Think Baltimore’s mayor-elect is young? Meet the pack of 30-something mayors who preceded him.

Much was made of Brandon Scott’s age on the campaign trail. The 36-year-old, now mayor-elect, often encountered voters skeptical that the baby-faced City Council president was old enough to assume the city’s top job.

Scott had a reply at the ready: He reminded people that Johnny Olszewski Jr. was 36 when he ran for Baltimore County executive, that state Senate President Bill Ferguson is just 37, and that Martin O’Malley was also 36 when won the office in 1999.


“Same age, but I’ve got more experience,” Scott would add.

While Scott will be the youngest mayor in Baltimore’s modern history — he’ll be about two months younger than O’Malley when he’s inaugurated Dec. 8 — he actually will join a somewhat crowded club in city history. There are four Baltimoreans who assumed the office at a younger age.


Three of those mayors served during a 10-year span — 1842 to 1852 — a decade that fell during a particularly “disorderly” period for the city, said Matthew Crenson, a professor emeritus at Johns Hopkins University and a Baltimore historian. The Civil War was fast approaching, the anti-immigrant Know Nothing Party was forming and bloodshed in the city, then dubbed “Mobtown,” was common, he said.

Upon taking office, the young mayors of that era were first charged with addressing the violence, an unenviable task that in some ways mirrors the modern challenge that lies before Scott, Crenson said. Crime in Baltimore factored heavily into the 2020 mayoral race, and polls showed it was top of mind for city voters as Baltimore suffers yet another year of more than 300 homicides.

Other 30-something mayors weathered different challenges. During Robert McLane’s tenure from 1903 to 1904, 80 blocks burned in the Great Fire, decimating downtown and leaving him to lead a massive rebuilding effort.

Here’s more about the tricenarians who preceded Scott in ascending to Baltimore’s highest office.

Solomon Hillen

Mayor: 1842-1843

Age: 31 years, 8 months

Hillen, who was born on his family’s estate on Hillen Road north of Baltimore, spent nearly a decade as a state delegate and then congressman before becoming the city’s youngest mayor ever via a special election. A graduate of Georgetown College, Hillen had returned to Baltimore to practice law, according to congressional archives.

During Hillen’s tenure, the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad expanded service from the city to Cumberland and Baltimore acquired the land needed to expand Lexington Market, according to the Maryland State Archives. The streets around the market were then paved. During an address in 1843, Hillen touted that 558 houses were built that year in the city, as well as 29 sailing vessels and two steamers, the archives state.

Hillen resigned from office in October 1843.

Also a colonel, he led the old Fifth Regiment.

Hillen gave up his law practice due to bad health, and died in 1873 at age 63, state archives show.

James O. Law

Mayor: 1843-1844

Age: 34 years, 7 months

A merchant, Law never held elected office before he became mayor, but he was well known as a leader of the Independent Fire Company, according to state archives.

Fire companies were themselves a source of civic unrest in Baltimore at the time, Crenson said. Competing companies were known to broadcast false alarms and wait for the opposing company to respond. Members of the instigating company would lie in wait in the surrounding streets and alleys, and attack the responding company.

Notably, Law once tried to stop such a fight, Crenson said.


Law assumed the mayoral position after the resignation of Hillen, winning a special election for the post, according to state archives. Under Law’s leadership, the public school system underwent an expansion. An Eastern Female High School was built at Front and Fayette (then Pitt) streets, and a high school for boys was established at Fayette and Holliday streets. That school later became Baltimore City College, archives show.

Law remained active in the military after leaving office and served as flour inspector.

He died at age 38. Historians believe he contracted typhus, then known as “ship fever” while caring for sick immigrants in Canton, according to state archives.

John H.T. Jerome

Mayor: 1850-1852

Age: 34 years, 8 months

Jerome, too, was a political outsider. Before being elected mayor, he ran a vegetable stand outside Lexington Market known as “The Cheap Old Market.” Patrons got discounts for paying in cash, Crenson said.

Before his stint as mayor, Jerome made an unsuccessful bid for the House of Delegates. “He had a really dismal political career,” Crenson said.

Jerome’s ascension to the mayor’s office was a bit accidental. At the time, there was a split in the Democratic Party, opening the door for a Whig to take office, Crenson said. The list of potential candidates fielded by the Whigs was shorter, allowing younger party members like Jerome to rise to prominence.

During Jerome’s tenure, the McDonogh bequest was made to the city, later resulting in the formation of the McDonogh School, according to state archives. Jerome also proposed the acquisition and development of land on Federal Hill, and he advocated for making the waterworks system public. It was then privately owned.

The division of Baltimore City and Baltimore County happened under Jerome’s watch in 1851. Previously, Baltimore City was the seat of Baltimore County.

Jerome served on the board of directors for the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad and for Howard Bank. He died in 1863 at age 47, according to state archives.

Robert McLane 1903-1904

Age: 35 years, 5 months

Born into a wealthy Baltimore family that also sired a governor of Maryland, McLane’s tenure as mayor was shaped by the Great Fire which struck downtown in February 1904.

Begun by a cigar or cigarette that fell into the basement of a dry goods store on the site of the present-day Royal Farms Arena, the fire burned for 30 hours, eventually engulfing 80 blocks and 1,500 buildings.

McLane, uncharacteristically barefaced for the era and famously well dressed, was in command at the fire scene. As darkness fell after a cold, windy day, McLane gave the order to dynamite several buildings along Charles, Baltimore and Lombard streets in hopes of creating a firebreak. The plan failed, instead pushing the fire eastward.

By the time the blaze was extinguished, downtown was decimated. The fire zone stretched west to Liberty Street, north to Lexington Street and east to the Jones Falls. The waterfront also burned.

In the aftermath of the blaze, McLane led recovery efforts, pushing for the widening of streets and the city purchase of the wharf. Merchants who resented the lost shop space resisted the moves.

McLane’s death at age 36 came while he was still in office, and remains the subject of intrigue. Just days after sneaking out of town to secretly marry, he shot himself in the head, according to a coroner’s ruling at the time.


Some of McLane’s descendants doubt his death was a suicide, The Baltimore Sun reported in 2004. But reports from the day of his death indicate he seemed unwell during a meeting at City Hall, Crenson said.


“He was under all sorts of pressure. He had to live up to a standard,” Crenson said. “The fire was probably what drove him to suicide.”

Also in their 30s

After Scott in age, there are five more mayors in their 30s from Baltimore’s annals.

From the early 20th century, J. Barry Mahool started his tenure in 1907 at the age of 36 years, 8 months.

In 1895, Alcaeus Hooper became mayor when he was 36 years and 10 months old.

From the modern era, in addition to O’Malley, who took office in 1999 at the age of 36 years and 10 months, Kurt Schmoke and Thomas D’Alesandro III were in their third decade when they were sworn in.

Schmoke was 38 years old on inauguration day in 1987.

D’Alesandro, the son of a former mayor, took the city’s top job in 1967 at the age of 38 years and 4 months.

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