House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr. represented Western Maryland while fighting for poor families across the state

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Former House of Delegates Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr. was admired by colleagues for his authenticity, low-key charm and consensus-building. The former tavern owner’s popularity — he presided over nine General Assembly sessions, a record at the time — came not because he was flashy, but because he wasn’t.

When he became speaker in 1994, a profile in The Sun described him as a “doleful-looking penguin,” a description he and his family adopted by buying penguin cuff links, statuettes and other paraphernalia.


The Cumberland Democrat was the antithesis of a slick politician.

“The anecdote is that there are no anecdotes,” former state comptroller Peter Franchot, who served with Mr. Taylor in the House, said in 1997, the fourth year of the latter’s tenure. “There are no tirades, no shoe-pounding bombast. None of that stuff that makes good stories.”


Rather, Mr. Taylor was known for gathering legislators together and asking simply: “Is everybody in the boat?”

Mr. Taylor was 88. His death was confirmed by Scarpelli Funeral Home of Cumberland, which declined to provide a cause of death.

Mr. Taylor, the first House speaker from Western Maryland in 100 years, fought to make health insurance more available to people with low incomes and once battled to salvage the final installment of a 10% income tax reduction.

He was an emissary for his isolated, mountainous district. “Welcome to Western Maryland!” he often told visitors.

Mr. Taylor used his influence to help establish or build up Western Maryland businesses and tourist attractions, including a Jack Nicklaus golf course, state-subsidized air service to the Cumberland area, and Canal Place, a Cumberland recreation area of historical value.

Outgoing Speaker of the House Casper R. Taylor Jr. walked in 2002 on the platform at the Western Maryland Scenic Railway.

Democratic Gov. Wes Moore said in a statement Monday that Mr. Taylor’s work on Cumberland’s behalf “and his efforts to create ‘One Maryland’ have left an impact on this state that will reverberate for generations to come. Speaker Taylor served Maryland with distinction for nearly three decades, as a member of the House of Delegates and one of the longest-serving speakers of the House in the history of our state.”

In the late 1990s, One Maryland was a legislative package that included loans and tax breaks to help rural areas. It came to represent efforts to assist poorer sections of the state.

Born in Cumberland, Mr. Taylor began his political career with his House election in 1974. He served as speaker from 1994 until 2003.


“Cas Taylor was the speaker who swore me into office into 1997,” Speaker Adrienne A. Jones, a Baltimore County Democrat, told guests Monday at a bill-signing ceremony at the State House in Annapolis.

“Cas was a friend and a mentor. When anyone mentions ‘One Maryland,’ it’s because of Speaker Taylor,” she said. “He championed efforts to make sure each resident, regardless of their ZIP code, has the opportunities and resources to find success.”

Mr. Taylor also was a mentor to his successor, Democrat Michael E. Busch. In 2012, Mr. Busch became the longest-serving speaker, surpassing the tenure of his friend and political ally. Mr. Busch died in office in 2019 after leading his chamber for 16 General Assembly sessions.

In 2002, a state court reconfigured Mr. Taylor’s district to include voters in Republican-rich Washington County who didn’t feel the same kinship with Mr. Taylor as constituents in his home base in Allegany County. He lost by fewer than 100 votes to LeRoy Myers, a building contractor and political novice, who served in the House until 2014.

Immediately after the election, Mr. Taylor, then 67, received a halting voicemail message.

”This is one of the saddest days of my life,” began then-Comptroller William Donald Schaefer, the former Democratic governor and Baltimore mayor. ”I don’t know … [long pause] … the electorate is so stupid. I should have lost, you should have won. You’re such a good guy. I’ve got to shed a tear.” Mr. Schaefer died in 2011.

Lobbyist Casper R. Taylor, Jr., the former speaker of the House, at the 2004 opening day of the Maryland General Assembly.

After leaving the House, Mr. Taylor was a lobbyist with the firm of Alexander & Cleaver.

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In 2007, the new House of Delegates Building in Annapolis was named for Mr. Taylor.

Mr. Taylor was a lifelong Allegany County resident, attending parochial schools before enrolling at the University of Notre Dame, where he rose to president of the prestigious student political club.

It was income from a family-owned tavern in Cumberland that helped Mr. Taylor’s parents send him to Notre Dame — the same business that enabled him to send his two sons there before he sold it in 1992.

After graduating from Notre Dame, he married his high school sweetheart, Mary “Polly” Young. She died in 2021.

His survivors include his two sons, Dane Taylor of Medina, Ohio, and Brendan Taylor of Flintstone.


Visitation will be held at the funeral home Friday from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., immediately followed by a wake there. A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated Saturday at 1 p.m. at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Cumberland. Mr. Taylor will be buried at Saints Peter and Paul Cemetery in Cumberland.

Baltimore Sun librarian Paul McCardell contributed to this article.

Casper R. Taylor Jr., then the outgoing speaker of the Maryland House of Delegates, talked with a friend, Cumberland Chamber of Commerce President Robert Smith in downtown Cumberland in 2002.