As his statewide popularity soared, close friends such as Judge Silver and Mr. Kovens urged him to turn his eyes to Annapolis, where Gov. Harry R. Hughes was nearing the end of his second term. Without Mr. Schaefer in the race, the prohibitive favorite in 1986 was Attorney General Stephen H. Sachs, a reformist Democrat candidate who opposed the traditional machine politics of which Mr. Kovens was a symbol.
After months of pressure, Mr. Schaefer agreed to give up the job he loved to run for the State House. Mr. Sachs fought an aggressive campaign, but his candidacy was doomed from the day the mayor announced.
Mr. Schaefer won the primary by a comfortable margin and crushed the token Republican candidate in November, winning an eye-popping 82 percent of the vote.
The Sun summarized his service in a farewell editorial:
"Baltimore will likely not soon see another mayor impose his personality as forcefully on the city. Mr. Schaefer sometimes governed by tantrum, but he governed. Baltimore is not cured of its ills, but it is better for his years in power."
A tougher venue
Mr. Schaefer arrived in Annapolis with the same sense of urgency that he exuded in City Hall.
"I'm not going to be a hands-off governor," Mr. Schaefer told freshman legislators a month after his election. "I'm going to come after you."
But Mr. Schaefer quickly learned that the legislature was a far tougher venue than the usually pliable City Council. He found himself dealing with two hard-nosed presiding officers, Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller and House Speaker R. Clayton Mitchell, who had their own ideas about state policies and who jealously guarded legislative prerogatives — even in the face of a governor who believed he had a mandate.
Some legislators feared that the new man's ardent devotion to his hometown would unduly influence his executive decisions. A few even referred to Mr. Schaefer as "the governor of Baltimore."
Their fears increased when the first big initiative he took on was construction of a $280 million stadium complex at Camden Yards — a move he saw as crucial in preventing the Orioles from going the way of the Colts.
Early in the legislative session, the bill authorizing the project seemed doomed. But Mr. Schaefer swallowed his pride and threw himself on the mercy of Mr. Mitchell and Mr. Miller, who rallied behind the legislation. With a final push in the form of an appearance by dying Orioles owner Edward Bennett Williams, the governor got his bill — winning legislative approval for a future football stadium as well as a new park for the Orioles.
With time, Mr. Schaefer gained a surer understanding of the ways of Annapolis, though he never lost his impatience with the slow pace of the Assembly. Angry clashes with such legislative leaders as Del. Timothy Maloney of Prince George's County gave way to warm friendships. Mr. Miller and Mr. Mitchell became grudging allies, even though personal relations were far from warm.
His style in dealing with legislators was cunningly flexible. With strong personalities he would pitch fits punctuated by profanity and obscene gestures before coming to a compromise. With others he played on their sympathies and made them feel so bad about hurting him that they went along.
"He understood people. He read them very well, and he knew how to deal with each individual legislator," said former Del. Nancy K. Kopp, now the state treasurer.
Ms. LeBow-Sachs, who became Mr. Schaefer's chief of staff in his second term, said Mr. Schaefer would read every constituent letter and would frequently raise citizens' concerns with department heads. She said he insisted that Cabinet secretaries stay in touch with ordinary people.
"That was a real big thing. You had to be out in the community — talking to people, touching people, making a difference — not just sitting behind a desk and reading reports," she said.
By the end of three years in office, Mr. Schaefer had compiled a long list of victories.
Oriole Park at Camden Yards — which would be hailed as a model of ballpark architecture — was under construction in downtown Baltimore, and plans were being completed for a light rail line from Glen Burnie to Hunt Valley. A new education aid formula was pumping millions of dollars into schools around the state. The state was undertaking the most expensive capital construction program in Maryland's history.
But Mr. Schaefer's popularity was waning as he bounced from controversy to controversy. In 1988, he backed a referendum on a proposal to curb so-called "Saturday night specials" such as the one used in the 1976 attack that killed Councilman Leone. The governor beat the National Rifle Association and its allies with 58 percent of the vote, but it was a costly victory in rural parts of the state.
Mrs. Snoops provided Mr. Schaefer's detractors with an almost constant supply of ammunition. A classic "hon," she brought the sensibilities of West Baltimore to Government House in Colonial Annapolis — to the horror of the keepers of the capital's traditions.
Dubbed the "first friend," Mrs. Snoops scrapped the well-received redecoration of the mansion by previous first lady Pat Hughes and imposed her own vision on the house. Sun art critic John Dorsey pronounced the results "blue, bland and boring."
Mrs. Snoops also decided that the mansion grounds needed the addition of a Victorian fountain, at the cost of several venerable trees. Perhaps unfairly, the fountain was decried as a masterpiece of kitsch. Dedicated in 1990, it would later play a central role in one of Mr. Schaefer's most vituperative feuds.
