Maryland Comptroller Dies at 85
By Martin Weil
Louis L. Goldstein, a legend in Maryland politics, died last night after apparently collapsing at his home in Calvert County less than two weeks after announcing his campaign for an unprecedented 11th consecutive term as state comptroller. He was 85.
Known to many in the state simply as "Louie," Goldstein had held statewide office longer than anyone else in Maryland and possibly in the nation, first winning the comptroller's post 40 years ago. A Democrat who first ran for office in the 1930s, he was viewed as unbeatable and often was referred to as "Mr. Maryland."
Details about his death were scanty last night as officials sought to notify Goldstein's relatives. An ambulance was summoned to his home at 7:57 p.m. after it was initially reported that he had collapsed near the swimming pool. He was pronounced dead at Calvert Memorial Hospital at 8:43 p.m., state police said.
There had been no public sign of ill health. Indeed, when he formally announced his intention to seek reelection June 23, he said he felt "as good . . . as when I went into the Marine Corps at 29." A morning swim was part of his daily ritual.
His sudden death left a gaping void in Maryland electoral politics, with only three days to go before the filing deadline for the Sept. 15 primary. Many leading state Democrats and Republicans had long since abandoned any ambitions to challenge Goldstein, but his death will almost certainly precipitate a last-minute scramble for the post, state politicians said last night.
Many recognized Goldstein as the state's white-haired, robustly outgoing goodwill ambassador, a handshaker's handshaker, passing out fake coins as souvenirs and bestowing his trademark greeting, "God bless y'all, real good." He was recalled as someone who possessed true human warmth, who attended endless rounds of dinners, ribbon-cuttings and other gatherings and had an uncanny memory for names and faces.
As comptroller, he was the state's chief tax collector, who also paid the state's bills. He was especially proud of mailing out tax refund checks promptly and of the state's AAA bond rating, a Wall Street measure of fiscal soundness. Although he started in his job in the 1950s, he kept up with modern technology; when he died, his office was developing a system to allow Maryland taxpayers to file their tax returns from their personal computers.
By virtue of his office, he was also one of three members of the Board of Public Works. The board, one of the most powerful political bodies in the state, approves most state contracts and major purchases. Governors and state treasurers might come and go, but Goldstein was a fixture on the board, establishing a reputation as a zealous guardian of the public purse, a firm foe of excess and waste.
As the news began to spread last night, friends and colleagues from both parties in government responded with expressions of shock about the suddenness of his death as well as praise for his abilities and accomplishments.
"I knew that Louie would die in office," said former Maryland governor William Donald Schaefer (D). "You just can't believe the state of Maryland without Louie. I just saw him a couple of days ago. If there's an event, he will be there. He could be in Cumberland in the morning, on the Eastern Shore in the afternoon, and in Hagerstown at night. He really loved to campaign and to be around people."
Schaefer's successor, Gov. Parris N. Glendening (D) described Goldstein as a man of trust and integrity, and a source of strength for the Maryland. Glendening said that Goldstein symbolized continuity.
"Governors came and went. Senators came and went. Presidents came and went," Glendening said. "But Louie was there."
Del. Howard P. Rawlings (D-Baltimore) said: "He was just extraordinary. To run such an efficient office and to be recognized across the country as one of the best-run controller's offices . . . was really his major strength."
Noting Goldstein's seeming omnipresence on the Maryland political scene over the years, Rawlings said, "You thought he was like a building that was always going to be there. That is why this is such a shock."
Goldstein was born in Prince Frederick, in Calvert County, March 14, 1913. His father, Goodman Goldstein was a Jewish immigrant from Eastern Europe.
From the elder Goldstein, who operated a general store in Prince Frederick, the son learned salesmanship, and apparently a dexterity with figures as well. As a boy, it was said, Louis Goldstein could add three columns of figures in his head. From his dealings with the customers who came to the store, he began to develop a way with people.
Goldstein was educated in the public schools in Baltimore and Calvert County, and he received a bachelor's degree from Washington College in Chestertown, Md. He studied law at the University of Maryland, receiving a degree in 1938.
A dyed-in-the-wool Democrat, he attended 14 of his party's national conventions as delegate or alternate. After the bombing of Pearl Harbor brought the United States into World War II, Goldstein enlisted in the Marines as a private. He served in the Asian and Pacific theaters, and after the surrender of Japan, he was a member of Gen. Douglas MacArthur's staff, investigating war crimes in the Philippine Islands.
He was discharged as a first lieutenant and later was a member of the reserves, holding the rank of captain. His political career began even before the war. The year he got his law degree, he was elected to the Maryland General Assembly as a delegate from Calvert County. After the war, he was elected a state senator from Calvert, serving from 1947 to 1958. During that time, he was majority leader (1951 to 1955) and then president of the Senate (1955 to 1958).
In 1958, Goldstein was elected to the job he would hold for the rest of his life.
It was not that he had no other ambition; he did. He was interested in the governor's chair, but it was not to be. In 1964, he lost in the Democratic primary for the U.S. Senate to Joseph D. Tydings. Goldstein had long since accepted his fate, he said. "The good Lord has a lot to do with a career," he said. "I don't regret it."
This year, Goldstein was without a challenger in the Democratic primary but was to face Republican Tim Mayberry, of Boonsboro, in the November contest for the $100,000-a-year job. It was to have been a rematch of the 1994 race for comptroller when Goldstein won over Mayberry by a 61 percent to 39 percent ratio.
The Maryland Constitution provides for the governor to appoint an interim successor to Goldstein, pending the results of the fall elections. Glendening said his staff will research the issue on Monday.
Goldstein was not without his critics and during his electoral career was not immune from accusations of impropriety. James Moorehead, a Democratic rival in 1994 accused him of using his office to profit from a Calvert County land deal in 1984. He was also accused of failing to hire women and minorities. Goldstein denied the allegations. Goldstein's father had begun buying Calvert County land, and by last year, Goldstein owned about 2,000 acres, including the land that forms the site of Oakland Hall, the Goldstein family home for 40 years.
Some of the family land had been sold in 1967 to Baltimore Gas & Electric; the Calvert Cliffs nuclear plant was built on land that had belonged to the family. The price was twice the appraised value, and critics contended that Goldstein might have benefited from his office.
He called the allegations, which were never substantiated, the result of "a lot of jealousy."
Goldstein's wife, Hazel, who was also a lawyer, and whom he had married in 1947, died in 1996 at age 79. Associates said Goldstein was devoted to Hazel and devastated by her death. The day after he buried her, however, Goldstein was up early to attend festivities marking the 300th birthday of Prince George's County, according to former House delegate Timothy F. Maloney.
When he ran for his 10th term four years ago, Goldstein said he would not run again. But her death prompted him to change his mind.
"She wouldn't want me sitting around on my backside," he said. He described himself as a man who would rather wear out than rust out.
He and his wife had three children, Philip Goldstein, Louisa Goldstein and Margaret Janney.
"I thought he'd go on forever." said Mary Krug, a county commissioner in Calvert County and a Democrat. She said she last saw him about two weeks ago at a political fund-raiser, still on the dance floor while everyone was leaving. "That's a good last memory." she said. "It really summed him up. This was a man who lived until he died."
Staff writers Dana Hull, Daniel LeDuc, Richard Pearson and Lyndsey Layton contributed to this article.
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