Amid much fanfare and applause, they hung William Donald " Schaefer from a wall on the second floor of the State House in Annapolis.
The only question on many people's minds: Why had it taken so long?
It was only his official gubernatorial portrait, of course, that was unveiled with long speeches filled with words of praise and a standing ovation from friends and well-wishers who gathered in the reception room.
In turn, a surprisingly humble Schaefer suggested more credit for the work accomplished during his eight years in office be given to his staff.
But the really remarkable moment was this: There was Parris N. Glendening, the office's current occupant, paying tribute to his predecessor and hanging a portrait that has been sitting in storage in the state archives since Schaefer left office.
The man who didn't even want to invite Schaefer to the Ravens football stadium groundbreaking earlier this year and who made hanging Spiro T. Agnew's portrait in the State House a higher priority (it went up in April 1995) called Schaefer a "visionary" and other nice things.
It must be Christmas.
"Few people understand the wonderful opportunity this job gives you to touch people's lives," Maryland's 59th governor told its 58th.
"Few people understand the joy and happiness when you get things done and the depths of frustration, too."
A Glendening aide acknowledged that the governor had been reluctant to honor Schaefer earlier largely because of Schaefer's willingness to criticize his successor.
But nothing had been said lately, and the holiday season seemed an appropriate time to mend fences, the staffer said.
Glendening also used the occasion to announce that he has appointed Schaefer to head a "Year 2000" commission to map out a celebration of the new millennium and recommend the state's course into the future.
The painting by Owings Mills native Joseph Sheppard was commissioned along with a portrait of longtime companion Hilda Mae Snoops for $40,000 by a private, nonprofit foundation in 1993.
It portrays Schaefer sitting at a desk, his left hand turning the page of a book, his right stroking the head of his dog Willie.
But while Willie seems pleased (perhaps because he's the first canine to make an official state portrait), Schaefer's expression shows distress and worry -- the face of a man who clearly isn't satisfied.
Sheppard, who painted a more exuberant Schaefer for his 1988 mayoral portrait that hangs in City Hall, said the informal setting, the addition of the dog, and governor's downbeat expression were the artist's choice.
"These [gubernatorial] portraits tend to look so stiff, and he's not a stiff guy," Sheppard said. "He looks concerned and sympathetic."
The Schaefer portrait also continues a trend of creeping growth in chief executives of the past 40 years that line one wall. The painting is slightly taller than the one done of Harry R. Hughes -- which is larger than Marvin Mandel's, which is bigger than Agnew's, which exceeds that of J. Millard Tawes.
Schaefer, looking slightly tearful, said he was honored to see his portrait in the State House. Such paintings are a Maryland tradition dating back to the 18th century. But in typical Schaefer fashion he also upbraided those in attendance for so much criticism he hears about the state.
"Wherever I go in this state it's great," he said.
"Maybe if we get people to feel good about themselves and emphasize the good around them, that would be a major thing to do."
The audience, which included many former Schaefer Cabinet secretaries, longtime supporters, and friends, could only smile and nod at so familiar a scolding from the man who is never satisfied with the status quo.
"This was the scene of so many Schaefer triumphs, it seemed right to see his portrait finally hanging here," said Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller.
Pub Date: 12/20/96