Del. Rudolph C. Cane

Del. Rudy Cane (left) leaves House. House Speaker Michael E. Busch (right) (Timothy B. Wheeler, Baltimore Sun / March 28, 2014)

Del. Rudolph C. Cane bid farewell Friday to the House of Delegates, saying goodbye to the chamber where he's represented the Eastern Shore as its first African-American representataive for nearly 16 years, an advocate for diversity and the interests of his region.

The soft-spoken Democrat from Hebron, 79, had previously declared his intention to retire at the end of his fourth term. But he departed a little more than a week before the 90-day legislative session ends because he's scheduled to have back surgery on Monday.

At the end of Friday's House session, House Speaker Michael E. Busch summoned Cane to the front of the chamber, prompting a standing ovation for him.

Cane recalled that until his election to the House in 1998, there had been "taxation without representation," an allusion to the lack of black representation from the Shore.  He recounted how once he arrived in Annapolis, he lobbied to serve on the Environmental Matters Committee, so he could focus on helping agriculture, the Shore's dominant industry.

During his time in the House, Cane held a number of leadership posts, including assistant speaker pro tem and chair and secretary of the Maryland Legislative Black Caucus.

In a brief interview after the House tribute, Cane said representing the Shore's minority population was his most important legacy. He also said he was proud of his work on behalf of the region's poultry industry and farmers, and on behalf of cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay.

"I didn't come here just to put something on the resume," he said in his farewell.  "I came here because I saw a need to help the Eastern Shore and Maryland in some of the areas we were not getting help.''