The Maryland Senate honored an emotional former Gov. Marvin Mandel on his 93rd birthday Tuesday, remembering his decades of public service while leaving his legal travails unmentioned.
In a ceremony that came as a surprise to the former governor, the Senate presented Mandel with a proclamation honoring his accomplishments over a long political career in the House of Delegates and as chief executive from 1969 to 1979.
Mandel, whose service as governor was interrupted by a criminal conviction on corruption charges in 1977, heard praise from senator after senator -- several of whose careers intersected with his during his service as governor or in later public positions.
The former governor, whose conviction would ultimately be overturned, was invited by Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, told the senators Mandel was speaker of the House when Miller first came to the General Assembly as a young staff member in 1966. Miller recounted a long list of accomplishments during Mandel's gubernatorial administration, including the purchase of Baltimore-Washington International Airport, reform of the judiciary, establishment of the Transportation Trust Fund and state wetlands protections.
"He was not just a good governor but a great governor," said Miller.
In the only allusion to Mandel's legal troubles, which sent him to federal prison before his conviction was vacated in 1987, Miller said "I've made mistakes, he's made mistakes."
Mandel appeared in robust health and spoke in a strong voice as he addressed the senators from Miller's perch on the rostrum.
"I always wanted to stand in the shoes of the president of the Senate," said Mandel, whose entire legislative career was spent in the House.
After the ceremony, Mandel said the honor came as a "total surprise."
"I'm still a little shocked. You can see the tears in my eyes," said Mandel, who still practices law in Annapolis.
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