ANNAPOLIS — Maryland’s longest-serving Speaker of the House of Delegates returned Monday to the State House one last time.
Hundreds of current and former elected officials, aides and citizens lined the front walk of the state capitol building and filled the rotunda to watch as Michael Busch, an Annapolis Democrat, was carried in, his Maryland flag-draped casket coming to rest between the historic House and Senate chambers.
Busch was eulogized by current and former state and federal officials of both political parties in a brief ceremony. Included among those speakers were three delegates considered to be possible successors.
“Today and tomorrow we’re going to hear the word ‘coach’ many times,” said Del. Maggie McIntosh, D-Baltimore city and chairwoman of the House Appropriations Committee. “We’re going to hear the word ‘mentor’ many times. We’re going to hear the word ‘friend.’ But the truth is there are no words fitting, loving enough to describe what Michael Erin Busch gave to those of us who served with him. Rest in peace my speaker, our leader, our friend.”
McIntosh fought back tears as she spoke to an audience that included Busch’s wife, Cindy, daughters, Erin and Megan, and sisters, Gail Burkhead, Laurie Bernhardt and Susan Evans.
Busch graduated from St. Mary’s High School, where he was a football star there and then from Temple University, though a knee injury ended his chances of a career in the NFL. Busch then became a history teacher and coach — a style that followed him into his work in the House, where delegates of both parties frequently called him coach.
For Sen. Sarah Elfreth, Busch’s coaching helped her decide to run for the Senate rather than the House of Delegates in 2018.
“He never once told me what to do, he just guided you on what to do,” said Elfreth, an Anne Arundel Democrat who shared a district and ticket with Busch. “That’s just who he was.”
“I spoke to him six or seven days before he died, and the last thing he said to me was, ‘You’re doing a great job, kid,’ ” Elfreth said. “He was the only person I let call me kid. It was such a term of affection.”
For Del. Eric Bromwell, D-Baltimore County and vice chairman of the House Economic Matters Committee, the ceremony was one more chance to say goodbye to the only House leader he had ever known.
“Mike Busch treated me like family from the day that I got here,” said Bromwell, who entered the House the same year Busch became speaker. “He never asked me to do anything that would get me in trouble in my district. He never twisted my arm for a vote. He always understood where he came from and he knew it was very similar to the district that I came from.”
Del. Nicholaus Kipke, R-Anne Arundel and leader of the Republicans in the House, spoke of butting heads with Busch but still maintaining “a special relationship.”
Buch was praised as a figure who found ways to work with those with whom he differed politically.
“He set an example that partisanship should be limited and checked at the door whenever possible,” Kipke said. “I appreciated that about him and hope that legacy lives on in future leaders.”
Former Gov. Parris Glendening, who was in the final days of his second term when Busch was first elected speaker in 2003, lauded the late leader as an example to others.
“In this day and age of increasing corruption, he was a man of integrity,” Glendening said. “In this day and age of, increasingly, government unable to work, he showed government could be effective and most importantly the bitterness of political debate could be civil.”
Busch, 72, died April 7 — one day before the end of the 2019 General Assembly session — after a battle with pneumonia. He had been in declining health in recent years. He underwent a live donor liver transplant in 2017 and an emergency hearth bypass operation in 2018.
Busch will lie in repose in the State House rotunda through 10 a.m. Tuesday.
A funeral service will be held for Busch at St. John Neuman Church, less than 3 miles from the State House.