Robert A. Pascal, a longtime public servant who was the Anne Arundel County executive from 1974 to 1982, died Friday at age 86, friends said.
Pascal was known not just for his political prowess but also his business acumen and athletic ability, having been a star football player at Duke University and then a business owner in the oil and gas industry. He later donated much of his earnings to charity.
“He succeeded in a number of arenas,” said Jim Lighthizer, Pascal’s longtime friend, who succeeded him as Anne Arundel County executive from 1982 to 1990. “One would be noteworthy, but he really succeeded in three: in athletics, in business and in politics.”
Before serving as county executive, Pascal represented Anne Arundel in the state Senate, serving from 1971 to 1974. He was the Republican nominee for Maryland governor in 1982 but lost to incumbent Democrat Harry Hughes. He then served in Gov. William Donald Schaefer’s administration from 1989 to 1995.
Although the two men were from different political parties, Pascal gave Lighthizer a helping hand when he chose to run for the position, offering not just advice but his endorsement.
“Having his blessing was like having the pope,” said Lighthizer, a Democrat.
After his years in politics, Pascal became well-known for his philanthropy. He started the nonprofit Robert A. Pascal Youth & Family Services, which is aimed at providing mental health care to residents.
He contributed to the Pascal Crisis Stabilization Center in Crownsville, which opened in 2017 and treats patients with mental illnesses and substance abuse disorders, while seeking to divert them from emergency rooms and jails. His nonprofit also runs an outpatient mental health clinic in Odenton.
In 2006, he donated $2 million to help fund an expansion of the University of Maryland Baltimore Washington Medical Center in Glen Burnie, and he also donated $6 million to his alma mater Duke University for a football practice facility, named the Pascal Field House.
Several other buildings are named in his honor, including the Robert A. Pascal Senior Center in Glen Burnie and the Pascal Center for Performing Arts at Anne Arundel Community College.
His generosity is part of his legacy, Lighthizer said. Not only did he support health causes, youth athletes and older adults, he was also known to help friends in need, like the time he helped a friend who had lost money gambling.
“He just quietly helped a friend of his who had been in politics and was down his luck financially. He quietly helped him out financially and never said a word about it,” Lighthizer said. “He was generous in that respect.”
Pascal was born in Glen Ridge, New Jersey, in 1934 and grew up attending New Jersey public schools. He later became an All-American running back at Duke University, helping the Blue Devils to three Atlantic Coast Conference championships and a standout Orange Bowl win in 1955.
“Pascal is one of just two players in Duke history with multiple seasons of 500-plus rushing yards and eight-plus rushing touchdowns,” according to the Duke Athletics website. He is also a member of the Duke Athletics Hall of Fame.
After graduating from Duke, Pascal was drafted in the third round by the Baltimore Colts but ultimately played a season in the Canadian Football League.
“He was a big-time athlete, but he never talked about it,” Lighthizer said.
His competitive drive would come out, however, when the pair went duck hunting, goose hunting or fishing, Lighthizer said.
“Bob was one of a kind, no question about that,” Lighthizer said. “He often looked to get the edge, so he could win, whether it was hunting ducks ... or whatever. He was a character.”
After his brief football career, Pascal became a business owner. He was president of United Propane, a gas and oil products company, and president of the Maryland L.P. Gas Association, according to the state archives.