Archives of Maryland
(Biographical Series)

Roscoe C. Rowe (1884-1952)
MSA SC 3520-13881

Roscoe Rowe's election in 1949 as Republican Mayor of Annapolis proved a triumph of personality over politics in a heavily Democratic city.  Rowe's sense of humor, public speaking skills, and his "genius or making friends" had influenced his election not only as mayor, but previously to the posts of City Counselor and State's Attorney for Anne Arundel County.  "You could disagree with the Mayor, politically or otherwise...," wrote the editor of the Evening Capital on January 12, 1952, "but you could not get mad with him."

Born in Mt. Vernon, Indiana, on August 18, 1884, Roscoe Rowe came from a farming background, but left that life in 1903 to enlist in the Navy.  As a corpsman stationed at the Naval Hospital in Annapolis he met and married, in 1908, Regina Dammeyer.  The Rowes had four children, three of whom survived their father: Hilary Cecil Rowe, Charlotte Rowe Harbold, and Roscoe Conkling Rowe, Jr.

During his thirty-eight years in the Navy, Rowe became a pharmacist and progressed through the ranks to Warrant Officer status before being commissioned. He served in Mexico in 1914 and in World War I.  Lt. Rowe retired first in 1934, but returned to active duty in 1940 and retired for the second time in 1946 with the rank of Lt. Commander.

During a tour of duty at the Naval Hospital, he attended the University of Maryland Law School, from which he received his law degree in 1924.  He was admitted to the bar in 1925 and maintained a law office in Annapolis.  During his two terms as Annapolis City Counselor, Rowe represented the city before the U.S. Supreme Court.  In 1934, Rowe was elected State's Attorney for Anne Arundel County and served one four-year term.  He took office as Mayor on July 1, 1949.

In his mayoral campaign, Rowe advocated the annexation of suburban areas surrounding the city and promised the installation of water and sewer lines to the annexed property. The annexation was approved in 1950, and on January 1, 1951, Mayor Rowe welcomed eight new aldermen from the four new wards, including all of Eastport. Rowe immediately initiated work on the water and sewer project, 25% of which had been completed by the end of 1951.

Mayor Rowe was credited with obtaining passage of a $300,000 bond issue to cover the city's contribution to the construction of the access road from Route 50/310 to Annapolis and with persuading Gov. William Preston Lane and the chairman of the State Roads Commission to have the state finance construction of the bridge across College Creek. With the construction of the new Severn River Bridge and the Route 50/301 highway on the outskirts of Annapolis, state and local officials recognized the need for a suitable entrance to the city.  The Annapolis "access road," now Maryland Route 70, was begun on October 29, 1952, from Route 50 across Weems Creek. The next section, from Weems Creek to College Avenue, was begun on May 25, 1954, and completed in just under six months.  The official completion date for the entire project was November 16, 1954.

Roscoe C. Rowe died on January 11, 1952, in the Naval Medical Center at Bethesda of a heart attack following surgery and an illness of several months. During his illness he continued to exercise the duties of Mayor, leaving the hospital to direct City Council meetings and to attend to routine business.  Mayor Rowe was buried in Cedar Bluff Cemetery on January 14, 1952, after a military funeral conducted by the chaplain of the U.S. Naval Academy and the pastor of St. Martin's Lutheran Church and attended by dignitaries from across the state as well as scores of local citizens.  Among the honorary pall-bearers were Gov. Theodore R. McKeldin, Vice Admiral Harry W. Hill, superintendent of the Naval Academy, and Senator Louis N. Phipps.

The new access road from Route 50/301 was named for Rowe as a tribute to his influence in the planning and funding of the highway. Annapolis residents felt this honor an appropriate one "to preserve the memory of their beloved friend and mayor."1 Initially, the state government resisted naming the road after Rowe, the Annapolis City Council passed a resolution naming the road Roscoe C. Rowe Boulevard on January 14, 1957.2 During the legislative session of 1968, Senator Roy N. Staten, Democrat from Baltimore County, introduced a resolution to change the name of Route 70 to something "more properly descriptive of the historic environment in which the state's governmental functions are carried out."  He suggested "Heritage Boulevard." Annapolitans were enraged at Senator Staten's resolution.  Led by the editor of the Evening Capital, and supported by such local figures as former Acting Mayor Robert H. Campbell, they vigorously and successfully opposed any change in the name of Rowe Boulevard.

1. Evening Capital, 29 February 1968.
2. Because of the reluctance of the State Roads Commission and Gov. McKeldin to name the road after Rowe, the City Council resolution only pertained to the portion of the road owned by the city, a short stretch running from the bridge over Weems Creek to Northwest Street.

Biography written by Jane McWillams; additional material provided by Owen Lourie


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