Tomorrow morning, if everything goes according to schedule, Carlton Sickles will get in his car, drive a few blocks from his Lanham home to the New Carrollton station and ride Metro to work in downtown Washington.
Many other people are expected to do the same thing tomorrow, the first day for Metro's new Orange Line, but of those, only Sickles can lay legitimate claim to having been responsible for the creation of Metro.
"I always thought they should have named it the New Carlton station," Sickles tells friends jokingly, "but they refused."
Sickles, now 57, is perhaps best known nationally for having lost the Democratic primary election in 1966 that made it possible for Spiro T. Ag-new to win the Maryland governor-ship and then advance to other things.
In the Washington area, Sickles would like to be known as a regionalist, which he undeniably is. The crowning achievement of regionalism is Metro.
There had been talk of a Washington subway dating back to the early part of this century. But it was in 1955, during the Eisenhower administration, that the Metro seed was planted with the appointment of The Joint Commission to Study Passenger Facilities and Services in the Washington Metropolitan Area. For obvious reasons, it became known simply as the Joint Commission.
Sickles, in his first year as a Prince George's County member of the Maryland House of Delegates, was appointed to the eight-man body. He stayed on the commission even after he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1962 as Maryland's at-large congressman.
Metro historians give approximately equal shares of credit to Sickles, the late Virginia State. Sen. Charles Fenwick (D-Arlington) and Robert E. Mc-Laughlin, the District commissoner under Eisenhower, for having pushed Metro to the point where it became possible.
Increasingly in recent years, Sickles has been referred to as "the father of Metro." "If that means that I'm the guy who actually conceived Metro - then I have to say no," Sickles said. "But if you're talking about a guy who has husbanded it through the early growing pains, I'm happy to take partial credit."
Warren Quenstedt, Metro's retired deputy general manager and one of the early administrative leaders in the agencies that preceded Metro here, said Sickles' role was that of a "consummate politician . . . He has given (the Metro program) a tenacity and a continuity, but has done so without being obtrusive.
"Charlie Fenwick could deliver anything in the state of Virginia. Sickles helped in Maryland and then later in the Congress. When he spoke up, people would listen to him with trust.Sickles would purr, say, 'It's all right, lets go along with it.' Because Sickles had said it, they would go along with it."
"The first thing we had to do," Sickles said, "was set up a regulatory body that worked for the metropolitan area, not just each of the three states." The result was the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Commission, which set fares, granted franchises for the metropolitan area and permitted the routes of suburban bus companies to extend into Washington [passengers, until that point, had to transfer at the District line].
"Secondly," Sickles said, "we had to design an authority that could build and operate a subway transit system. In the interim, we needed a planning agency." The National Capital Transportation Authority, a federal body, was created to do the planning and negotiations began toward the establishment of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority - Metro.
When Metro came into being in 1967, the planning agency went out of business. Metro was empowered to build the subway and later had its authority amended so that it could acquire and operate the four area bus companies as well as the subway.
Both the transit commission and the Transit Authority (Metro) had to be created through approval of identical documents by the legislatures of Maryland and Virginia, the Congress and the District of Columbia government. That achievement is regarded as a minor miracle.
While the Metro negotiations were continuing through the late 1950s and into the 1960s, Sickles' political career - and his ability to help the Metro cause - were advancing as well.
He grew up in Northwest Washington, he was a World War II veteran, a Georgetown graduate, a labor lawyer. He started in politics at the civic association level, then was drafted to run for the House of Delegates from Prince George's County in 1954.
He was reelected even after breaking with the party leaders who had first selected him, and he used his new credentials as a reform candidate to win election to Congress as Maryland's at-large representative in 1962.
In Congress Sickles supported among other things a high-speed railroad between Washington and Boston, home rule for the District of Columbia, intensive efforts to clean up the Chesapeake Bay and the Baltimore air, civil rights legislation and Metro. His liberal credentials and his regional view have served him well in dealing with District of Columbia oficials.
He was drafted to run for governor as a reform candidate in 1966, and set off running hard in favor of open housing legislation, one of the major national issues of the day. Thomas B. Finan, then the Maryland attorney general, was believed to be his chief opponent in the Democratic primary.
But George P. Mahoney, a perennial Maryland candidate, hit upon a campaign slogan that became famous nationally: "Your home is your castle, protect it."
"I could feel his hot breath, particularly late in the campaign," Sickles recalled. The closing weeks were particularly acrimonious as Sickles defended open housing legislation and Mahoney protected homes. Mahoney won the primary by about 1,600 votes out of 474,000 cast. The Democrats were unable to reunite and defeat the Republican nominee, Baltimore County Executive Spiro T. Agnew.
"Everybody blames me for Agnew." said Sickles. "Believe me, that wasn't what we started out to do."
Sickles tried to return to Congress in 1968, but was defeated in the Democratic primary. "I regret having left Congress," he said, "because I enjoyed that."
Sickles is out of politics now, but is chairman of a Maryland state commission that is studying the Public Service Commission.
When the Metro transit authority was finally established Sickles was on the first board. He was chairman in 1971, and has been a director or alternate during most of the board's existence. He is still a member of the Washington Suburban Transit Commission, which appoints Maryland representatives to the Metro board.
Sickles is head of Carday Associates, which plans and administers pension and other employe benefit programs from offices at 1003 K St. NW, within walking distance of two Metro stations.
Metro, having won again the federal commitment it started with 10 years ago, still has serious financial problems, but Sickles thinks they will be solved.
"It's difficult now," he said. "In my time we were soaring with the eagles instead of scratching with the chinkens; we were forming the city. But look now. Everybody's so proud of Metro. It's clean, neat, sleek fast - all of the things we hoped it would be. Those things don't just move ahead because of engineers.
"I feel like it's mine, but I don't mind sharing it with anybody."