Frederick C. Malkus Jr., the ruddy-faced Eastern Shore legislator who served 48 consecutive years in the General Assembly, died Tuesday of pulmonary fibrosis at Dorchester General Hospital in Cambridge. He was 86.
Mr. Malkus, a Democrat who was later known as the "Silver Fox" for his thick white hair, won his first election to the House of Delegates in 1947 and in 1950 was elected to the Senate.
The Dorchester County politician, who was Senate president pro tem at his retirement in 1994, never lost a re-election campaign. The only election he did lose, however, was a 1973 congressional bid to Republican Robert E. Bauman.
Described as one of the state's "most colorful patriarchs," years ago Mr. Malkus was a power that often had to be reckoned with. He served as chairman of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee from 1955 to 1966, when he lost the powerful position in a political power play. Friends said that the loss was devastating to Mr. Malkus, who was relegated in later years to a less influential place in the Senate.
Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, who will deliver a eulogy at Mr. Malkus' funeral Saturday, described him as a man of complicated political beliefs.
"Even though he was unabashedly pro-business in his views, when working men and women wanted to organize, he voted in support of union-shop legislation," Mr. Miller said.
"He was an irascible and a complex individual who was actually a great environmentalist," said former state Sen. Julian L. Lapides, who represented Baltimore in the state Senate for 28 years. "He perhaps did more to help the Chesapeake Bay than all the do-gooders from Montgomery County combined."
Sen. Barbara A. Hoffman, a liberal Democrat from Baltimore, said Mr. Malkus defied political stereotyping.
"Fred Malkus was one of the last libertarian Democrats," Ms. Hoffman said. "Everybody thought he was real conservative. But on privacy issues, he was one of our best allies."
Born on Bouldin Street in East Baltimore, Mr. Malkus moved in 1916 to the 380-acre Egypt Road farm, nine miles outside Cambridge, where he was raised by an aunt and uncle. He has spent the past 83 years on the working farm that produces wheat, corn and soybeans.
A graduate of Cambridge High School, he earned his bachelor's degree from Western Maryland College in 1934. After earning his law degree in 1938 from the University of Maryland, he worked for the Farm Security Administration for Dorchester, Talbot, Wicomico, Somerset and Worcester counties, before enlisting in the Army in 1941.
Mr. Malkus was in a grave registration unit with the 1st Army in Europe, where he helped record battlefield casualties. He was discharged in 1946 with the rank of major, and his decorations included five Battle Stars.
In 1987, the new four-lane U.S. 50 bridge over the Choptank River was named in his honor, the first bridge to be named for a living Marylander.
He was a member of St. Paul's United Methodist Church, 205 Maryland Ave., Cambridge, where services will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday.
He is survived by his wife of 41 years, the former Margaret "Maggie" Moorer; a son, Frederick C. Malkus III of Odenton; two daughters, Margaret Elizabeth "Betsy" LaPerch of Fairfax Station, Va., and Susan Moorer Malkus of Fairfax, Va., and three grandsons.
Sun staff writer Thomas W. Waldron contributed to this article.