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Former Md. Gov. Marvin Mandel dies at 95

Former Md. Gov. Marvin Mandel dies at 95

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Former Gov. Marvin Mandel has died at the age of 95, according to a statement issued Sunday evening by his family.

Mandel, the 56th governor of the state, died Sunday after a two-day visit with family in St. Mary’s County where he attended the 50th birthday party of his son, Paul Dorsey.

“Governor Mandel was a great governor but more importantly a great father and grandfather,” Dorsey said in a statement. “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.”

Former Maryland Gov. Martin Mandel, left, is embraced by Gov. Larry Hogan in May at a reception honoring Mandel for his 95th birthday. (Flickr / Maryland GovPics / "Gov Mandel's 95th Birthday" / CC BY 2.0 / cropped and resized)
Former Maryland Gov. Martin Mandel, left, is embraced by Gov. Larry Hogan in May at a reception honoring Mandel for his 95th birthday. (Flickr / Maryland GovPics / “Gov Mandel’s 95th Birthday” / CC BY 2.0 / cropped and resized)

Mandel’s tenure in office was marked by successes and controversy.

Born in Baltimore in 1920, Mandel attended Baltimore City schools and graduated from Baltimore City College. He later earned a bachelor’s degree from University of Maryland at College Park and a law degree from the University of Maryland School of Law in 1942.

He was first elected to the House of Delegates in 1952. He rose to become the speaker of the House in 11 years, a position he held until 1969.

Mandel was elected governor by the Maryland General Assembly on Jan. 7, 1969 after his predecessor, Gov. Spiro T. Agnew vacated the office to become vice president. The election later lead to an amendment to the Maryland Constitution creating the modern office of the lieutenant governor.

As governor, Mandel was credited with establishing a modern government system of Cabinet positions mirroring the federal government, which reported to the chief of staff. He also established the mass transit system and a statewide school construction program.

But his tenure was marked with personal problems including a federal conviction, later overturned, and a messy public divorce.

Mandel was convicted of mail fraud and racketeering related to the transfer of race days involving Marlboro Race Track. During that time, Mandel refused to vacate office and named Blair Lee III the acting governor “until further notice.”

Mandel returned to office January 15, 1979, just two days before his term expired.

He served 19 months of a 36-month sentence that resulted in six years of appeals, a commutation by then-President Ronald Reagan and a federal appeals court ruling that in 1988 threw out the previous conviction.

During his time in office, Mandel also struggled with personal problems including a divorce in which he moved out of Government House to live with Jeanne Dorsey, who would later become his second wife. During that time the governor’s then-wife, Barbara Oberfeld Mandel, refused to move out of the governor’s mansion.

The couple later divorced.

Gov. Larry Hogan Sunday night ordered Maryland flags to be flown at half-staff in honor of Mandel.

“The First Lady and I send our deepest sympathies and condolences to the Mandel family and all those who loved and cared for him,” Hogan said in a statement. “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.”

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