Hall of Fame - Page 22 - Paul S. Sarbanes

Hall of Fame
- Page 22
Paul S. Sarbanes
Humble former U.S. senator beat the odds as an outsider to become a political force

BACKGROUND

Age: 86

Born: Salisbury

Education: Wicomico High School, Princeton University; Rhodes scholar, Balliol College, University of Oxford; Harvard Law School

Career: Law clerk, 4th Circuit Court of Appeals; administrative assistant to the chairman of the President’s Council of Economic Advisers; associate, Venable, Baetjer and Howard; member, Maryland House of Delegates; member, U.S. House of Representatives; U.S. senator Civic engagement: President’s Commission on White House Fellowships; American Academy of Arts and Sciences; American Bar Association; Close Up Foundation Board of Advisors; National Endowment for Democracy Board Member; National Student Leadership Conference Honorary Board of Advisors; Roosevelt Institute Board of Governors; U.S. Capitol Historical Society Board of Trustees; member, Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Annunciation

Family: Married to the late Christine Sarbanes; sons John and Michael Sarbanes; daughter Janet Sarbanes; seven grandchildren

Not long after a 33-year-old Baltimore lawyer declared his candidacy for the Maryland House of Delegates, The Sun’s editorial board looked the political newcomer over and decided he might amount to something someday. Calling his a “candidacy of more than routine interest,” The Sun decided that Paul S. Sarbanes, a Salisbury native, Princeton Phi Beta Kappa, Rhodes scholar, Harvard Law honors graduate and former assistant to John F.

Kennedy’s top economic adviser had distinguished himself by choosing to run for a seat in the General Assembly’s lower chamber instead of “seeking high elective office.” How refreshing to witness “such a display of political modesty,” The Sun observed in an editorial headlined, “The Bottom Rung.”

Peter Marudas, Mr. Sarbanes’ former chief of staff, still chuckles about it today. One thing is for certain, the Oxford-educated Mr.

Sarbanes might have had impeccable academic credentials, but politically, he was an outsider. What he brought to the table instead was an easygoing manner, a love of learning and desire to explore the intricacies of public policy and yes, a dose of humility. The son of Greek immigrants, he grewupwashing dishes and mopping floors in his family’s diner, the Mayflower Grill on Main Street.

“Long hours and no pay,” recalls Mr.

Marudas. “His parents had passed along a work ethic.”

In Annapolis, Mr. Sarbanes proved himself to be his own man. He sought to ban “walk around” money and got into a squabble with then-Gov. Spiro Agnew who had called one of his political reform bills “Sarbanality.” The upstart delegate coined anewtermforsubmitting a “knownothing”budget and stooping to name-calling: “Agnewsticism.”

“He was just a dignified, intelligent person. Always thoughtful and a hard worker,” says U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin, who was elected to the House of Delegates the same year. “He just took enormous pride in his work.”

Electedto the U.S.House ofRepresentatives in1970 and then the U.S. Senate in 1976, Mr. Sarbanes continued to demonstrate how hard work could trump money and connections. To win his Senate seat, he had to dispatch the scions of two Maryland political dynasties: Joseph Tydings in the Democratic primary and Republican incumbent JohnGlenn Beall Jr. in the General Election. That November, he won with 59 percent of the vote.

While representing Baltimore in the House, Mr. Sarbanes was chosen by JudiciaryCommitteeChairmanPeter Rodino to introduce the first article of impeachment, an obstruction of justice charge, against Richard M. Nixon in 1974. But it was during his five terms in the Senate (the longest of any Marylander until his fellow senator Barbara Mikulski came along) that he really made his mark, including as Senate sponsor of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 that protects the public from fraudulent accounting in wake of the Enron and WorldCom scandals. Closer to home, he was instrumental in efforts to protect the Chesapeake Bay and to find a way to dispose of dredge spoil to preserve thousands of jobs associated with the Port of Baltimore.

Colleagues remember him fondly as a “senator’s senator,” but Ms. Mikulski thinks of him as her “champion.” It was, after all, Mr. Sarbanes who took her aside and showed her the ropes of the Senate, who helped her secure a plumcommittee assignment and was sure to touch base with her every single day.

“Working with Paul was one of the great joys of being a member of Congress,” recalls Ms. Mikulski. “You never needed to worry about hidden agendas with Paul. It was always a clear, straightforward agenda, and we were a very good team.”

How fitting, then, that one of his most lasting legacies can still be found in Maryland’s 3rd House District where his son, John Sarbanes, has made the same daily commute from Baltimore to Capitol Hill since 2007 to serve in his dad’s old seat in the House. From the start, he became accustomed to people on the Hill telling him, “If you can be one-quarter as good as your father, you’ll do a great job.”

“The first word I shall always associate with my father is integrity,” John Sarbanes says. “I think he really represented that in everything he did.”