Archives of Maryland
(Biographical Series)

William Donald Schaefer (1921-2011)
MSA SC 3520-1489

Biographical Statement of William Donald Schaefer, January 1999

William Donald Schaefer--elected November 1998 as Marylandís 32nd comptroller of the treasury-- has served in public office for 40 years at both the state and local level.  He was governor of Maryland 1987 to 1995; Mayor of Baltimore City, 1971 to 1987; President of the Baltimore City Council, 1967 to 1971; and member of the Baltimore City Council, 1955 to 1967.

Comptroller Schaefer is a life long Maryland resident, born in West Baltimore on November 2, 1921 to William Henry and Tululu Irene Schaefer.  He was educated in Baltimoreís public schools and was graduated from Baltimore City College in 1939.  Mr. Schaefer received his J.D. degree in 1942.

Mr. Schaeferís legal career was put on hold by the U.S. entry into World War II.  He joined the Army, achieved officer rank, and took charge of administering hospitals in England and the European Continent.  Following his tour of duty, he remained in the U.S. Army Reserves and retired in 1979 with the rank of colonel.

After the war, Comptroller Schaefer resumed his legal career, practicing real estate law.  He earned a master of law degree in 1954 from the University of Baltimore School of Law and formed a general practice law firm with two colleagues.  His concern for city planning and housing in the city propelled him to a seat on the Baltimore City Council in 1955.

In 1967, Mr. Schaefer ventured into citywide politics by running successfully for council president.  Four years later he also ran successfully for the mayorís office where he served for four consecutive terms until he was elected governor in 1986.

Former Governor Schaefer currently holds the Schaefer Chair at the University of Marylandís School of Public Affairs in conjunction with the Johns Hopkins University Institute for Policy Studies.  He is actively involved in a project to revitalize the Hampden area of Baltimore, working with interns from Hopkins.

Prior to his election as comptroller, Mr. Schaefer was of counsel at the law firm of Gordon, Feinblatt, Rothman, Hoffberger & Hollander, LLC, in downtown Baltimore.  In 1997, Governor Parris Glendening appointed Schaefer chairman of the Maryland Commission for Celebration 2000, the stateís official organization to plan and implement an observance of the millennium.

Former Governor Schaefer is also involved with many civic and charitable organizations and is on the boards of several non-profit organizations, as well as of state and local colleges.

He is the recipient of 15 honorary degrees; Presidentís Medal, Johns Hopkins University; Jefferson Award for Public Service by an elected official; the Vernon Eney Award, Maryland Bar Foundation; and the Distinguished Service Award, Democratic Party.

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Biography from Baltimore City Government,
Schaefer was born in Baltimore on November 2, 1921, the son of William Henry Schaefer and Tululu Irene Schaefer, both of German heritage and both Episcopalian.

His father was a lawyer, and the son followed in his footsteps, earning the LL.B. degree in 1942 and the Master of Laws in 1951 from the University of Baltimore. He served in the Army between 1942 and 1945, as a colonel.

The city of Baltimore [850,000 in size] has a so-called strong mayor form of government. The city charter provides for a council of nineteen members, three elected from each of six districts, plus a president elected citywide. The council is empowered to set the property tax rate, cut the mayor's proposed budget, and confirm nominations. But the real power, particularly in an era of massive state and federal aid to cities, is given to the board of estimates, which makes all fiscal operational decision. While the president of the city council is president of the board of estimates the mayor is also a member and controls two more votes of the five-member board through appointment. A Democrat, Schaefer served on the city council, 1952-1967 and was its president, 1967-1971. In 1971, Schaefer won the mayoralty election. The mayor, a bachelor, has devoted his life to his city. He also demands high levels of accomplishment from himself and others who work for him. This trait, together with the strength of his position and character, enables him to attract many able subordinates.

In 1975, Schaefer defeated the mayoral challenger, C. M. Chandler, by a 91,335 to 16,036 vote. A recent analysis of Schaefer's first eight years (two terms) gave him high marks for achievement but lower grades when compared with Thomas J. D'Alesandro (q.v.), on his image for humaneness and sense of identity with the less fortunate. Baltimore was at least 47 percent black by 1970. Mayor Schaefer encouraged economic development as an important source of jobs for lower class and middle class people. More recently, the promotion of tourism, eight years in the planning, has taken a major priority. The mayor has cooperated with law enforcement officials only to see crime rates rise and fall and rise again. He has frequently become involved in fights over expressways. He sees them as an economic advantage but has often been forced to compromise with irate citizens of threatened local neighborhoods. In other ways, he encourages these same citizens to organize. Stadium improvements, an aquarium, a and what some call the finest waterfront development program in the entire United States are among his achievements. He has also worked hard to improve the city's schools, which were victims of de facto segregation and ineffective leadership during the first half of the decade.

Schaefer cut his urban teeth as a member of Baltimore's prestigious Citizen's Planning and Housing association. as mayor, he worked with Commissioner Robert Embry to bring many federal funds to the city and used them creatively. Schaefer is a fiscal conservative and has therefore been able to keep the city's bond rating high during a period of urban collapse elsewhere. Finally, Schaefer has claimed to push Baltimore's neighborhoods as major sources of civic strength. He continuously praises them and attends their events. He has decentralized city government by placing eleven mayor's stations throughout the city where citizens can receive help and can communicate with local representatives of city hall.

Schaefer has sought to blend fiscal accountability, public works improvements, political sensitivity and civic pride to lift his city's hopes and aspirations. As a result, Baltimore is experiencing a claimed renaissance. In November 1974, he was reelected by a vote of 118,706 to 25,072 (S. A. Culotta) to his third four-year term. While some contemporaries speak derisively of his authoritarian style, history may well record him as one of Baltimore's greatest mayors.

Reprinted from Biographical Dictionary of American, 1820 - 1980. Greenland Press.

Source:  Baltimore City Government,
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Revised: November 04, 1998

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