Former Governor, Mayor William Donald Schaefer Dies At 89

BALTIMORE (WJZ/AP) — Former Maryland Governor and Baltimore Mayor William Donald Schaefer has died at the age of 89.  He died Monday at 6:30 p.m.

He was recently hospitalized at St. Agnes Hospital for pneumonia.  He was in hospice care at the time of his death and died at home, according to his longtime aide, Lainey LeBow-Sachs. 

Kai Jackson has more.

He was a beloved politician, especially in Baltimore.  He was credited with revitalizing the downtown area, especially Harborplace, as mayor, and Oriole Park at Camden Yards, as governor. 

Schaefer was an only child.  After a public school education, he served in World War II and followed his father into law before going to politics.

His political career began in Baltimore in 1955, when he was elected to the County Council for the fifth district.  He won the council presidency in 1967.  He was elected to his first term as Mayor of Baltimore in 1971; he received 84 percent of the vote.  

He was still mayor when the Colts left Baltimore.  The team’s owner moved them to Indianapolis and Schaefer called the man a liar and double-crosser.

He continued as mayor until 1986, when he ran for governor.  He won 82 percent of the vote and was re-elected in 1990. 

He was the dominant political figure in Maryland over the past half-century.  In addition to his terms on the City Council and as mayor and governor, he also served as State Comptroller.

Besides Camden Yards and Harborplace, he also built the light rail system and M&T Bank Stadium.  He worked tirelessly to promote his hometown of Baltimore.

He brought people back into the city by selling houses for a dollar and starting ethnic festivals.  He approached every task with intensity. His philosophy was summed up by his two favorite phrases: “Do it now” and “Time is not on our side.”

“It was the most satisfying job [being mayor],” Schaefer said, saying that he would ask residents what he could do for them.

In his eight years as governor, he fed the hungry, built schools and worked on roads.

Schaefer was a man of another era. 

“That’s what I want on that tombstone–he cared,” Schaefer said.  “Even if I have to carve it in myself.”

The Democrat, a Maryland political icon who held statewide office into his 80s, battled to fill potholes as mayor and never missed an opportunity to tout his hometown, even jumping in a seal pool while wearing a turn-of-the century bathing costume and holding a rubber ducky to promote a new aquarium.

His declining health in recent years meant few public appearances. On his 88th birthday, he attended a dedication of a statue in his honor at Baltimore’s Inner Harbor.

O’Malley issued a statement: “I join all Marylanders in mourning the loss of one of our own, Maryland’s indomitable statesmen, William Donald Schaefer. His legacy lives…in the lives of those lucky enough to have known him and to have been served by him,” O’Malley said.

O’Malley says William Donald Schaefer loved the city of Baltimore and the state of Maryland “with great exuberance” because there was nothing more important to him than the people he served.

The former governor will lie in state in the State House in Annapolis and the rotunda of Baltimore City Hall. The dates and times for those ceremonies and a funeral will be announced later.

O’Malley, like Schaefer, has been mayor of Baltimore and governor. He says Schaefer “demonstrated an unrelenting drive to make Maryland a better place.”

All Maryland flags are to fly at half-staff beginning immediately, O’Malley said.

Schaefer will be buried at Dulaney Valley Memorial Gardens.

There will be a moment of silence Tuesday at 9 a.m. to honor Schaefer, Mayor Rawlings-Blake said. She wants every resident, visitor and friend of the city of Baltimore to take part in remembering Schaefer as “one of the greatest mayors in American history.”

To view a slideshow of William Donald Schaefer, click here.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


One Comment

  1. lakesha says:

    RIP Mr.Shaefer, you will truly be missed

    1. the cape says:

      you know if o’malley and rawlings blake would take note of how mr don ran the mayor office and the state of maryland,i think it would be a better place to live and work
      r.i.p. willie don,you will be missed,your personality and your attitude towards everyone else in the city and the state of maryland.
      you are a icon to us all

  2. Tammy says:

    How sad:( He was a person who actually did make an impact…

  3. Perry says:

    The bestgovernor that this state has ever had, may he rest in peace!

  4. Melinda Geise says:

    RIP Willie Don. The last “true and honest” Baltimore politician.

  5. sheriff willie says:

    A good man for the times & the city as mayor, His leadership has not been exceeded let alone matched since…..Requiescat in Pace Mr. Schaefer.

