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Government & Politics

Md. Leaders Remember Paul Sarbanes

U.S. Sen. Paul Sarbanes, second from right, when the Washington Redskins brought the Super Bowl trophy to the U.S. Capitol in 1983. Also pictured, left to right: football coach Joe Gibbs, then-Montgomery County executive Charles W. Gilchrist, and his daughter, Janet, Sarbanes, and then-U.S. Rep. Michael Barnes. Photo courtesy of Bill Bronrott.

Leading Marylanders and former colleagues remembered the late U.S. Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes (D-Md.) Monday as a dedicated, low-key public servant who worked his pet issues skillfully and assiduously and never sought the limelight.

Sarbanes died Sunday at the age of 87, his son, U.S. Rep. John P. Sarbanes (D-Md.), announced late Sunday evening.

Tributes to the late lawmaker, whose political career spanned 40 years, rolled in all day Monday — from political leaders, former colleagues, advocates and everyday Marylanders.

At home, Sarbanes was known best for his advocacy for the Chesapeake Bay and public transit — at a time when both issues hadn’t reached the political mainstream. And at the national level, he will always be recognized for Sarbanes-Oxley, a financial reform law that protected consumers, investors and taxpayers against unscrupulous corporate accounting practices.

Here is a sampling of tributes to Sarbanes that came in Monday:

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.)

“The people of Maryland and all Americans have lost a leader and public servant of dignity and principle, Senator Paul Sarbanes. His 40 years of tireless service, as a member of the Maryland House of Delegates, the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate, strengthened our nation and made a difference in the lives of countless Americans.

“In Congress, Paul Sarbanes was respected by his colleagues on both sides of the aisle for his humility, tenacity and keen intellect. It was a source of great pride for me that his Congressional career began in the same House seat held by my father. All Marylanders can take pride in Paul Sarbanes’ leadership as a defender of our American Democracy on the Judiciary Committee, and in his tireless work to bring integrity, transparency and oversight to Washington. As Chair of the Banking Committee, Senator Sarbanes passed Sarbanes-Oxley, landmark legislation that to this day helps hold bad financial actors accountable for fraud and abuse: a powerful testament to his commitment to working people that leaves an enduring legacy.

“May it be a comfort to Senator Sarbanes’ children, Michael, Janet and our colleague, Congressman John Sarbanes, and the entire Sarbanes family that so many mourn their loss and are praying for them at this sad time.”

Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R)

“Paul Sarbanes honorably served alongside my father during Watergate before going on to represent Maryland in the U.S. Senate. Over his many decades of public service, Sen. Sarbanes was a sincere and passionate advocate for our state and its natural resources. Today, we mourn his loss and send our deepest sympathies to his family.”

U.S. Sen. Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.):

“Paul Sarbanes of Maryland was one of my heroes in the Senate. Intelligent, articulate, funny, willing to fight for what he believed in — a class act. When asked about my favorites in the Senate, I always said his name. May every public servant aspire to live by his standards.”

U.S. Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin (D-Md.)

“Maryland mourns the loss of an incredible public servant and champion of the Chesapeake Bay with the death of Sen. Paul Sarbanes. He set new, needed standards for transparency and good governance. Rep. Sarbanes, our thoughts are with your entire family.”

U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.)

“Today we mourn the loss of the son of Greek immigrants who rose from humble roots on Maryland’s Eastern Shore to make an important and lasting impact on our entire country and help millions of his fellow Americans – Paul Sarbanes. Both during his time serving in the House of Delegates and as our state’s second-longest serving United States Senator, Paul Sarbanes was a tireless advocate on behalf of all Marylanders. His leadership in preserving the Chesapeake Bay, expanding access to affordable housing, and protecting Main Street investors in the bill that bears his name, Sarbanes-Oxley, are enduring testaments to his legacy of positive change. Paul was known for always doing his homework and for his sharp questioning – woe to the witness who appeared before his committees unprepared.

