Lloyd Fox, Baltimore Sun
April 27, 2011
Marvin Mandel was Maryland's first Jewish governor, and at 93, is its oldest living former chief executive. The son of an uneducated clothing cutter and a homemaker, he was born in Baltimore, and grew up in Northwest Baltimore.
He was a 1937 graduate of City College and earned his law degree from the University of Maryland in 1942. During World War II, he served in the Army, and after the war, returned to Baltimore where he established the firm of Mandel, Gilbert, Rocklin and Franklin.
His political career began in 1950 when he was appointed a justice of the peace, and two years later, he was chosen to fill a vacancy in the House of Delegates.
In 1954, he was elected chairman of Baltimore City's delegation to the House, and later was chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. Mandel was subsequently elected to the House in 1954, and re-elected in 1958, 1962 and 1966.
He was selected as speaker of the House and retained that position until 1969, when he was elected governor by the Maryland General Assembly after Agnew resigned.
Major accomplishments during the Mandel years include the reorganization of the executive branch into 12 departments. Also, courts were reorganized with public defenders available for those criminally charged.
The Maryland Department of Transportation was established which managed the construction of the Baltimore Metro and other statewide transportation projects. Public school construction was also expanded during the Mandel years.
Convicted of 15 federal counts of mail fraud and one of racketeering in 1977, Mandel, who earlier that year turned over the reins of government to Lt. Gov. Blair Lee III, was sentenced to a 19 month prison term at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida.
Mandel returned to Annapolis on Jan. 15, 1979, to finish the final few days of his term. In 1987, Judge Frederic N. Smalkin of the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland overturned the conviction.
Mandel, who is still practicing law in Baltimore, has been a member of the Board of Regents for the University System of Maryland for the last decade.