  6. Gloria says:

    He was also our State Comptroller.

  7. Arlene says:

    I worked for Baltimore City when Mr. Schaefer was Mayor. Since he was not married, he became known as being “married to Baltimore City” He put 100% into his job and wanted to make Baltmore City the best it could be. No mayor since Mr. Schaefer could measure up to all the accomplishments he did for Baltimore City. One of the best mayors ever in ths history of Baltimore He put us on the map and welcomed filmmakers into our City. Mr. Schaefer made our city a countrywide known city and changed its history forever. He was a true leader and will be missed.

  8. PAIGE says:


  9. L. Shepley says:

    Schaefer has left a hole in politics that has yet to be fullfilled. God Bless You, William Donald Schaefer.

  10. Wagonman says:

    He was a true prince among princes. I only wish he was healthy enough to take another run at the Baltimore mayor’s office. He would’ve gotten my vote.

  11. Lynn says:

    Rest in peace Willie Don, you will be missed…thank you for everything you did for Maryland

  12. RHONDA says:

    Lainey I Pray GOD keep you strong. GOD BLESS YOU

  13. carla dull says:

    we had a place in west ocmd and we meet him in oc on the bordwalk, he was realy a nice man , i dont think there was not any 1 who did not like him.

  14. Jennefer Beal says:

    Oh man. I can’t believe this. R.I.P . Gov. We will miss real people like u. Jennefer Beal

  15. Cookie says:

    Mr.D.Schaefer was a great man and i loved him. Mr. Schaefer cared for the city of Balto.and State of Md. Mr.Schaefer cared for the people.He would fight for what was right for anyone.He love Balto.and Balto.loved him. He was the best mayor and governor.
    You will be missed.

  16. Gregory Randolph says:

    Rest in peace Gov. your work is done and will forever speak for you.

  17. Heidi McGahan says:

    Our deepest sympathy to the Schaefer Family and to all Marylanders. There is no doubt that Mr. Schaefer truely loved the people of Maryland. May he rest in peace.
    A chapter in Maryland’s history has now ended.

    Heidi McGahan

  18. Bonita Wehrman says:

    R.I.P. Mr Schaefer you will surely be missed.

  19. Daniel Wayne Shank Sr. says:

    What a great loss for the state and city. One of the only honest polititions that had enough gumpsion to tell it the way it was and not out both sides of his mouth.

  20. Jane says:

    Somebody needs to find those Trashball commercials. I still remember him chucking trash like it was a basketball…funny stuff.

  21. David Yannella says:

    R.I.P. Gov. Schaefer, you will be missed, but not forgotten! and yes you
    David Yannella

  22. Christina Walck says:

    Deepest Sympathy for the loss of a great man who really did care care about the City and people of Baltimore Md. Rest in Peace Our friend.

  23. Jim Pietra says:

    Thanks for your Service to the State of Maryland…..Sad that those that followed you have less than half your integrity.

    May you have everlasting Peace.

  24. Lawdy2001 says:

    I may not have agreed with his politics, but no one can deny what Governor Schaefer did for Baltimore and Maryland. God Bless You, Willie Don. May your soul rest in peace.

  25. Maria Victoria Pappas says:

    It was sad to hear about Mr. Schaefer passing away. May he rest in peace. He was a good person and mayor. With Deepest sympathy.

  26. Boo says:

    Departed from us was a great man. A true leader, one that never minced words. Rest in peace.

  27. Myra says:

    We have just lost the Best Thing Baltimore has ever had. He honestly cared. Baltimore will miss you, but NEVER forget you.

  28. pigeon says:

    He lived good and he lived long. No one has yet been able to fill his shoes as the Mayor of Baltimore and it’s doubtful any one ever will.
    Surely someone will have something negative to say. To them, I say that there was only one man who walked the face of this earth that was able to walk on water.
    Rest in peace my dear man – you deserve and have earned it.

  29. Blaine A Douglas says:

    The best MAN and Governor and Mayor Maryland ever had. Baltimore and the revalorization of the Inner Harbor Waterfront. he made western Maryland better. He was the one who help to get NFL football back in Maryland. R.I.P. He will never be forgotten. He was one of the best

  30. Cara says:

    What a great man who honestly cared about the people he served. Maryland will never have a man of such integrity in the State House again. He will be sadly missed. Our present Governor’s similarities to such a great man stop at them sharing political offices!! May he R.I.P.

