The gaggle of top state officials, close family members and long-time friends who turned out Wednesday to bid farewell to Marvin Mandel bore witness to the former governor’s broad bipartisan style.
His death last weekend at age 95 prompted an assemblage of Maryland dignitaries that likely would not otherwise come together.
The military guards who escorted Mandel on his final visit to the State House--and draped the Maryland flag over his casket--were able to quiet this crowd, but only for a few moments. It seemed all those gathered in the ancient rotunda had a Mandel story to tell.
Perhaps most moving were the comments of current governor Larry Hogan, Mandel’s successor four decades removed, who is facing his own mortality thanks to a bout with cancer.
"This is an opportunity for us to honor a great man, a great governor, a father, grandfather and a friend to so many of us," Hogan told a gathering in the State House rotunda. "I for one will never forget the wonderful times that I spent with Governor Mandel. How much I learned from him, the time we spent together."
Hogan is one of only two Republican governors elected since Mandel left office in 1978 after a tumultuous run that scored big political victories, but was tarnished by a corruption scandal.
But like Hogan, former GOP governor Robert Ehrlich calls Mandel a mentor from a more civilized political era. Ehrlich described Mandel as a "close friend, master tactician (who) did not see party. Dinosaur. Miss him," Ehrlich said. "He didn’t even recognize this political environment today. He didn’t like it. He hated it. He hated the partisan ship."
The many Democrats among the scores on hand today also recalled that Mandel had a persuasive gift that was non-partisan. Among them was former state senator and lieutenant governor Mickey Steinberg.
"When I was a legislator, it was remarkable how he could convince you to go his way without you feeling like you’re being pushed. And that was a characteristic that contributed to his success," Steinberg said.
Former Democratic Governor Harry Hughes had his disagreements with Mandel over the years but said he also admired Mandel’s negotiating style.
"Very quiet, never really got terribly excited. Never saw him lose his temper and he accomplished a lot in his very quiet way," Hughes recalled. "And was a very good governor.”
In the years since Mandel left public service, he has continued to be a friend and mentor to folks who sought his help. Among those also in attendance today was former state Senator Tommie Broadwater, a Prince Georges county power broker who has had his own legal problems.
"It’s a sad day for me," Broadwater said. “The governor was a good friend of mine. He helped me an awful lot in my career. We went to basketball games together. We ate dinner together a few times…But the main thing is that whatever I was involved in that if I needed any help that he would give me the help I needed."
In what might be viewed as a final act of kindness to those who cared for him, Mandel died quietly Sunday afternoon in the car on the way home from a family crab feast in St. Mary’s County. He simply stopped breathing.
His son, Paul Dorsey, who promised Mandel he would never put him in a nursing home, said the experience was almost poetic.
Mandel’s funeral is scheduled for 11 a.m. Thursday at Sol Levinson's and Brothers Funeral Home in Pikesville.