“On a personal note, I will never forget Paul’s kindness when I worked with him as a staff member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in the 1980s, or his mentorship during my first term in the House, and his willingness to offer advice and counsel when I was elected to the Senate in 2016. He was a role model for me and so many others who believe that public service is a noble calling. Katherine and I send our condolences to his children John, Michael, and Janet, to his brother Tony, and to all of Paul’s family during this difficult time. Paul Sarbanes left a legacy of compassion, integrity, humility, and hard work that Marylanders will never forget.”

U.S. House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.)

“Today, I mourn the loss of my good friend, fellow legislator, and statesman Senator Paul S. Sarbanes. Paul and I entered the Maryland State Assembly the same year and he continued to serve the people of Maryland until his retirement in 2007.

“The son of Greek immigrants who settled on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, Paul spent his career holding the most powerful people in our country accountable. From introducing the first article of impeachment against President Richard Nixon to authoring the Sarbanes-Oxley Act to protect American consumers from fraud, Paul was never afraid to do the right thing.

“Though he avoided the spotlight, Paul was a man of great intellect and integrity. He was a very effective legislator and a leader with a vision and strong ethical character. I was honored to work closely with him throughout our careers together. We worked on such issues as civil rights, environmental protection, the Chesapeake Bay, education, campaign finance reform, health care accessibility, consumer protection, and many more. Throughout his life, he fought tirelessly to make life better for families in Maryland.

“Paul was a true champion for the people of Maryland and America. I will miss him greatly. His loss will be felt deeply throughout our state, and I join in expressing my deepest condolences to his children — John, Michael, and Janet — as well as the entire Sarbanes family.”

U.S. Rep. Kweisi Mfume (D-Md.)

“Paul was a gentle giant and a man of courage and conviction. He set a standard for compassionate leadership that few could match. He will be sorely missed but never forgotten.”

Baltimore Orioles

“The Orioles mourn the passing of revered Senator Paul Sarbanes. The son of Greek immigrants, Senator Sarbanes was a giant of Maryland’s political landscape and a remarkable public servant for the people of our great state.”

Conservative commentator Bill Kristol

“I ran the hopeless campaign against Sen. Sarbanes in 1988. I recall chatting with him after the one debate he’d agreed to and trying to get him to agree to another one. He laughed, said ‘Nice try,’ and invited me to come by to visit after his reelection.”

Former Gov. Martin J. O’Malley (D)

“Paul Sarbanes was a pillar of integrity for Maryland in the U.S. Senate. A powerful intellect and a compassionate human being. Paul Sarbanes was a true statesman whose passion for our democracy and our shared humanity will be greatly missed.”

Donald C. Fry, president, Greater Baltimore Committee

“In many ways, he’s a role model of the way elected officials should be – dignified, honest and deeply focused
on what’s best for their constituents. Despite being a busy legislator, he was always accessible and sought out
the private sector viewpoint when weighing legislation.”

Gene Ransom, MedChi CEO

“Senator Sarbanes served the state of Maryland for many decades. He was a genuine and ardent advocate for our state and was a true friend of medicine.”

Chesapeake Bay Foundation President William C. Baker

“A man of great intellect, Paul Sarbanes was a life-long public servant. He was one of the most thoughtful and sincere elected officials I have ever known. At the top of his priority list was protecting the environment. And at the top of that list, saving the Chesapeake Bay.”

Maryland House Speaker Adrienne A. Jones (D-Baltimore County)

“Sen. Paul Sarbanes’ decades-long service to Maryland had a profound impact on our state. His quiet but steadfast leadership was a model for so many of us that came behind him. Sending my sincerest condolences to Rep. Sarbanes and his family. All of us lost a great Marylander today.”

MSNBC host Lawrence O’Donnell

“Everyone (D&R) liked and respected Senator Paul Sarbanes. He did the work everyday and never worried about who was getting the credit.”

State Senate President Bill Ferguson (D-Baltimore City)

“A life well-lived.”


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Md. Leaders Remember Paul Sarbanes