Of all the members of the Baltimore delegation to the Maryland General Assembly when I was assigned to cover that body in 1967-68, one of the most promising, it seemed to me, was Walter S. Orlinsky. Wally, as he was called, was what you'd call a shiny-bright, seemingly pragmatic idealist with the sense of the big picture who seemed to stand out among a group of pols motivated chiefly by self-interest.
One day during a recess, Wally invited me to visit his shabby Baltimore law office. With an assertion of outrage, he laid out a bribery scheme assertedly involving a leader of the legislature. Unfortunately, proof was elusive, and I had to drop the matter. The leader ultimately went to prison, convicted on an unrelated but similar charge.
Last Wednesday, Orlinsky, himself convicted of taking bribes as the Baltimore City Council president, went off to federal prison. "He's the last one I'd have expected," Richard Homan, my colleague in covering Annapolis in those years, said the other day. Amen.
The list of disgraced Maryland officials from those days is sadly long: Spiro T. Agnew, Marvin Mandel, W. Dale Hess, Joseph Alton, Dale Anderson, Jerome B. Wolff . . . .
But for those who might turn cynical, it's worth remembering that the list of the honest ones is infinitely longer.