Mr. Schaefer won re-election in 1990 with 60 percent of the vote over little-known Republican challenger William S. Shepard, whose campaign was so forlorn he could find nobody to be his running mate but his wife, Lois.
It was a victory many politicians would have trumpeted as a landslide, but to the thin-skinned governor — who had dreamed of improving on his 82 percent mandate — it was a devastating rejection. He brooded over the counties he had lost and brushed aside attempts to console him.
"He was depressed — there was no question about it. The joy, the verve of governing was absent," said Mr. Wasserman, Mr. Schaefer's first-term chief of staff and second-term economic development secretary.
It particularly irked Mr. Schaefer that he had failed to win a majority of the Eastern Shore — a part of the state he believed he had showered with largess.
His ire provoked him to a public outburst on the floor of the House of Delegates in which he described the region as a "sh--house." His comment, never forgotten on the eastern side of the Bay Bridge, sparked demonstrations in the streets of Annapolis.
The governor's bizarre behavior continued with a series of abusive letters to private citizens who offended him. "Your action only exceeds the ugliness of your face," he wrote to a woman he thought had made an obscene gesture at him.
Mr. Schaefer's second term was agonizing for a man for whom big projects and helping people were the purpose of life. Forced to grapple with a severe budget crunch in a national recession, he presided over several rounds of painful spending cuts and tax increases.
By 1992, he was increasingly out of step with fellow Democrats. That year, he became the only Democratic governor to publicly endorse President George H.W. Bush for re-election over Democratic challenger Bill Clinton.
"I had had a most unusual friendship with Governor Schaefer," President Bush said in a statement. "The fact that we belonged to different political parties did not stand in the way of our finding common ground and the mutual respect and affection for each other."
Mr. Schaefer's poll numbers plummeted during his final two years in office — much of which he spent in a futile effort to land an NFL team to move into a second stadium the state was prepared to build near Camden Yards. But team owners used Baltimore's generous terms to extract even better deals from other cities.
Former Del. Casper R. Taylor vividly recalls meetings in the basement of the governor's mansion with Mr. Schaefer, Mr. Miller and Washington Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke — who was then seen as the primary obstacle to an NFL team in Baltimore. Mr. Taylor said that watching the governor and the strong-willed Mr. Cooke argue was like watching a two-hour tennis match.
"The language that was coming out of both the governor and Jack Kent Cooke was classic," Mr. Taylor said. "I regret deeply that it was never recorded."
But Mr. Schaefer, who faced a term limit as governor, left office without having landed a new football team.
Mr. Glendening — who as Prince George's County executive had a tense relationship with Mr. Schaefer — wrested the gubernatorial nomination from candidates who were more closely aligned with Mr. Schaefer, and won the election.
For 31/2 years, Mr. Schaefer dwelled in the political wilderness — all but ignored by the new governor. Ostensibly he was practicing law and teaching the occasional course in government, but friends said he was miserable and lonely in private life.
Mr. Glendening landed the football team Mr. Schaefer so desperately desired by luring the Cleveland Browns to Baltimore in 1995. But at the announcement of Baltimore's return to the NFL, Mr. Glendening snubbed his predecessor, who had laid the foundations for the deal. It was a particularly graceless moment — and instead of reaping credit, Mr. Glendening raised sympathy for Mr. Schaefer.
A return to Annapolis
The former governor's political career came alive again with the sudden death in July 1998 of one of Maryland's political legends: 84-year-old Comptroller Louis L. Goldstein.
The former governor, who only weeks before had given his successor a tepid but potentially pivotal endorsement in the governor's rematch with Republican Ellen R. Sauerbrey, let Mr. Glendening know that he was interested in the job. But Mr. Glendening appointed former U.S. Rep. Michael Barnes as Mr. Goldstein's successor and said he would support him as Democratic nominee.
Mr. Schaefer was let down. His friends were furious.
Just days later, on the night of the filing deadline for the 1998 primary, Mr. Schaefer appeared at the steps of the old Armory building in Annapolis to file his comptroller candidacy papers with the state elections board.
Mr. Barnes, an astute political veteran, recognized that he didn't have a chance against the best-known political figure in Maryland. He declined the appointment and dropped out of the race.
That November, both Mr. Schaefer and Mr. Glendening won. But there was no honeymoon for the two Democrats.
Mr. Schaefer had not just won the office of chief tax collector. He had gained a bully pulpit in the form of a seat on the three-member Board of Public Works along with the governor and the treasurer.
