Lawrence J. Hogan Sr., a combative Maryland political figure who rose to national prominence in 1974 by being the first Republican member of the U.S. House Judiciary Committee to call for President Richard M. Nixon’s impeachment, died April 20 at Anne Arundel Medical Center in Annapolis. He was 88.
His son, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan Jr. (R), announced the death. A spokesman for the governor said the elder Mr. Hogan died of complications from a stroke.
A onetime FBI agent, Mr. Hogan projected an image as a scrappy politician and conservative stalwart as a three-term congressman in the 1960s and 1970s and later as Prince George’s county executive.
Nevertheless, he possessed an independent streak, most visibly when he put his political future at risk by turning against a president from his own party during the Watergate scandal.
After being an early volunteer for his fellow Massachusetts native, Democratic presidential hopeful John F. Kennedy, Mr. Hogan switched parties during the 1960 campaign and threw his support to Nixon.
Mr. Hogan first sought office in 1966, losing a bid for Congress. Two years later, when Nixon won the presidency, Hogan was elected to the House of Representatives. Prince George’s County was undergoing rapid change from a rural, largely white and working-class suburb to an urbanized community with a growing black population.
Mr. Hogan campaigned as an old-guard champion of conservative causes, gaining crossover support from conservative Democrats for, among other things, his opposition to forced busing to desegregate the county’s schools. He sought to enlist the White House and Justice Department in an attempt to block a federal court order mandating desegregation in Prince George’s. He was easily reelected in 1970 and 1972, winning more than 60 percent of the vote each time.
On July 23, 1974, one day before the House Judiciary Committee was to begin debate on whether to impeach Nixon over his actions during the Watergate scandal, Mr. Hogan took his most notable public stand.
“Richard M. Nixon has, beyond a reasonable doubt, committed impeachable offenses” and participated in “an extended and extensive conspiracy to obstruct justice,” Mr. Hogan declared at a news conference.
That night, Mr. Hogan purchased 15-minute time slots in four Maryland television markets to explain why he would vote to impeach the president.
“The evidence convinces me that my president has lied repeatedly, deceiving public officials and the American people,” he said.
Until that point, Mr. Hogan had been seen as a loyal Nixon supporter and a reliably conservative Republican voice in Congress. The effect of his “blistering declaration of independence,” syndicated columnist George F. Will wrote, brought Mr. Hogan national recognition and left the White House feeling as though it had been “slugged on the base of the skull with a sock full of wet sand.”
Mr. Hogan was the only Republican member of the Judiciary Committee to vote for all three articles impeachment against Nixon. In a letter to his GOP colleagues, Mr. Hogan urged them to put party allegiance aside to uphold deeper constitutional principles.
“While the travesties of Watergate were perpetrated outside the regular channels of Republican Party organizations, they were all committed by Republicans for the benefit of a Republican president,” he wrote. “Do we want to be the party loyalists who in ringing rhetoric condemn the wrongdoings and scandals of the Democratic Party and excuse them when they are done by Republicans?”
Nixon resigned the presidency on Aug. 8, 1974.
At the time, Mr. Hogan was the leading candidate in the Republican primary for Maryland governor. His stance on Watergate almost certainly cost him his party’s gubernatorial nomination, which was won by Louise Gore a month after Nixon left office. Gore lost the general election in a landslide to Democrat Marvin Mandel.
Critics from both parties charged that Mr. Hogan’s call for Nixon’s impeachment was an opportunistic effort to gain statewide publicity during the governor’s race. But in a 1987 interview with The Washington Post, he said he had no such calculated purpose in mind.
“I assumed that in coming out for impeachment I would lose the nomination, which I did,” he said. “It had absolutely nothing to do with politics. I still resent people saying that now.”
Lawrence Joseph Hogan was born Sept. 30, 1928, in Boston and grew up in Washington. His father, a bookbinder, was a Democrat and an ardent union member.
Mr. Hogan graduated from Gonzaga College High School in 1946 and from Georgetown University in 1949. He received a law degree from Georgetown in 1954 and a master’s degree in public relations from American University in the mid-1960s.
He joined the FBI in 1948 while still in college and spent more than a decade with the law enforcement agency. He opened a public relations firm in 1959 and later became a lecturer at the University of Maryland in the 1960s, known on campus for his 8 a.m. lectures and tough grading.
