a baltimore legend has passed

William Donald Schaefer 1921 - 2011

Former Baltimore Mayor and Governor of Maryland, William Donald Schaefer has died.  He was 89.

I was raised in Baltimore.  He was elected Mayor when I was 10 and remained in that position for 15 years.  My parents were big Schaefer fans, so he was a big part of my life also.  As an adult, I was very honoured to be able to meet him when he was serving as Governor.

The man did so much for the city of Baltimore.  He was responsible for the building of Harborplace.  Although I hate it, and miss the Inner Harbor the way it used to be with wide open spaces and fields, Harborplace has been very good for the city.

He built Camden Yards for the Orioles and the M & T Bank Stadium where the Ravens now play.  After the Colts left Baltimore in the middle of the night, in the middle of a blizzard, he provided the framework for getting a new NFL team to the city.  Schaefer also brought the light rail system and the Aquarium to Charm City, USA.

A lot people thought he was a nut.  He was known for his temper and his outbursts.  But when reporting on them, it was always noted that he was just saying what everyone else was thinking.

He was flamboyant and often sought publicity, not for himself, but for the city and the state.  When the National Aquarium opened late instead of on schedule, he donned an old fashion swimsuit and a straw boater hat and took a swim in the seal pool, complete with a rubber ducky, as penance.

credit: The Baltimore Sun photo by Lloyd Pearson

When leaving the office of Mayor, to be inaugurated as Governor of the state, he had himself hoisted by crane onto a cruise ship docked at the Inner Harbor.  The cruise ship then sailed to Annapolis, the state capitol.

Neither of these events, without his antics, would have been reported anywhere, except maybe a note in the local paper.  As it played out, both events were reported world wide.   Free publicity for the National Aquarium, the Inner Harbor and Harborplace, the city of Baltimore and the state of Maryland.

Schaefer was one of the few politicians that showed he cared about his constituents.  Former aides say he read every letter that came across his desk  and took action as often as he could.  As Mayor, he would walk the streets and make phone calls to various city agencies when he saw something wrong, just to get it fixed. He would asked residences what he could do for them.

It was always about the people and what he could do to make things better for them.  It was about building better schools, bring in better jobs, keeping the roads fixed, the libraries and museums open.  He got things done

He was a cheerleader for the city and the state.  It was his hometown/state and he loved it and the people in it.  He has made the biggest impact on the city and state than any other politician has ever made or, quite possibly, ever will make.  He was a one of a kind.

Years from now, people will walk by his statue at the Inner Harbor and wonder who he was.  A Baltimore legend, as much as Johnny Unitas, Brookes Robinson, Cal Ripkin, Edgar Allan Poe.  He was a man who cared.

It’s the end of an era in Baltimore.  Rest in peace Willie Don.

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4 Responses to a baltimore legend has passed

  1. When I was young, I spent a lot of time going to Baltimore to go to the Aquarium, Camden Yards (mostly to root for the Red Sox, though the Orioles were my second pick), etc. It’s amazing to know that there was one man behind all of those changes. I can’t think of Baltimore without them!

  2. Scuba Man says:

    You forgot his desire to issue a driver’s license to Zamboni drivers. One of my personal favorites from our time there. 🙂

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