Over the next four years, Mr. Schaefer would use the board's public meetings as opportunities to heap abuse, scorn, mockery and indignation on Mr. Glendening and his appointees. Virtually every meeting of the board would begin with a monologue by Mr. Schaefer denouncing the governor in tones of contempt.
"Parris would just smile and stare straight ahead and not pay attention, and I think Mr. Schaefer would find that very frustrating," said Ms. Kopp, who became treasurer late in the comptroller's first term.
When he was first elected comptroller, Mr. Schaefer became vice chairman of the state pension board — then dominated by Treasurer Richard N. Dixon. Clearly bored by financial details, Mr. Schaefer deferred to Mr. Dixon and missed many meetings at a time when the pension fund's performance was in decline.
Early in 2002, with his health failing amid a growing scandal over fraudulent investments by Baltimore money manager Nathan A. Chapman Jr., Mr. Dixon resigned. Mr. Schaefer was catapulted into the chairmanship.
Once in that role, he took control of the fractious board. Eschewing his "do-it-now" philosophy, he moved deliberately to build a consensus for change. His efforts would pay off with substantial reforms and the eventual ouster of the retirement system officials who had been responsible for the oversight of Mr. Chapman.
"It's a much better system, I believe," said Ms. Kopp, vice chairman of the trustees. "People are working well together; the portfolio is doing better because people are inspired to work harder and work together."
While Mr. Schaefer was grappling with pension issues, he continued his feud with Mr. Glendening. Their antipathy reached comic proportions in 2002 after Mr. Glendening shut off the flow of water in the fountain that was Mrs. Snoops' pride and joy — ostensibly as a symbol of his seriousness about water conservation during a statewide drought.
Nothing Mr. Glendening could have done would have wounded Mr. Schaefer more, and the comptroller reacted with invective that made even dedicated supporters blush.
The dispute reached its climax that summer when Mr. Schaefer "outed" Mr. Glendening's well-known but still-unreported relationship with deputy chief of staff Jennifer Crawford — who later became the governor's third wife. At a public works board meeting, Mr. Schaefer announced that he had sent a letter to "the big boss" — Miss Crawford — appealing to her to get the governor to turn on the fountain.
Mr. Schaefer's public comments, reported in The Sun, prompted The Washington Post to print an article it had spiked detailing Mr. Glendening's overnight visits and vacations with his much-younger aide.
If anyone paid the price for Mr. Schaefer's disclosure, it was Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, who treated him with deference and affection. Even though Mr. Schaefer made commercials endorsing Ms. Townsend, it was not enough to save her doomed candidacy for the governorship. Dragged down in part by Mr. Glendening's unpopularity, she lost to Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. that November.
Mr. Schaefer easily won re-election.
The next April, at a ceremony arranged by Mr. Ehrlich to mark the restoration of the fountain's flow, Mr. Schaefer vented his feelings about the man who turned it off:
"I will not have any disparaging remarks about him except I hate him. That's putting it mildly," Mr. Schaefer said.
Almost immediately upon winning, Mr. Ehrlich set out to woo the comptroller with flattery, affection, desserts and a promise to turn on the fountain.
Mr. Schaefer welcomed the young Republican governor and seemed smitten by the attention of first lady Kendel Ehrlich. He would become an ally of Mr. Ehrlich's on most issues, providing the crucial second vote on the three-member public works board, which reviews state contracts.
Mr. Ehrlich recalled having three tiers of gifts that he would deploy when Mr. Schaefer's support was needed on the Board of Public Works. The first was a cake made by the chef at the governor's mansion. The second was a cake and a visit from Mrs. Ehrlich. And for votes that were "beyond important, Mr. Ehrlich pulled out all the stops: the cake, Mrs. Ehrlich and baby Josh.
"He knew I was buying his vote, and he loved it," Mr. Ehrlich said.
With Mr. Glendening out of the spotlight, Mr. Schaefer transferred much of his ire to then-Baltimore Mayor O'Malley, who had failed to show the deference the former mayor expected. He frequently savaged the mayor at board meetings and — contrary to his reputation as a champion of Baltimore — urged Mr. Ehrlich to take a tougher line in dealings with the city.
"I'm not sure that William Donald Schaefer could ever fully align himself with a successor. It was his baby. He was passionate about it," Mr. Wasserman said.
Well into the Ehrlich administration, Mr. Schaefer also retained his ability to generate controversy — and to draw the governor into it.
In 2004, Mr. Schaefer stunned many at a public works board meeting by launching into a denunciation of immigrants who couldn't speak English well and the businesses that employed them. It was a tirade prompted by a stop that morning at a McDonald's where an employee's poor language skills delayed his breakfast order.
"I don't want to adjust to another language," he complained. "The people who come here should become part of America, become Americanized and speak the language."
