The portraits on display here help call attention to the previous ten administrations that have used this room for press conferences, ceremonies, and meetings. The portraits represent 71 years--from 1916 to 1987--of governing in Maryland. On average, a portrait remains here on these walls from 70 years before being replaced. When Governor Harrington, the earliest governor represented here, took office, women could not vote, the United States was about to confront its first World War, and prohibition was a major national issue. Today the world is quite different. Fortunately we are at peace, and any citizen over the age of 18 can vote, but the issues government is called upon to address are far more complex and demanding than at any time in our history. The Governors whose portraits grace these walls led Maryland through the transition from a part-time government of limited responsibilities to a full-time business of providing wide-ranging services to all its citizens.
My wife, Frances Anne, is also involved in a similar project. Many of you recently attended the unveiling of the portraits of the official Hostesses of Maryland at Government House. This exhibit is a tribute to the many women who have made an important, but often overlooked, contribution to the history of Maryland. There are 13 portraits of First Ladies and official Hostesses on display and Frances Anne hopes to complete the exhibit for a full showing in the future. You can probably guess which portrait in this collection of governors hanging here is Frances Anne's favorite. It is Governor Tawes, whose wife is also in the picture. Traditionally, governors were not to have anyone in the portrait but themselves, but Mr. Tawes found a clever way to include his wife.
As you know, I am the 59th governor of Maryland since Maryland became a state. We have portraits of 55 of my predecessors in the State's collection. There are no portraits of Governors Thomas Sim Lee (1779-1782 and 1792-1794), John Henry (1797-1798) and Daniel Martin (1829 and 1831). They lived before the days of photographs and there are no known portraits so we will never know what they looked like.
As much as it might be interesting to display all the governor's portraits we have in one room, wall space in the State House is at a premium. Instead, on these walls are Maryland's most recent governors, a tradition that was begun by the Commission on Artistic Properties in the early 1970's. The results you see about you today. There proved to be sufficient room for portraits of every governor from Emerson Harrington to the present.
Today we are bringing back Governor Agnew who was missing from the chronological sequence. He was an obscure County Executive from Baltimore County who, in 1966, won the governorship. He did much good for Maryland during his tenure. State government was reorganized and the tax code was revised. Additionally, it was a time of marked social unrest and Governor Agnew became increasingly outspoken on law and order issues, blaming the disturbances in Cambridge and Baltimore on outside agitators and inadequate community leadership.
Not withstanding this, he gave Marylanders a sense of pride when he was elected Vice President in 1968 and re-elected in 1972, the only person from Maryland to ever hold that high office. As an aside for you history buffs, many people say that John Hanson, was the first Marylander to ever hold the highest office in our nation's history. Although he was a Marylander, he was the President of the Confederation Congress before the Constitution was adopted. Governor Agnew, therefore, technically qualifies as the only Marylander to hold such a high office.
Yes, there was a great sense of disappointment when Governor Agnew left the office of the vice presidency in disgrace. Some believe he also disgraced the office of Governor. Frances Anne's father had been a Republican State Senator who served in the General Assembly when Agnew was Governor, and was appointed to the Maryland Tax Court by the Governor. She says she remembers the feelings of great disappointment and even betrayal that her father, her family and many fellow Republicans felt. That same discouragement ran throughout the state.
I have received letters both for and against hanging Governor Agnew's portrait here in the reception room. I am sensitive to the conflicting emotions of these letters. I believe, however, that it is not up to any one of us to alter history. As George Orwell said in 1984, "The past is whatever the records and the memories agree upon." This is not the Orwellian future where history can just vanish or change. This is not Stalinistic Russia where people become non-persons. This is an open society where we respect history. History is good. History is bad. And we learn from history--warts and all!! We cannot hide from it. We cannot change it. And our future can be better because of it.
In addition hanging Governor Agnew's portrait, we are making space for Governor Schaefer's portrait which will be hung sometime in the near future. Normally, the last portrait would be consigned to the Maryland State Archives at this point. We will, however, move one portrait, that of Governor Frank Brown, to a place of honor in the House Judiciary Committee.
I will miss Governor Brown. In 1892 Frank Brown ran against the 'machine' in his party, secured the nomination, and then won the general election. And unfortunately for 54 years his portrait did not even hang in the State House. In 1970, it was found at an auction in New York. As Sun columnist Dan Rodricks pointed out in his February 10th column, during Brown's term as governor, he had the courage to personally intervene in a dispute between coal miners and mine owners in Allegany County in order to avoid violence, and he prevented the miscarriage of justice in a case involving false accusations against four young African Americans. But, I am pleased to tell Dan and everyone that Governor Brown does not lose his place in history as he moves from this room. His portrait will be displayed prominently in the House Judiciary Committee, as testimony to his prior service in the House and his desire to uphold the law.
You will also see that the portrait of Blair Lee is not here. Blair Lee, Maryland's second Lt. Governor and the first under our present Constitution, served as acting governor between 1977 and 1979. His place of honor is in the hall of the Lt. Governor's office as a tribute to the manner in which he fulfilled his constitutional duties.
There is much we can learn from each of their administrations, again--warts and all, about making government more accountable, more responsive to the needs of the people. I will end by paraphrasing Edmund Burke: "Society is, indeed, a contract...it is a partnership in all science, a partnership in all art, a partnership in every virtue and in all perfection. It is a partnership with all those who came before us, it is a partnership with all those who are with us today, and it is a partnership with all those yet to come." By displaying these portraits, we help keep the link between the past, the present, and the future.
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