  31. David Broadwater says:

    A great Man who dedicated his entire life to this city and state, RIP Govenor…

  32. Pryyme says:

    Definitely the best mayor, governor, comptroller, and loyal Baltimorian Baltimore (or Ballmer as he called it :)) has ever seen. I can still remember him announcing the Colts leaving town with tears in his eyes. Now days teams leave a town & it’s business as usual. He was a leader that loved everything about his town. R.I.P.

  33. Joyce Kauders says:

    William Donald Schaefer has been the best that Maryland and Baltimore could ever have. We who served under his leadership know personally what a great “people person” he was. God bless you, Mr. Mayor & Governor, rest in peace.

  34. Mike says:

    In typical fashion for WJZ TV, Your coverage is over 2 hours old and you have been scooped by every other news source in Baltimore. Good going. Thank goodness for FOX and WBAL e-mail alerts.

    1. Katy says:

      Thank you for your heartfelt words concerning the loss of a Maryland icon, Mike.

  35. Michael O says:

    Even if you did like the man, he did care for the people of Maryland. Godspeed Mr. Schaefer.

    From the “Outhouse” side of Maryland

  36. Harry says:

    AMF, from the outhouse side of the eastershore

    1. overtaxed says:

      He was not a friend to the Eastern Shore, he knew his votes were Baltimore based and that is most of what he cared about. The Eastern Shore was merely a way to Ocean City.

      BTW, the infamous comment was “sh!thouse side”

  37. Buffy Fox says:

    There is a poem called the ‘ THE DASH” I do not know the author but it is about the way we spend our dash between our birth date and death date I would say , Governer Schaffer and his family should be VERY proud of how he spent his “DASH” ! THANK YOU FOR BEING YOU! May you REST! in PEACE

  38. Bonnie says:

    The Gods are welcoming you home Willy Don…Tell my Dad I miss him..

  39. susan says:


  40. Bullfrog says:

    Mr. Schaefer, You were ONE IN A MILLION You created Baltimore. Your love and devotion to the CITY of BALTIMORE showed in everything that you did. Thank You, for you dedication and loyalty to our fair city. REST IN PEACE!

  41. Connie Dixon says:

    I met Mr. Schaefer when I worked for the city. It was my first job. He treated every city employee the same whether you were his top assistant or a 16 year old holding down a summer job. Everyone was held accountable to do their best for the city and no one worked harder than he did, which I think was 24 hours a day sometimes.

  42. Kia H says:

    Mayor, Governor, Comptroller Schaefer…Wow, what a legacy you leave Baltimore! Thanks you so much for believing in our city. Rest in Peace!

    1. David Shamer says:

      When will Mayor, Governor, Comptroller Schrieffer’s, be at the city hall in Baltimore?

  43. linda schaefer says:

    he will be missed. he made baltimore and maryland

  44. mandy says:

    Rest in Peace. You was the best Governor & Mayor that balimore & Maryland ever had. You will be miss.

  45. Prudence says:

    My heart is sadden by this news..Ex-Mayor
    Schaefer will be missed by all who love and call Baltimore home.

  46. Tona Ives says:

    Why can we not see more politicians like him. Governor Scheferwas a true people (of Baltimore) man. His sucessors should take note of that. May you rest in peace Governor, you so deserve that peace.

  47. Paul Harvey says:

    If people only knew “the rest of the story”.
    He will not be missed by everyone.

  48. Annette Lednum says:

    RIP Mr Schaefer u will be missed

  49. MattF says:

    He was a decent man, we’d be better off if more were like him or at least strove to be. He will be missed, but we won’t forget him… HIS NAME IS ON EVERYTHING!

  50. Ex-Baltimore says:

    R.I.P. Dear Mayor, Governor, Comptroller and all around great politician and wonderful man. I moved to Baltimore in the year 1980 as a teenager from Louisiana when he was the Mayor and the revitalization of Baltimore’s Inner Harbor was in full swing. Me and my family fell in love with the Inner Harbor he had just helped put on the international map. I’ll never forget his swim in the seal pool at the Aquarium in 1981. I’ll always asociate the best of Baltimore with this great, kind, funny, and gentle little big man. I’m feeling deep heartfelt sadness in my home right now. He will be deeply missed. Mayor Stephanie Rollins Blake, study this man! Your findings will be what you’ll need to make Baltimore great again. All others after him have failed miserably.