Mr. Schaefer's remarks created a furor that was compounded a few days later when Mr. Ehrlich came to his defense. Going a step farther than the comptroller, the governor proclaimed that multiculturalism is "crap."
The two officials became the target of harsh criticism from advocates for immigrant groups and liberal-leaning figures. But for many voters, Mr. Ehrlich and Mr. Schaefer were merely expressing what they themselves were thinking.
Mr. Schaefer's behavior became an issue again in 2006, when he conspicuously ogled a 24-year-old female aide to Mr. Ehrlich at a public works board meeting and told her to "walk again."
"She's a pretty little girl," Mr. Schaefer told reporters. She "ought to be damn happy that I observed her going out the door."
A strongly negative public reaction to the incident, captured on television and seen by a national audience, showed that Marylanders were becoming less forgiving of the octogenarian comptroller's antics. After several days of stubbornly defending his actions, Mr. Schaefer sent the embarrassed young woman a vaguely worded, handwritten letter half-apologizing for his behavior.
While Mr. Schaefer continued to be personally supportive of Mr. Ehrlich, he remained stubbornly independent. He openly questioned the governor's handling of the Port of Baltimore and opposed him on some contract awards.
On one occasion in March 2006, Mr. Schaefer launched into a tirade over rising electric rates in which he called Mr. Ehrlich about the vilest name in his lexicon: "Glendening Junior."
The next month Mr. Schaefer complimented Mr. Ehrlich's handling of the issue and publicly apologized to the governor for calling him a "bad name."
"That's one of my idiosyncrasies," Mr. Schaefer said.
Ms. Kopp said there were times when she wanted to shake Mr. Schaefer and demand to know why he was acting the way he did. But she said he was also a mentor and loyal friend.
"He was one of the kindest and most supportive people I've dealt with in Annapolis," she said. "I know that's not his image, but it's the truth."
By the time he was approaching his last campaign, polls showed Mr. Schaefer's popularity on the wane among Democratic voters. The seeming vulnerability emboldened Del. Peter Franchot, an energetic and highly partisan Democrat from Montgomery County, to launch a primary challenge. Janet S. Owens, the Anne Arundel county executive, would also jump into the race.
Mr. Schaefer's last campaign was a strange, barely visible ramble marked by sparsely attended events and little interaction with the news media.
Late in the campaign, with his political peril becoming clear, he released a radio commercial halfheartedly apologizing if his remarks had offended anyone. But he almost immediately undercut his own words by launching an attack on Ms. Owens' physical appearance, deriding her as "Mother Hubbard" and calling her fat.
As Mr. Schaefer and Ms. Owens exchanged bitter words, Mr. Franchot mobilized liberal-leaning Democratic activists, garnered key newspaper endorsements and managed a narrow victory over Ms. Owens.
Mr. Schaefer finished third, with just under 30 percent of the vote.
At a news conference after his defeat, Mr. Schaefer was gracious toward Mr. Franchot — saying that the best man had won — but continued to snipe at Ms. Owens and rail against the news media. Defiant to the last, he threatened to jump into a race for mayor of Ocean City.
In April 2008, Ms. LeBow-Sachs engineered Mr. Schaefer's move to Charlestown after the former governor injured himself in a fall.
Mr. Schaefer did not go gently. The first time movers showed up at his Pasadena townhouse, he shooed them away. But Ms. LeBow-Sachs, who at one point had Mr. Schaefer's power of attorney, persisted — taking her former boss out to lunch while the movers emptied the townhouse and moved his possessions into a sixth-floor Charlestown apartment with a view of the Baltimore skyline.
In late 2009, Baltimore unveiled a 7-foot-2-inch bronze statue of Mr. Schaefer on the west shore of the Inner Harbor.
At his news conference after his 2006 defeat, Mr. Schaefer told reporters he had no regrets: "Wherever I go in the state or wherever I go in the city, I've got things I can look at and throw my chest out."
He said that when he died he wanted to be interred in a mausoleum next to Mrs. Snoops, with the simple inscription: "He cared."
Ms. LeBow-Sachs said Mr. Schaefer was "one of a kind."
"I do not think we will ever see anyone like him again," she said.
Mr. Schaefer has no survivors.
Michael Golden, Mr. Schaefer's longtime spokesman, said the former governor will lie in state at the State House from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday. Mr. Golden said Mr. Schaefer will then be taken on a final "tour" of Baltimore before lying in state at City Hall on Monday evening and April 26.
Mr. Golden said services will be held April 27, at Old St. Paul's Church downtown, with interment to follow at Dulaney Valley Gardens. He said additional details will be announced Tuesday.
A source in the preparation of this obituary was C. Fraser Smith's book "William Donald Schaefer: A Political Biography" (1999, The Johns Hopkins University Press).Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun