HOW do you sum up a century? How does a newspaper's editorial board evaluate 100 years worth of developments -- good and bad -- in its prime readership area?
These were the questions confronting this newspaper's editorialists as they grappled with the best way to mark the arrival of the year 2000.
What emerged was a decision to celebrate the best of what has happened in Baltimore and in Maryland since 1900 by selecting a group of individuals who made lasting and far-reaching contributions to our community and to society.
"Marylanders of the Century," which concludes today on the page opposite, was the result.
Putting together this list proved a tough task. Too many deserving names had to be left off. Not every field of interest could be covered.
This wasn't a scientific undertaking involving years of research. It was, in many respects, a popularity contest, in which names were suggested by editorial board members, discussed and debated. Gradually, the list was whittled down.
Still, it took some hard-nosed executive decisions to reduce the final tally to just 21 Marylanders.
Each one had ample qualifications for inclusion. Their impact on this city, this region, this state or even this nation stretched over many decades. Their names will be remembered for these achievements far into the next century.
Of the 21 selected, only three are alive: William Donald Schaefer, Cal Ripken Jr. and the man whose life work is chronicled today, Walter Sondheim Jr.
That's because so many of those on the list made their mark far earlier in this century. For instance, David Lewis, the fiery lawyer, congressman and pioneer for workers' rights from Western Maryland would be 130 years old were he alive today.
A few of those chosen made huge contributions to areas outside Baltimore -- Lewis in the rural Appalachian counties, E. Brooke Lee ("the Colonel") in Montgomery County and Harry W. Kelley in Ocean City.
Some remained quintessential Marylanders even as they thrived and established their reputations elsewhere -- Thurgood Marshall, Eubie Blake, Claire McCardell and Babe Ruth. Two made their greatest marks in Annapolis -- Albert Ritchie and William Preston Lane.
But most of the selectees stayed in Baltimore, the heart and soul of Maryland in the 20th century.
H.L. Mencken rose to journalistic and literary fame here.
Abel Wolman became the world's foremost expert on sanitary drinking water from his office on the Johns Hopkins University campus. Dr. Helen Taussig's breakthrough work in pediatric surgery came at Hopkins Hospital.
Lillie Carroll Jackson engineered civil rights advances from her West Baltimore home. Former Baltimore mayor and Maryland governor Theodore Roosevelt McKeldin preached brotherhood and civility as a proud citizen of his birth city.
Jacob Blaustein and Charles P. McCormick transformed the gas and spice businesses, respectively, from their downtown headquarters. And James Rouse never stopped trying to find ways to revitalize Baltimore.
(The one exception was Henry Walters, who called Manhattan home for the last 42 years of his life, only briefly returning to Baltimore. But in his will, Walters left this city an incredible gift of treasured art works and a mansion that could do them justice.)
Now that the newspaper's editorial board has rendered its judgment, it is time for others to have their say. Who do you think ought to be included in an elite list of Marylanders of the Century?
In the coming weeks, we hope to hear from readers, through letters to the editor, and from contributors to this page on Marylanders who they think have earned a place of honor for their achievements in the past 100 years. That's a long span of history.
Where would your list begin?
Barry Rascovar is a deputy editorial page editor.
H. L. Mencken
William Donald Schaefer
Theodore R. McKeldin
Charles P. McCormick
William Preston Lane
Lillie Carroll Jackson
Albert C. Ritchie
E. Brooke Lee
Pub Date: 10/10/99