NOW I know what judges in the Miss America pageant go through. It's agonizing selecting from all the beauties parading before you.
Only 21 people made it onto the editorial pages as The Sun's "Marylanders of the Century." Yet so many more deserved the recognition that I had no trouble compiling a second list of significant achievers.
Even then, worthy men and women had to be omitted, such as former Sen. Charles McC. Mathias; writer and headmistress Edith Hamilton; Cardinal Lawrence Shehan; Commercial Credit founder Alexander Duncan; writers Anne Tyler and John Barth; and Orioles Hall of Famer Brooks Robinson.
Here's how I would make the original list of 21 into a compendium of 42:
Politicians Millard E. Tydings, William S. James and Helen Delich Bentley (she qualifies in the journalist category, too).
Civil rights lobbyist Clarence M. Mitchell Jr.
Business visionaries Frank Perdue, Glenn L. Martin, Alonzo G. Decker, T. Rowe Price and J. Willard Marriott Sr.
Arts and letters contributors Etta Cone, Rosa Ponselle, Lizette Woodworth Reese and Joseph Meyerhoff (also on the best-in-business list).
Environmental muckraker Rachel Carson.
Medical pioneers R. Adams Cowley and William H. Welch.
Journalists A. Aubrey Bodine and Carl J. Murphy.
Educators Harry C. Byrd and Mary L. Titcomb.
Sports legend John Unitas.
In brief, here's why each of these Marylanders deserves inclusion:
Millard Tydings. A conservative Democrat from Havre de Grace, he served four terms in the U.S. Senate, took on Sen. Joseph McCarthy and his wild accusations of communist infiltration of government; stood up to President Franklin D. Roosevelt; crusaded for Philippines independence and for U.S. aid to rebuild Europe after World War II.
William James. A shy, scholarly man, he was a dominant force in Annapolis for over four decades, especially as Senate president. He spearheaded the drive for a statewide community college system and for Program Open Space, which has preserved 189,000 acres of land from development. It's a national model.
Helen Bentley. A pioneering journalist for The Sun, she became the best-known maritime writer in the nation. For half a century she's been a ceaseless advocate for the Port of Baltimore in print, on television, as chairman of the Federal Maritime Commission and as a five-term member of Congress.
Clarence Mitchell Jr. The most influential lobbyist in Washington during the great civil-rights advances of the 1960s. His children and grandchildren have built a formidable political dynasty in West Baltimore.
Frank Perdue. In three decades, he turned a small Salisbury egg business into one of the country's biggest chicken operations. Through creative advertising ("It takes a tough man to raise a tender chicken"), Perdue convinced meat-eating Americans to switch to poultry.
Glenn L. Martin. Seventy years after he built an aircraft plant in Middle River, it still thrives. Martin was a true aviation pioneer whose massive hangars once employed 53,000 people during World War II. His original company now is called Lockheed Martin, the country's largest aerospace firm.
Alonzo Decker. He changed the way people work, by manufacturing handy construction equipment. Then he inaugurated an era of do-it-yourself home repairs with Black & Decker's easy to use tools.
T. Rowe Price. Mutual funds and growth-stock investing bear his imprimatur. Wall Street's "Sage of Baltimore" started his company during the Depression. It is now one of the nation's largest and most respected mutual-fund investment firms.
J. Willard Marriott Sr. From a nine-seat root-beer stand and a Hot Shoppe restaurant in 1927, he fashioned a food and lodging giant. Today's Marriott International offers travelers a choice of 1,500 hotels worldwide, with headquarters in Bethesda.
Etta Cone. She and her sister, Claribel, gave to the Baltimore Museum of Art one of the most important collections of Impressionist art, and $400,000 for a new wing. It made the BMA's reputation. The Cone apartment, overlooking Druid Hill Park, became a mini-museum and salon for the artistic world in the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s.
Rosa Ponselle. Perhaps the greatest American operatic voice of this century, she ruled the Metropolitan Opera for nearly two decades, then became the guiding light of the Baltimore Opera Company.
Lizette Woodworth Reese. This Western High School teacher wrote some of this country's finest lyrical poetry. In the first half of this century, American school children memorized her "Tears" poem. Her intensely felt work reveals beauty even in common things.
Joseph Meyerhoff. He'll be remembered for the money he spent to make the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra first-rate, then giving it a sparkling hall. But he also was one of the great home builders in the post-World War II era (along with Keelty and Knott), accounting for 15,000 single-family residences in the Baltimore area.
Rachel Carson. Few books have started a revolution. Carson's "Silent Spring" sounded the alarm of environmental dangers in 1962. It's been the Bible for ecological reforms on a worldwide scale.
Dr. R Adams Cowley. His unconventional ideas transformed shock-trauma medicine. Cowley had took on the medical and political establishments in a fight to turn University of Maryland Hospital into the cutting-edge leader in comprehensive trauma care.
Dr. William C. Welch. He organized the new Johns Hopkins Hospital, established the nation's first school of public health and hired the physicians who would revolutionize medicine, particularly Dr. William Osler and William S. Halsted.
A. Aubrey Bodine. He gave us 50 years of photographic masterpieces that captured the human and physical beauty of Maryland for future generations to savor. This Sun photographer turned picture-taking for a daily newspaper into an art form.
Carl J. Murphy. The Afro-American became one of the nation's most influential black newspapers under his guidance. He was a potent behind-the-scenes force in the local civil-rights movement.
Harry "Curley" Byrd. Sure, he coached the University of Maryland football team to greatness, but his lasting contribution came as college president at College Park. He engineered a five-fold increase in students (to 16,000), a seven-fold budget increase and an 11-fold increase in the value of the college's physical plant. He used his clout in Annapolis to turn a "cow college" into a major university.
Mary L. Titcomb. This innovative Hagerstown librarian started the first bookmobile in 1904, which for most of this century brought the world of literature to the nation's rural countryside and growing suburbs.
John Unitas. He revolutionized professional football, propelling it into the television era with the championship Baltimore Colts. Simply the greatest quarterback to play the game. His daring on the field changed the nature of pro football.
There you have it: 21 Free State men and women to join the 21 others chosen by The Sun's editorial board as the best of the last 100 years. The question now becomes: Who will make the next list to be drawn up -- of the top Marylanders of the 21st Century?
Barry Rascovar is a deputy editorial page editor.