Kenneth Halls Masters, an attorney who represented Catonsville and Arbutus in the Maryland General Assembly, where he had been House majority leader, died of cancer Tuesday at Sinai Hospital. He was 68.
Born in Washington and raised at Scientists Cliff in Calvert County, he was a 1961 graduate of Charlotte Hall Military Academy. Interested in politics as a teen, he campaigned for longtime Maryland Comptroller Louis L. Goldstein. He earned a bachelor's degree at what is now Towson University, where he was student body president.
He served in the Army from 1966 to 1969 and graduated from Officer Candidate School as a lieutenant. Stationed in Vietnam from 1968 to 1969, he was a platoon leader and was later awarded a Bronze Star for Valor with the Oak Leaf Cluster. He also held the Combat Infantryman Badge and the Aircraft Crewman Badge.
While overseas, he flew in small planes on artillery spotting missions.
"He was proud he never lost anybody in his platoon," said his son-in-law, John Cecil of Catonsville.
Mr. Masters was later appointed secretary to Maryland's Vietnam Veterans Memorial Commission and worked to see the monument completed in 1989 at Middle Branch Park.
After his military service, he earned a degree at the University of Maryland School of Law and joined a Towson law firm, Nolan, Plumhoff and Williams. He was elected to the Democratic State Central Committee in 1974 and became a lobbyist. A 1978 Evening Sun article said his first client was the Humane Society of Baltimore County. He later represented Blue Shield of Maryland.
"He only lobbied a short time because he decided he'd rather be writing the laws," said his wife, the former Patricia A. Pound, whom he met as a Towson undergraduate.
After their marriage, they moved to Catonsville.
"He always did the family grocery shopping because he liked being out and meeting people," she said.
Mr. Masters was first elected to the House of Delegates in 1978 in the old District 12 that included the Catonsville, Arbutus and English Consul areas. He ran on a platform that called for a tightening of political ethics laws, abolition of the property tax in favor of a higher income tax, and expanded educational opportunities.
"He had a wonderful grace in dealing with people," said the Rev. Christopher J. Whatley, pastor of St. Mark's Roman Catholic Church in Catonsville. "He also had a gift for resolving tensions. Though he was an accomplished attorney and politician, he was basically humble. Everything he did was below the radar screen. He was a man of integrity."
He joined numerous local clubs, including the Patapsco Council Knights of Columbus, the American Legion and the Hibernian Society, as well as the Catonsville High School PTA. Friends said he mixed easily with constituents at crab feasts and social functions, where he often lent a hand to run the gaming wheels.
"He was a good campaigner who would say, 'Let's go knock on doors and talk to people,'" said former Baltimore County District Judge John C. Coolahan, a friend and political ally. "He was extremely bright, and when he looked at a bill, he analyzed it well. And that was the way he voted."
While in Annapolis, Mr. Masters served on the Judiciary Committee, the Legislative Policy Committee and was House chair of the Joint Committee on Administrative, Executive and Legislative Review. He was at times politically allied with Thomas Dewberry, Louis Morsberger, Ned Malone and Nancy Murphy.
He was House majority leader in 1994 but was defeated for re-election later that year after his district's political boundaries changed. He later became chief legislative officer for Republican Gov.Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.
"Though he was a lifelong Democrat, he was able to walk both sides of the street," said a friend, Tim McCarthy of Catonsville.
"Ken was personable and caring," said Tom Toporovich, a former secretary to the Baltimore County Council who lives in Dundalk. "He had a strong interest in his constituents and his community, perhaps more interested in them than he was in a political party. That is a reason he did a good job for Bob Ehrlich."
Mr. Masters enjoyed nature hikes and was a bird watcher. He also traveling to Ireland.
A funeral Mass will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday at the chapel at St. Mark's Roman Catholic Church, 30 Melvin Ave. in Catonsville, where he was an usher and a past president of its parochial school's board.
Survivors include his wife of 43 years; two daughters, Maura Masters of Austin, Texas, and Kathleen "Kate" Masters of Catonsville; a brother, Gil Masters of Prince Frederick; and a grandson.