Tyras 'Bunk' Athey, former Md. secretary of state, dies

Saturday, July 24, 2010; B06

Tyras "Bunk" Athey, 83, a liquor store owner from Jessup who represented Anne Arundel County in the Maryland House of Delegates for 25 years and chaired the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, died July 20 at Hospice of the Chesapeake in Annapolis. He had kidney failure, a family spokeswoman said.

Mr. Athey, a Democrat, left the House of Delegates in 1993 after serving 14 years overseeing the tax-writing committee. He then spent two years as Maryland's secretary of state under Gov. William Donald Schaefer (D).

The Washington Post described secretary of state at the time as a largely ceremonial job whose functions included overseeing charitable organizations and extradition matters.

Schaefer reportedly tapped Mr. Athey for the job hoping to draw on his expertise in tax and budgeting matters when the state was implementing austerity measures to address a weakened economy.

Mr. Athey was a past chairman of the Anne Arundel delegation. In 1996, he was a delegate to the Democratic National Convention in Chicago.

In profiles, Mr. Athey was called affable and well-liked among legislators. He told the Baltimore Sun of his approach to working in Annapolis: "I could scream and holler and be a bad guy, but what good what that do? My theory has always been you can attract more flies with honey than vinegar."

Tyras Snowden Athey was a Burtonsville native and attended Montgomery Blair High School in Silver Spring. His grandfather gave him his nickname, after a comic strip character.

After Navy service in World War II, he married Dorothy O'Lexey, known as "Chick." They took over her parents' Old Farm Inn restaurant near Fort Meade. They later turned the restaurant into Ye Olde Farm Spirit Shoppe, a liquor store, and they sold the business in 1995.

Last year, they moved from Odenton to Centreville, in Queen Anne's County, Md.

In addition to Mr. Athey's wife, survivors include three children, Darlene Athey of Crofton, Cathy Pritchard of Jessup and Bryan Athey of Pasadena, Md.; and five grandchildren.

-- Adam Bernstein

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