WILLIAM DONALD SCHAEFER received that public hanging his detractors had long sought. But not the way they expected. The ex-governor heard the applause as his portrait was hung last week in the State House, next to paintings of his predecessors.
Only pettiness by Gov. Parris N. Glendening delayed this occasion, which should have occurred early last year shortly after Mr. Schaefer left office after two terms. The oil portrait -- paid for with private funds -- has been sitting in storage ever since then.
Leave it to the unpredictable Mr. Schaefer to come up with some surprises. He is the first governor to include his dog, Willie II, in his official portrait, and also the first to let a worried and concerned look appear on his face, unlike more formal gubernatorial poses.
Artist Joseph Sheppard captured the ex-governor's compassion and thoughtfulness on canvass. If any political leader ever wore his emotions on his sleeve, it was Mr. Schaefer.
Now that the ex-governor has served his time in Mr. Glendening's purgatory, it is good to see the current governor call on his predecessor to lead a commission on charting a future course for Maryland into the next millennium. Mr. Schaefer remains a man of unbridled energy and creativity.
He entered the governor's mansion in 1986 on the crest of enormous popularity at 82 percent of the general election vote. He left on a low note, having antagonized many citizens through petty sniping and grousing. But historians likely will view him with favor -- for steering the state through a treacherous recession by making painful budget cuts, for reorganizing higher education, for starting the Baltimore-area light-rail system, for improving road access to the Atlantic beaches, and for creating a national icon, Oriole Park at Camden Yards.
Not bad for someone who had already gained a sterling reputation by rejuvenating Baltimore during 15 years as mayor. Now he has been honored for his service in Annapolis, too. It was a fitting holiday present for one of Baltimore's -- and Maryland's -- finest.
Pub Date: 12/25/96