William Donald Schaefer, who was being remembered Tuesday for his larger-than-life personality, will arguably get the grandest send-off of any Maryland politician in history.
Plans call for Schaefer, the former Maryland governor, comptroller and Baltimore mayor, to lie in state Monday and Tuesday in the rotundas of the State House in Annapolis and City Hall in Baltimore.
In between, a motorcade carrying his coffin will drive by Baltimore landmarks, likely including the tourist-centered Inner Harbor, which he transformed as a four-term mayor, and the neighborhoods of Little Italy and Fells Point, where he loved to mingle and dine.
Funeral services are scheduled for Wednesday at an historic church in downtown Baltimore, where former parishioners include a signatory to the U.S. Declaration of Independence, early U.S. Supreme Court justices and Maryland’s first governor.
“It is fitting that as we mourn the loss of Maryland’s indomitable statesman, the people of Maryland can celebrate his legacy properly,” Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) said as he and Baltimore officials jointly announced next week’s plans.
Schaefer died Monday night at age 89, capping a political career filled with media stunts, a “do it now” mantra and compassion for everyday citizens. Funeral services were delayed until next week partly because of the Easter holiday.
Schaefer, a Democrat who was twice elected governor starting in 1986, will be the first Marylander to have held that office to lie in state in Annapolis, according to historians.
The unprecedented public viewing is a fitting tribute for a politician whose personal life was inextricably linked with his public service, said the state’s archivist, Edward C. Papenfuse.
“That’s what set him apart from other people involved in the public world,” Papenfuse said.
“He represents an extraordinarily devoted public servant at a caliber that very often we do not see in public office.”
The tradition for honoring the lives of former Maryland governors has largely been limited to religious ceremonies and the flying of the state flags at half-staff.
The services for former vice president Spiro T. Agnew, who in 1996 was the last Maryland governor to die, were quiet and simple, according to state archives. Agnew had resigned as vice president in 1973 after a federal investigation into bribery and extortion allegations that included his tenure as governor.
Although Schaefer will be the first former governor to lie in state at the State House, there have been other public viewings in the historic capital building, including one for former longtime state comptroller Louis L. Goldstein, a colorful politician dubbed “Mr. Maryland” who died in 1998.
Those close to Schaefer contacted the governor’s office to request a formal state funeral, said Papenfuse, who also serves on the State House Trust, which oversees the use of the building and its grounds.
“I can’t imagine anyone who would merit one more than Willie Don,” said Herbert C. Smith, a McDaniel College political science professor, using the former governor’s nickname. “He was a remarkable public official who stamped his personality, his determination and his vision on Baltimore City and the state. He almost defined Maryland politics for several decades,” Smith said.
Schaefer served as Baltimore’s mayor between 1971 to 1987. While perhaps best known for transforming Maryland’s largest city, Smith said Schaefer’s public works efforts, including widening state roads and replacing a drawbridge leading to the Atlantic coast, made traveling “far less aggravating and easier.”
The state archives has been collecting memorabilia from Schaefer’s public and private life since he reluctantly moved from his townhouse to a retirement community in 2008. The archives will make the materials available for exhibits and research, Papenfuse said.
Speaking to reporters Tuesday, O’Malley suggested a greater legacy for Schaefer than his public works projects: For a politician who was “impatient with the slowness of government . . . he had all the time in the world to talk to citizens on the street.”
O’Malley and the Maryland National Guard are scheduled to take part in an arrival ceremony at 10 a.m. Monday at the State House.
Plans call for Schaefer to lie in state there for public viewing until 2 p.m. and then be taken to Baltimore for the motorcade’s trip.
He is scheduled to lie in state at Baltimore City Hall from 6 to 9 p.m. Monday and from 9 a.m. until 9 p.m. Tuesday.
Funeral services at Old St. Paul’s Church begin at 11 a.m. Wednesday with interment to follow at Dulaney Valley Memorial Gardens in Timonium.
Staff researcher Magda Jean-Louis contributed to this report.