In 1978, four years after his failed gubernatorial campaign, Mr. Hogan returned to public life by running for Prince George’s county executive. That year, inspired by California’s budget-
cutting Proposition 13, Prince George’s leaders pushed through the Tax Reform Initiative by Marylanders, placing a cap on county property taxes.
Mr. Hogan capitalized on that trend, making lower taxes and fiscal restraint the central themes of his campaign. Brandishing a report on how he could cut the county budget by $43 million, he castigated county leaders for lavish spending on schools, social programs and personnel. He was elected by a 3-to-2 margin over incumbent Winfield M. Kelly Jr.
As county executive, Mr. Hogan eliminated more than 3,000 jobs, including those of more than 500 teachers. He slashed the budgets for libraries and schools, and infrastructure spending fell to a bare minimum.
From the start, Mr. Hogan had a bitter relationship with the County Council, often battling over political appointments. Once, in a fit of rage, Mr. Hogan threatened to castrate Democratic Council Chairman Parris N. Glendening, who eventually succeeded him. Glendening served as Maryland governor from 1995 to 2003.
Mr. Hogan’s strained relations with labor leaders helped precipitate a 1980 strike, in which 1,500 county employees walked off the job for 11 days. Amid the tumult, a prisoners’ riot broke out at the county jail. Mr. Hogan fired 121 jail guards, and the other employees went back to work without a contract.
During his four-year term, Mr. Hogan reduced the county’s property tax rate by 20 percent, cut the county’s budget and eliminated 2,400 public employees from the county payroll. He was also credited with improving the county’s low-income housing program and with doubling the number of African American police officers, including naming the first black deputy police chief in Prince George’s.
As the only Republican officeholder in a heavily Democratic jurisdiction, Mr. Hogan attributed many his problems as county executive to partisan rancor.
The Fraternal Order of Police, which had supported Mr. Hogan’s run for county executive in 1978, turned against him after contract disputes and other quarrels. The leader of the police support group called Mr. Hogan “a little Napoleon.”
Mr. Hogan’s final campaign for public office came in 1982, when he challenged Democratic incumbent Paul S. Sarbanes for the U.S. Senate.
Mr. Hogan was criticized for being slow to renounce negative television ads run on his behalf by the National Conservative Political Action Committee and for calling Sarbanes a “do-nothing senator” and other, more derogatory names.
“Maryland needs a more aggressive and more faithful U.S. senator,” Mr. Hogan said on the campaign trail. “And, heaven help me, if nothing else, I am aggressive.”
Despite the presence of Ronald Reagan in the White House, Mr. Hogan had only tepid support from the GOP establishment. Sarbanes won the election with more than 63 percent of the vote, and Mr. Hogan never sought office again.
“You can’t have a burning passion as a Republican candidate in Maryland,” he said after his losing Senate bid. “Every time you run, it’s like putting your head on the chopping block.”
Mr. Hogan moved to Frederick, Md., where he opened a law firm with his second wife, Ilona Modly, whom he married in 1974.
His first marriage, to Nora Maguire, ended in divorce.
Besides Modly and Larry Hogan Jr., survivors include four sons from his second marriage, Matthew Hogan of Costa Rica, Michael Hogan of Portland, Ore., Patrick Hogan of Frederick and Timothy Hogan of Annapolis; two sisters, Mary O’Connell of Wheaton, Md., and Audrey Love of Alexandria, Va.; a brother, William Hogan of Ashburn, Va.; 11 grandchildren; and 10 great-grandchildren.
A daughter from his first marriage, Mary Theresa Lazarus, died in 2016.
While Larry Hogan Jr. was running for the Maryland governor’s office in 2014, he often cited his father’s stance toward Nixon as an example of political courage.
After the 2016 election, the governor revealed that he wrote in his father’s name on the presidential ballot, rather than vote for either of the major-party candidates.
In announcing his father’s death on Facebook, Larry Hogan Jr. called his father “an American hero.”
“He taught me more about integrity in one day than most men learn in a lifetime,” the governor said, “and I’m proud to be his son.”
This obituary has been revised and contains additional, updated information.