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Richard C. 'Mike' Lewin, former secretary of the state Department of Business and Economic Development, dies

Richard C. "Mike" Lewin served as secretary of Maryland’s Department of Business and Economic Development during the administration of Gov. Parris N. Glendening.
Richard C. "Mike" Lewin served as secretary of Maryland’s Department of Business and Economic Development during the administration of Gov. Parris N. Glendening. (Handout)

Richard C. "Mike" Lewin, a Baltimore investment banker who was secretary of Maryland's Department of Business and Economic Development during the administration of Gov. Parris N. Glendening, ended his life Wednesday at his Guilford home, according to family. He was 75.

In recent years, Mr. Lewin suffered from failing health and depression, according to his brother, John H. Lewin, of Bethany Beach, Del., a retired Venable LLP lawyer.

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"We were so fortunate to have had his leadership," said former Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend. "He brought an enormous experience and knowledge of the private sector, and had the energy to get things done.

"He realized that biotech was the future of Maryland, and he made an enormous effort to attract and keep those businesses here and good paying jobs for Marylanders," she said.

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Former U.S. Sen. Joseph D.Tydings, who represented Maryland from 1965 to 1971, said he got to know Mr. Lewin in the 1960s through Democratic political activities.

"We palled around a lot — Nantucket and Ocean City — when I was single. We were very, very close friends," said Mr. Tydings, a Monkton resident. "He was a very able banker and investor, and did a great deal of public service for the state. He was a very hard worker and very effective."

Theodore G. Venetoulis, former Baltimore County executive and businessman, was also a longtime friend.

"Mike was one of our state's real characters. He was very smart and witty," said Mr. Venetoulis, a Rockland resident. "He loved politics and he loved the game. He had a lot of political insight."

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Richard Carmichael Lewis was the son of John Henry Lewin, a Venable, Baetjer and Howard attorney, and Janet Gordon Keidel, an artist. He was born in Baltimore and raised in Ruxton.

He attended the Gilman School and graduated in 1960 from Towson High School. He subsequently attended the University of Maryland and served in the Army National Guard as an artillery fire control specialist, from 1962 to 1968.

Mr. Lewin entered Democratic politics in 1962 when he worked as a member of the campaign staff for Clarence D. Long, who was running for the 2nd District congressional seat.

"Mike intends to make politics his career," The Baltimore Sun reported in a 1963 article. "He finds some of his job has 'lots of boring detail, but that's what politics is.' "

After Mr. Long's election, Mr. Lewis was appointed to the congressman's staff as a specialist in legislative research and as a district liaison. He retained those positions until 1964. In 1963, he was elected president of the Maryland Federation of College Young Democrats, succeeding Steny H. Hoyer as head of the 10-college federation.

Mr. Lewin resigned from that post in 1966 when he became an assistant campaign manager for Carlton R. Sickles, who was running for the Democratic nomination for governor. Mr. Sickles narrowly lost the nomination to George P. Mahoney, who lost the 1966 gubernatorial election to Republican Spiro T. Agnew.

Mr. Lewin was administrative assistant to state Comptroller Louis L. Goldstein from 1966 until 1969, when he stepped down.

Stan Heuisler of Roland Park, a longtime friend, recalled Mr. Lewin's "lifelong commitment to Democratic politics."

"He cared for the traditional progressive agendas and he was smart about it. A good organizer — which is one reason he was so successful in the investment business; the other probably being his wonderful, outgoing personality," Mr. Heuisler said. "He was a bright and funny guy, and savvy in so many ways."

He entered the financial world in Baltimore in 1964 as a program developer for United Planning Organization. From 1969 to 1971 he was an investment representative for Bache & Co. After that, he served as vice president of Paine Webber Jackson & Curtis from 1971 to 1977, then was senior vice president for Shearson Lehman Brothers from 1977 to 1984.

He held a similar post, senior vice president, at Drexel Burnham Lambert from 1984 to 1986, then was named a managing director at BT Alex. Brown Inc. from 1987 to 1998.

"Mike was a wonderful guy, smart and clever, and had lots of ability," said Robert L. "Bob" Oster, an Alex. Brown colleague who is now a portfolio manager at Brown Advisory, and was a close friend.

"He was a good salesman at Brown and could get to the other side of the table when it came to a sale. That's what's called empathy," said Mr. Oster, of Lutherville.

Mr. Lewin joined the Glendening administration in 1998 as secretary of the Department of Business and Economic Development. There, he directed 325 employees and oversaw a budget of $125 million.

"He had an enormous amount of positive energy and lifted up the department," said Ms. Townsend.

She said Mr. Lewin "made people feel that they had strong, visionary … leadership that got things done. He made it possible for us to recruit people of high caliber to our administration.

"Plus, he was fun being around, and he was always telling me, 'Kathleen, you can do better.' " she said. "I really enjoyed his company. I liked and respected Mike."

Two years later Mr. Lewin stepped down from the job and announced his intention to return to the investment business after working 14-hour days, seven days a week.

"This gives me a chance to do a couple of things," he told The Sun at the time, speaking from his office that overlooked the Inner Harbor. "It's been a tremendous, very fulfilling two years. At the age of 58, time becomes more precious."

Nevertheless, Mr. Glendening reappointed him to serve with the Maryland Economic Development Commission, and he remained on the board of the Maryland Technology Development Corp.

In 2001, Mr. Lewin joined Legg Mason as a group vice chairman and senior managing director for investment banking. He was liaison between Legg Mason's analytical and banking teams and growing companies such as those engaged in biotechnology, information technology, e-commerce, financial services, health care, manufacturing and telecommunications.

"His many talents did not come at you directly unless you knew him," Mr. Venetoulis said.

He retired in 2009.

Mr. Lewin's charitable work included the Walters Art Museum, Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, Fund for American Studies, St. Barts Reforestation Fund and the Echo House Foundation, among others.

He presided over a vast collection of friends.

"Mike made friends very quickly because he was fun to be around," Mr. Tydings said.

"He was a great conversationalist and was so much fun to be around," Mr. Oster said. "He could talk on myriad subjects and he knew everyone. He knew people from all walks of life. I'm really going to miss him."

Mr. Lewin was a voracious reader and had a lifelong interest in Winston S. Churchill, the British prime minster and author.

"He was, in many ways, a Churchillian figure. He was Mike's model and he fashioned himself after Churchill," his brother said. "He had no interest in sports whatsoever, but had a passion for travel, and after his divorce [he] took a year off and went around the world. Places that had intrigued him, he returned to."

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"He lived life to the fullest," his brother said.

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Mr. Lewin enjoyed collecting ceramic polar bears.

He attended the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd in Ruxton.

Plans for a memorial gathering to be held at his Guilford home in April are incomplete.

In addition to his brother, he his survived by a stepsister, Mary Carolyn Mohr of Baltimore; a nephew, John H. Lewin III of Roland Park; and a niece, Janet Todd Lewin of Mill Valley, Calif. A marriage to Katie O'Hare ended in divorce.

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