William Offutt Doub, a retired attorney who had headed the Maryland Public Service Commission and later sat on the Atomic Energy Commission, died of cancer Feb. 21 at his Naples, Fla., home. The former Guilford resident was 83.
Born in Cumberland into a family active in the law, he was the son of Albert Alvin Doub Jr. and Fannabelle Offutt. He earned a bachelor's degree from Washington and Jefferson College and was a graduate of the University of Maryland School of Law.
Mr. Doub worked in the old Baltimore & Ohio Railroad's legal department before joining local law firms, including Bartlett, Poe and Claggett and becoming a partner at Niles, Barton, Gans and Markell.
In 1964, Mayor Theodore R. McKeldin named Mr. Doub as the first chairman of the city's Minimum Wage Commission. A Republican, he ran an unsuccessful campaign for Maryland attorney general in a 1966 race against Democrat Francis B. Burch. Mr. Doub carried two jurisdictions, running with gubernatorial candidate Spiro T. Agnew at the top of the ticket.
After Mr. Agnew was elected governor, he appointed Mr. Doub people's counsel to the Public Service Commission. He went on to become the commission's chairman and was reappointed to it by a Democrat, Gov. Marvin Mandel. Mr. Doub held the post until 1971.
In 1969 he threatened to go to court, if necessary, to compel the old Penn Central Railroad to keep Baltimore as a stop on its new high-speed Metroliner service. He also fought for lower utility charges from Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. He held hearings on B&O commuter service, suburban area telephone rates and the placement of utility lines.
"'The commission chairmanship is about the best possible job around – possibly excepting U.S. Senator or Congressman,'" he said in a 1968 Washington Post article. "'But whoever heard of a Republican from Baltimore winning one of those seats?'"
Mr. Doub withheld approval of the two proposed nuclear reactors at the Calvert Cliffs plant in 1969 and called for a regional study on the effect the plant would have on the Chesapeake Bay.
"The Chesapeake Bay is Maryland's most valuable resource and possibly Virginia's too," he said in a Washington Post article.
In 1970, he ordered shutdown of construction at Calvert Cliffs.
"As a public servant, Bill was a tough but nonpartisan utilities regulator," said Llewellyn King, a West Warwick, R.I., resident who is producer of "The White House Chronicle" on PBS. "When he became chairman of the Maryland Public Service Commission, he shook up the old-boy world of Maryland regulation. I sat through hearing after hearing, when he bore down equally hard on the companies under his jurisdiction and the public interest groups."
Mr. King, a former staff member of the old News American newspaper, recalled Mr. Doub, a close friend, as "dealing magisterially in public with issues." He said that before Mr. Doub came to the Public Service Commission, "issues were settled between gentlemen over drinks in the Maryland Club. Gradually, the public and interest groups came to respect and revere their new chairman as a man who put the public good first."
Mr. King also recalled Mr. Doub's 1971 appointment to the Atomic Energy Commission under the administration of President Richard M. Nixon.
"The opposition to nuclear power was just emerging, and one of its most vociferous leaders was Ralph Nader," Mr. King said. "Nader was a god-like figure to many. Doub took it upon himself to reason with Nader. As I recall, he held a series of 5 a.m. meetings with Nader — a time decided by Nader. They did not reach a meeting of the minds, but Doub had the small satisfaction of having tried. It was his way: Try reason."
He said Mr. Doub advocated a more modern and open administration of the agency, including compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act.
Mr. Doub left the Atomic Energy Commission in 1974 and practiced law in Washington. He was a partner in LeBoeuf, Lamb, Leiby, and MacRae and then founded Doub, Muntzing, and Glasgow. He retired in 1997.
Mr. Doub was an honorary vice chairman of the World Energy Council.
As a family project, Mr. Doub restored two old homes in Keedysville in Washington County. He was also a perennial and orchid gardener and collected antiques.
A memorial service will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday at the Roman Catholic Shrine of the Sacred Heart, 5800 Smith Ave.
Survivors include his wife of 55 years, the former Mary Graham Boggs; two sons, J. Peyton Doub and Albert Alvin Doub, both of Keedysville; a sister, Mary Peyton Doub Thompson of Augusta, Ga.; and two grandchildren. A son, William Offutt Doub Jr., died in 1963.