The Sun (Baltimore) December 11, 1994, Sunday,

Copyright 1994 The Baltimore Sun Company
The Sun (Baltimore)

December 11, 1994, Sunday, FINAL EDITION


LENGTH: 2263 words

HEADLINE: The governing principles of Frances Hughes Glendening
From Political Daughter to Political Wife

BYLINE: Arthur Hirsch, Sun Staff Writer


At their 25th reunion last summer, members of Allegany High School Class of 1969 realized that Frances Hughes Glendening was Francie no more. The chubby girl who starved herself to make the school drill team had grown so thin, cut her hair so short that some of her old buddies hardly knew her.

To commemorate the disappearance of pudgy young Francie Anne, the Class of 1969 voted Frances Hughes Glendening "Most Changed Woman." But the changes were mostly on the surface.

Mrs. Glendening, 43, has dropped many pounds but still speaks her mind, still drives herself like someone pursuing the shadow of her own perfection, still turns a cheerful face to the world. She appeared at the reunion with her husband, Parris Nelson Glendening, the 52-year-old Prince George's County Executive and gubernatorial candidate who was soon to embark on the political fight of his life in the general election. The political daughter had become a political spouse, still stomping the campaign trenches with the main man in her life.

As a girl she had walked beside her father, the former state delegate and senator George R. Hughes Jr., when he waged his campaign for Congress in 1970 and lost by fewer than 4,000 votes.

Some people in town figured they'd see Mr. Hughes -- no relation to former Gov. Harry R. Hughes -- move into the governor's mansion one day. Instead, he vanished from elective politics and later slipped into a manic-depressive illness from which he never recovered.

Late on the night of Oct. 16, 1978, he was found dead of asphyxiation at the wheel of his car in the closed garage of the family home in Cumberland. The 53-year-old lawyer and former tax court judge left no suicide note. He left behind a wife, four daughters and a son.

On a winter day nine years later, Mrs. Glendening's 17-year-old brother, Raymond, died of an overdose of morphine. Almost eight months later her mother, Patricia F. Hughes, succumbed at 57 to the bone marrow cancer she had been fighting for seven years.

Mrs. Glendening's response to so much loss has been to "be very vigilant with the family, and even close personal friends. Always try to be the one who really listens. . . . My family is my highest priority. You know my career is important to me. But still. There's nothing, there's no office, there's no amount of money that is equal to that."

Her career takes a new turn next month when she becomes Maryland's first lady -- and by all accounts, the new governor's top political adviser.

It's been that way long before the name Hillary conjured venom on the talk shows. The governor-elect says he always has sought his wife's counsel and will continue to do so.

That was clear last month when Mr. Glendening appeared before a crowd of reporters and television cameras to announce the formation of his transition team. His lieutenant governor-elect, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, sat on a bench off to the side. Standing with him at the podium was Mrs. Glendening, co-chair of the transition.

Since then, the name "Hillary Glendening" has been tossed around on the talk shows and in letters to the editor. Mrs. Glendening says the comparison to Mrs. Clinton is way off.

"I just want to be myself," she says in an interview at campaign headquarters in College Park. "And that's what I'm going to continue to be. . . . I do what works best for me. And Parris and I do what works best for us as a couple, and as a family."

Joel Rozner, an Annapolis lobbyist and former Glendening chief of staff in Prince George's County, says that in the operation of county government, "Her hand, her shadow wasn't there." A parallel with Hillary Rodham Clinton, he says, "doesn't exist."

Since Mr. Glendening was first elected Prince George's County Executive in 1982, his wife has helped manage the passage to each new administration. Once the new term begins, however, her habit has been to back away, let her husband do his job and return to her own work as a $ 90,000-a-year policy adviser at the Federal Elections Commission. She says she'll do the same this time, although no one has any doubt about her influence on the governor-elect, however informally she exerts it.

"If you're looking for someone to label his No. 1 adviser, I think it would be Francie," says Lance Billingsley, a Prince George's County lawyer who has known Mr. Glendening about 20 years.

Mr. Glendening has developed a reputation for some of the most disciplined, best-organized political campaigns Maryland has known. Much of the credit for that goes to his wife, say Mr. Billingsley and Mr. Rozner.

"She is not sitting at the head of the table of our core group because she's the candidate's wife, but because she belongs there," says Mr. Rozner, a member of the transition team.

She brings, says Mr. Billingsley, "a wealth of knowledge and experience in Maryland politics."

A life of politics

She was raised in it. By the time Frances Anne turned 3 years old, her father, a moderate Republican attorney specializing in real estate and labor law, was beginning his first term in the House of Delegates. She was 5 when he was named House minority leader, 11 years old when he entered the state Senate in 1962.

The Hughes house on Dent Lane was known as a social center, a place where Mr. and Mrs. Hughes presided with charm amid the company of state senators, delegates, lawyers, judges, labor leaders, crowds of their children's friends and the occasional visit from Gov. Spiro T. Agnew and former Gov. Theodore R. McKeldin.

Mr. Hughes "was very outgoing, a wonderful host," says Howard Buchanan, who was the Hughes' next-door neighbor and close friend. In Cumberland, Mr. Hughes was a popular figure known for his funny stories, his long hours at the law office and his integrity.

Between him and his oldest child, Frances Anne, "there was an obvious love affair," says Mr. Buchanan, 65, who co-owns a family lumber business in Cumberland.

"She just adored her father," says Cathy Blank, a member of the Allegany High School class of 1969. "In your typical conversation, people didn't know who my father was or where he worked. You always knew she was Senator Hughes' daughter. . . . It wasn't 'my mom and dad,' it was always 'my dad, my dad, my dad.' "

Ms. Blank, who teaches nursing at Allegany Community College, remembers that when the class needed to argue a point with the teacher, it was usually Francie who acted as spokeswoman. She was sociable, outgoing, driven to succeed.

