POLITICAL POWER is a fluid substance, a watery current canalized between good men banked up on one side, bad men on the other. The aromas of self-interest, whether grabby or enlightened, arise from its surface. So constituted, this streaky old river has meandered through history since the day the first man elbowed the second man aside -- and the second man elbowed back.
During his distinguished career as a reporter, columnist and editorial page editor of The Evening Sun, Bradford Jacobs sailed that "streaky old river," casting forth his observations in a trenchant style strictly his own.
In "Thimbleriggers," his book (quoted above) on the scandals that engulfed former Gov. Marvin Mandel, a "descendant of Jewish immigrants so Polish, so 'downtown' as to be ruled off the 'uptown turf,' " Mr. Jacobs drew a telling contrast with the greatest of his predecessors, Gov. Albert C. Ritchie. The latter, he said, "was a political grandee, to the manner born, the last but one of this waning species."
Brad Jacobs, who died over the weekend at the age of 76, could almost have been writing about himself. The great-grandson of the Civil War governor, Augustus W. Bradford, he was one of the last of the patrician journalists, born in Maryland, who reveled in the delights and idiosyncrasies of their native state. Tradition and history leavened their writing.
But while many of the old grandees looked fondly backward, Mr. Jacobs was an insistent reformer in search of a sensible future. Always the reporter, and a superb one at that, he knew so much about Maryland politics and its supposed secrets that during his columnist days he would drive Gov. J. Millard Tawes to distraction and leave rivals thoroughly scooped.
It was he, more than anyone, who promoted the upset victory of Gov. Harry R. Hughes in 1978 with a front-page editorial endorsement in The Evening Sun that, in his words, "smashed, apparently forever, the antique Democratic machine." Brad Jacobs' reverence for civic virtue, and his rather affectionate contempt for politicians drawn to the reverse, enriched the Sunpapers over his four decades of service.
Pub Date: 4/08/97