By Colleen Jenkins
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, September 15, 2002; Page SM03
Numerically, Samuel C. Linton Jr.'s loss in the Democratic primary election Tuesday was fitting. The longtime state delegate for Charles County had never served more than two consecutive terms, and reelection this year would have bungled a thrice-repeated pattern.
But Linton's colleagues and supporters said a fourth-place finish in a primary that nominates the top three did not seem quite right for the man whose service to the county spanned five decades. He offered the General Assembly a long-range perspective that few others could provide, his friends said after Tuesday's votes were counted.
"He could always bring a different perspective to appropriations and state highways and bridge building that most of the other people couldn't," said Del. Van T. Mitchell (D), a fellow Charles legislator. "We're going to sorely miss that. Not only Charles County but on a statewide level."
For "Buddy" Linton, 79, the Democratic primary victories by Mitchell and state office newcomers Jim Jarboe and Sally Jameson mark the end of a political career. He will leave as chairman of the Charles County delegation in Annapolis and as a member of the House of Delegates' important Appropriations and Ways and Means committees.
At the end of the year, he'll have to remove his special state delegate license plate from his truck. He'll nail it to his garage wall with the collection of tags he has accumulated from his other House of Delegates stints -- 1958-1966, 1982-1990 and 1994-1998.
He's disappointed that he won't be returning to Annapolis when a new General Assembly session opens in January, but the winning and losing that marked his political life is a cycle with which he is intimately familiar.
"I've been through World War II and I've served in combat and I've seen tragedy," Linton said. "I've learned to handle emotions, so this is not the end-all. I was joking with my daughters that I wanted to put a sign up that said: 'I'll work for food.' [But] they said, 'Well, you just passed a law where you can't do that.' "
Linton helped push hundreds of bills and changes through the legislature, and his opinions weren't always warmly received by the Charles County electorate.
His second term coincided with the 1960s civil rights movement. In the early 1960s, he voted in favor of a bill to end segregation in Maryland public facilities. He had worked side by side with African American soldiers when he was an Army Air Corps flight engineer on the B-17 bombers flying missions over Germany during World War II.
"I felt like it was right to treat everyone on an equal basis," he said. "That's what that law did. And that was not what people down here wanted."
Voters booted Linton from his seat in the next election, and he returned to the Nanjemoy tobacco farm where he was raised. For the next 20 years, he and his wife Jane, his first love whom he'd married three days before going to war, tended the farm and raised their five children.
But the lumber business and later the wheat, corn, soybean and cattle business couldn't keep Linton away from political life permanently. He returned to the House of Delegates in the 1982 election to fight for local bills on roads, education and agriculture.
During his most recent terms, he was the "point person" for all local legislation, said Sen. Thomas McLain Middleton (D-Charles).
"He's been a real gentleman, nothing but a gentleman," Middleton said. "Both new members and older members of the legislature have a real fondness and respect for Buddy."
Members of the county's Statehouse delegation, known for their harmonious relationships, said losing Linton from their force came as a surprise. But other political observers said they were not shocked by Linton's defeat, citing his decreased public energy level and the fact that he had debated whether to seek reelection.
Linton acknowledged that he probably would have retired before now had his wife not died five years ago. But he felt committed to serving again after receiving a clean bill of health from his doctor.
Linton will stay active on his farm, now run by son Samuel C. Linton III, spend time with his four grandchildren and tool around in his small Piper airplane.
He is throwing his support behind Mitchell, whom he has known since Mitchell was a boy. As Linton dismantled his campaign signs after the primary, he asked homeowners if Mitchell could put up his signs in their place.
That gesture, an example of Linton's enduring loyalty and good sportsmanship, certainly was a fitting end for a career of service to others, colleagues said.
"He was a tremendous role model," Mitchell said.
© 2002 The Washington Post Company