When the drill team instructor told her she had to lose weight to make the Arrowettes, Frances Anne went on a starvation diet, says the instructor, JoAnn Stangel. One Sunday morning at church, says Ms. Stangel, "she fell over a communion rail" in a faint from hunger.

But she made the prestigious 80-member team, which in those days performed at National Football League games and the Cotton Bowl.

In high school, Mrs. Glendening says she had little doubt about what career path she would pursue. It had to be public service, she says. Asked the reason, she says, "my Dad," and she talks about fond memories of growing up in the company of politicians.

Asked what it was that attracted her to her husband when she met him at the University of Maryland, she says: "He's very bright. I had a brilliant father."

Parris Glendening, a political science professor nine years her senior, became her adviser soon after she transferred to College Park from Western Maryland College. She was a sophomore at the time. She took a few of his classes in government and political science, then started working on public opinion surveys for him.

"I used to kid him about being stuffy," she says. "He was very formal. I was Miss Hughes, he was Dr. Glendening."

He was also a member of the Hyattsville City Council, soon to be elected to the Prince George's County Council. She says she liked his interest in government service.

They knew each other about two years before they started dating around 1974, the year she graduated with a bachelor's degree in government, politics and English. Eventually, she also earned a master's degree in public administration and American government, then a law degree from Catholic University.

The couple were married in November 1976, in Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Cumberland, a 19th-century stone building on a hill overlooking the old city. Mrs. Glendening gave her husband a choice: She would change either her name or her party affiliation, but not both. She remains a registered Republican.

Family in turmoil

As her husband's political career bloomed and he prepared to campaign for a second term on the Prince George's County Council, Mrs. Glendening's father began suffering an emotional breakdown. Mr. Buchanan said he noticed his old friend experiencing bouts of depression and hyperactivity, saying things that were not rational. He says he urged Mr. Hughes to get some help.

Mrs. Glendening did, too. She remembers a conversation she had with her father in her living room two weeks before he died.

"I was trying in the most positive way to get him to get help," she says. "I said, 'I know you're having a very difficult time right now. Whatever I can do, we'll do.' "

He thanked her, but he was "from the old school," Mrs. Glendening says. He never sought help. Early on the morning of Oct. 17, Mrs. Glendening got a telephone call from a neighbor, telling her what had happened. She drove immediately to Cumberland.

"What I remember was how odd it was. I remember the colors. Nothing else in the world had changed. The fall was still there and the colors were still there. At my father's funeral I remember looking up and seeing the colors. I always loved the fall."

A realization

His death shook her with the realization that one can strive to be the best daughter, the best career woman, the best person, and things can still turn out for the worst.

"I really did everything I could possibly do, and I couldn't bring about the result I wanted," she says. "That was probably the most difficult thing to accept."

She went for counseling and urged her mother to do likewise. Even in grief, she says, she tried to apply discipline. It worked. Sometimes.

"It helped me to allow myself certain times of the day when I'm going to think about it. . . . That was my own way. Everybody has their own way. . . . Off and on for a couple years my sense of humor, while I have a good one from my mother and father, went underground."

During that time, the Glendenings' only child, Raymond, was born in 1979. He's now a student at DeMatha Catholic High School in Hyattsville.

About a year after Raymond's birth, Mrs. Glendening's mother was diagnosed with bone marrow cancer, beginning a seven-year ordeal of treatment.

Mrs. Glendening's brother Raymond, who was only 11 at the time, entered adolescence burdened by grief. He started drinking, and "He seemed to be angry a lot," Mrs. Glendening says. Late in 1986, the family admitted him for treatment at the Finan Center in Cumberland. Apparently it was too late.

Mr. Buchanan remembers the snowy morning in January 1987 when the ambulance pulled up to the Hughes house and the medical technicians carried Raymond out unconscious after the overdose. This time, Mrs. Glendening received a call from her mother. By the time his oldest sister arrived in town by train, he had died at Sacred Heart Hospital. He left no note.

"My mom spent the last six months of her life trying to figure out" if her son intended to kill himself, says Mrs. Glendening. In August of that year, Patricia Hughes died at a hospital in Takoma Park.

Adamant about family

"My mother had the illness for seven years, and throughout that time I spent a lot of time with her," says Mrs. Glendening. "And I am so glad that I did. I would not have traded that for anything. And she spent a lot of time with our son. And he has that as well. . . . That's why we're so adamant about family time."

The experiences prompted her to volunteer for the board of directors of the Hospice of Prince George's County Inc., which just broke ground on a $ 3.7 million care center, and the Prince George's Suicide Prevention Center and Hotline. As Maryland's first lady, she says she'll continue working for both organizations.

And planning to compile a book about the accomplishments of Maryland women. And working for the FEC. And advising her husband. And taking time for their son.

"I have to make every effort so I don't have regrets," says Mrs. Glendening. "I have to watch it doesn't run me into the ground."

She plays many roles, so perhaps it fits that she be known by many names. Still, it can be confusing, this business of what to call Frances Hughes Glendening.

To her husband, and only to her husband, she has always been Frances Anne, as she was when they met: Frances Anne Hughes.

"I grew up in the South where it's fairly common to have a double name," says Parris N. Glendening, the governor-elect, who was raised in Florida. "It seems softer." No one else he knows calls her Frances Anne, "so maybe it's just a little bit of a unique thing in our relationship."

Among her friends she is Francie. Talk to anyone in Cumberland where she grew up -- Francie is the only name you'll hear.

In legal and formal venues, she prefers to go by Frances Hughes Glendening. That's pride in her family coming out, her husband says. Their 15-year-old son uses the name as well: Raymond Hughes Glendening.

Frances, plain Frances, never seems to come up.