Governor Marvin Mandel dead at 95; spent last days enjoying grandchildren, Ravens and steamed crabs
By Ken Rossignol
THE CHESAPEAKE TODAY
COMPTON, MD. — “After an afternoon of eating crabs and spending the weekend in St. Mary’s County and enjoying the Ravens last night,” Phil Dorsey, stepson of Gov. Marvin Mandel, told THE CHESAPEAKE TODAY, “the Governor died at Harborview this afternoon.”
The location of Governor Mandel’s death was at the river-front home of Dorsey, located just off Breton Bay in Compton. Dorsey’s mother, the late Jeanne Blackistone Dorsey Mandel, was married to Governor Mandel in 1974 and became First Lady of Maryland. Mandel had been vacationing with his son Paul Dorsey and Mandel’s grandchildren at the summer place which overlooks the expansive Breton Bay for the last few months as his health declined.
Mandel became Governor upon election by the Maryland General Assembly in 1969 upon the resignation of Governor Spiro T. “Ted” Agnew who had been elected Vice-President to President Richard M. Nixon. Mandel ran for and won a full term in 1970 and was re-elected in 1974.
After a federal investigation Mandel was convicted of various racketeering charges and went to federal prison, leaving Lt. Gov. Blair Lee III as Acting Governor. An appeal to federal appeals court resulted in Mandel’s conviction being overturned and he was restored as Maryland’s Governor for the final three days of his term. His license to practice law was restored to him and he continued to practice law until his death.
A confidant of several Maryland Governors, Mandel continued to have the influence in Maryland politics that led him to being selected Speaker of the House and eventually becoming Governor.
His colorful reign as Governor put Baltimore firmly in the center of business and politics with Mandel often conducting state business from Chick & Ruth’s Deli in Annapolis or on the state yachts, the Maryland Lady or Fifty-Fifty.
The give and take of corruption charges and money revolved around the allocation of racing days at the now-defunct Marlboro Race Track in Upper Marlboro. The election of Mandel’s successor as Governor, Harry Hughes, of Denton, a state senator whom Mandel appointed Secretary of Transportation, led to Hughes being considered a “reformer” after the scandals that hit Annapolis and Washington during the Watergate era.
With the resignation of Vice President Agnew, who was accused of taking cash bribes while in the office of the Vice President – continuing the payola from his days as County Executive and Governor; Nixon’s resignation and the conviction of Mandel and eventual over-turning of that conviction, the days of trials and tribulations in Maryland made it into the history books.
Mandel’s more low-key return to his law practice, which included his son Paul Dorsey, represented some of the top-level companies in Maryland. Mandel continued to be a close advisor to Governors Schaefer and Ehrlich during their years in office.
His last trip to St. Mary’s County mirrored the many he made years ago as he courted Jeanne Dorsey, whom he married following the breakup of his marriage to Barbara Mandel.
“We had been to Sandgates and over to Fitzie’s Marina this weekend and he and Paul stayed last night at Harborview,” said Phil Dorsey, a Leonardtown attorney and son of the late Walter B. Dorsey. Dorsey’s grandfather, Circuit Court Judge Phillip H. Dorsey had been an old political ally of Mandel, as had his father who was States Attorney in St. Mary’s County. “He died in the place he had enjoyed so many times over so many years.”
Statement from Governor Larry Hogan on Passing of Former Governor Marvin Mandel
Governor Hogan orders flags to fly at half-staff in honor of former governor
ANNAPOLIS, MD – Governor Larry Hogan today issued the following statement in response to the passing of former Governor Marvin Mandel. Governor Hogan also ordered flags to fly at half-staff in honor of the former governor.
“The First Lady and I send our deepest sympathies and condolences to the Mandel family and all those who loved and cared for him. The state of Maryland lost not only a former governor but also a truly great leader and someone countless people thought of as a friend, including myself. I will be forever grateful for the advice, wisdom, and stories Governor Mandel has shared with me throughout the years.
“No other governor has had the lasting impact on all three branches of Maryland government and while he held elective office for 28 years, he dedicated his life to making our state a better place to live. It is with heavy hearts that we say goodbye to Governor Mandel, but I know that his legacy will live on, through the many people he touched during the course of his life.”
