At yesterday's press conference, Schaefer backed off none of it.

"I'm me," he said. "Do you think I'm ever gonna change and keep my mouth shut and be politically correct?"

His staff, crowded into the back of the room to listen, applauded loudly, particularly at remarks like this. At other times, they stood silently, with lips pursed to bite back tears.

At one point a reporter asked Schaefer how, in a word, he'd like to be remembered.

"Two words -- and I've thought of this a long time," Schaefer responded. " `He cared.' That's all. It says a tremendous amount, and it really means something."

michael.dresser@baltsun.com

Sun reporters Stephanie Desmon and Jill Rosen contributed to this article.

A political chronology

1950 --William Donald Schaefer, a graduate of the University of Baltimore law school, opens downtown practice. Runs unsuccessfully for the House of Delegates from West Baltimore.

1954 --Fails again to win seat in House of Delegates.

1955 --Wins campaign for Baltimore City Council.

1967 --Runs citywide and is elected City Council president, serving with Mayor Thomas J. D'Alesandro III.

1968 --Helps direct National Guard to quell riots after killing of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

1971 --Wins Democratic primary for mayor with 56 percent of vote against three candidates, easily wins general election.

1975 --Re-elected mayor with slogan "Mayor Schaefer --Worth Repeating."

1978 --Defeats opponents of Harborplace in a referendum.

1979 --Re-elected to third term.

1980 --Harborplace opens to rave reviews. Schaefer revels in the praise heaped on the Inner Harbor, including a Time magazine cover story that features Baltimore's revitalization efforts.

January 1981 --Declares that the new aquarium under construction at the Inner Harbor is progressing well. If it doesn't open on time, he announces, he'll "jump in the tank."

March 1981 --With President Ronald Reagan cutting the federal budget, Schaefer goes to Washington to plead for aid. When legislators don't respond sympathetically, Schaefer says, "I'm so angry I can't see."