Lobbyist and close Mandel associate Bruce Bereano released this statement on behalf of the Mandel family:
Former governor Marvin Mandel, the 56th elected Governor of Maryland passed away this afternoon peacefully after having spent two days in St. Mary’s County visiting with his family and the family of his former wife Jeanne Dorsey Mandel while celebrating the 50th birthday of their son Paul Dorsey.
Governor Mandel Served as Governor of Maryland from 1969 to 1979. He brought the State of Maryland into the 20th century during his public service by significantly modernizing all three branches of government – the legislative branch as Speaker of the House of Delegates, and as Governor, the executive and the judicial branches of government.
So many programs and benefits that Marylander’s have today and rely upon were established by Governor Mandel such as – The Maryland Public School Construction Program to relieve county government of the financial burden of building schools, establishment of the Maryland Shock Trauma Emergency Medical Services System, enactment of the strictest gun control laws at that time, and the passage of the state’s first public accommodations statute to prohibit racial discrimination.
Former Governor Mandel’s son, Paul Dorsey, expressed that “Governor Mandel was a great governor but more importantly a great father and grandfather. He spent his final weekend with family in St. Mary’s County eating crabs and enjoying the beautiful scenery that St. Mary’s has to offer. He lived life to the fullest.”
Official funeral arrangements will be announced early this week.
Maryland Memories with Mandel
To the Editor:
I served as a legal assistant while in law school with Governor Mandel’s “Commission to Revise the Annotated Code of Maryland” at the Maryland State Capital, Annapolis. Going to day, night and summer school classes at the University of Baltimore School of Law I graduated in a record 2.5 years.
On June 19, 1974, at a private admission to the bar of Maryland party held at historic Middleton’s Tavern in downtown Annapolis’ waterfront district, former Speaker of the House John Hanson Briscoe, Senate Majority Leader Roy N. Staten, and other working colleagues joined with my parents in congratulations to my admittance to the Bar. A surprise visit, just a stroll down the hill from Government House (the official governor’s residence), Jeanne and Marvin Mandel showed up and nonchalantly joined in the revelry…much to my parent’s surprise. My parents lived about 50 miles away from my adopted Annapolitan home. The ways and the people that had become my new friends and professional colleagues in the state capital were so different than the then semi-rural area of Reisterstown, Md.
Many times during my early years as a law student and subsequently as a young solo law practitioner in Annapolis I joined the governor and Jeanne at their “private seating gallery” at the famous Chick and Ruth’s Deli on downtown Annapolis’ Main Street. Marvin counseled me never to forget the practical application of the laws that I helped revise and both the work hour tutelage with the top legislative leaders in Maryland and the experience of living and working in a capital city older than America itself. My “Bohemian” colorful career had been launched.
In the montage of pictures accompanying the exclusive article by Ken Rossignol in The Chesapeake Today on Governor Mandel’s death is a panoramic view of Harborview where the former governor died on August 30th. The lone small yacht pictured, a classic Chris Craft Commander 31, is my beloved SIGMACHI.
Many more yarns and stories to share some time and someplace involving my loyalties to the Dorsey family and my fealty to them and the governor.
Ah, memories….the Chesapeake Bay, the Annapolis Statehouse, the governor’s sailing yacht (Gesture) that was the most magnificent sailing vessel I’ve ever been on, the state yacht (Maryland Lady), an eventful evening with my chums Phil Dorsey and “Rooster” John Rue staying overnight at Government House while the official residents were in D.C. My, oh my! And the end of an era with the passing of the legendary Marvin Mandel at the site of the most beautiful sunrises in Maryland…all overlooking my beloved SIGMACHI.
After my legislative job I was a private practitioner in Anne Arundel, St. Mary’s, and Wicomico Counties in Maryland. I worked for several years at different times with the Dorsey Law Firm in Leonardtown, St. Mary’s County, Maryland. As a professional prosecutor in 4 jurisdictions in Maryland, Delaware, and an almost 4 year stint as an Assistant Attorney General for the United States Virgin Islands Department of Justice I had learned my lessons well and the words of Governor Mandel stayed with me professionally and the graciousness and politically savvy ways of Jeanne helped for my character.
End of an era….but the torch has been passed!
Alan V. Cecil