    1. wiley little says:

      he was a true Baltimore man he built the innerharbor and alot for the state

  51. Clyde says:

    Bonnie has “daddy issues”.

  52. Nora Rich says:

    He was one of the best politicians in my lifetime, and he will be missed. I was fortunate to have met him several times in my life, and a few years ago, I attended a Christmas party that he attended also. I was able to shake his hand several times and talk to him. Children absolutely loved him there, and he read ” The night before Christmas”. No one could read it like he did

  53. Sarah says:

    May you rest in peace my distant cousin. I love Baltimore and what YOU made of it. You put us on the map all over the WORLD> Thank you, love you!

  54. Cathy says:

    God Speed Willie Don!

  55. Kevin says:

    He will always be Mayor Schaefer to me. RIP.

  56. Katy says:

    He was a great leader and a great man. It was under his direction that the Harborplace was built. The inner harbor used to be called The Wharf and nobody wanted to go there. The photo of him in his old-fashioned bathing suit wearing a rubber ducky innertube went viral, before there was such a thing. Here’s to you, Willie Don.

  57. Jethro Hooper says:

    He certainly accomplished a great deal in Baltimore, and worked hard for the citizens of Maryland. That said, he was also a whack job, with a volatile temper and an inability to tolerate disagreement, sometimes threatening those who ran afoul of him. Only an electorate stupid enough to elect Barrack Obama would also be stupid enought to think he would be an awesome president.

  58. darryl says:

    My father, the late Jesse Webster, who was a commentator for WBAL radio often had Mayor Schaefer as a guest on his show and after my father died in 1962. Mayor Schaefer sent flowers to my family for several years. I was touch by his continuous remembrance of my father. I will always remember him for that.

  59. Sharon Lieder Graley says:

    so long to a good man. He cared deeply for Baltimore and when he was Mayor he did a lot of improvements. He handed me my diploma when I graduated from Southern High School in 1972

  60. Darryl says:

    big shoes to fill indeed…

  61. Patricia C. Ratliff says:

    What A MAN!!!! I saw this man 3 times. The first time was in 1989, I had my grandson (6 or 7 months old) in the Ft. Meade Commissary. I reached down to get something off the shelf and could hear someone talking to my grandson. I looked up and it was Governor Schaefer. He said to me you have a cute little girl, I said no sir this is my grandson Timmy. He said oh well he’s cute too. Another time a few years later, probably in 1993, I saw him again in the commissary and he spoke and I had my grandson and granddaughter (1 year old) and he said they sure are cute children. We talked for a few moments and I told him about seeing him there in the commissary before and he just laughed. Many years later we were at Charles Town, WV and we were coming out after eating there and he and some men were walking in and he spoke. I said to him something about seeing him in the Ft. Meade commissary and said this is my granddaughter who was a baby at that time. I asked if I could take a picture of him and our granddaughter and he said of course. I had always wanted to get him to sign this picture and I tried a couple of times but it never worked out. I have this picture of our granddaughter (Shannon) and Governor Schaefer in a frame. Shannon is in college now at Penn State, she is 18 years old. The odd thing tomorrow (19th of April) is our grandson’s 22nd birthday. This the 18th of April 2011 will be a day I will never forget. Even though I didn’t know this man personally I feel so saddened by his death as if we had been the closet of friends. He just made you feel that way he never met a stranger. May GOD Bless and keep you close William Donald Schaefer….Rest in Peace

  62. KT King says:

    William Donald Schaefer truly cared about people and his community. He dedicated his life to public service. He never wanted to stop serving. I remember him coming to block parties and the Dukeland Street Playground to support neighborhood functions like the Afro Clean Blocks and summer revivals. He had a great sense of humor and cared about the children. We could use a champion like Schaefer today. God blessed your many appearances and work for the people of Baltimore City. You will always be remembered

  63. d says:

    he was everything Baltimore stood for. Even as comptroller, he still had that Baltimore spirit in him that he wanted the best for his state. Hopefully he is now catching up with Hilda Mae and Capt Chesapeake. RIP sir.

  64. Darrin Williams says:

    RIP Councilman, Mayor, Governor, Comptroller William D. Schaefer. Thank you for all that you have done for Baltimore City as well as the State of Maryland. Though you have passed, May your spirit and enthusiasm carry on for years to come.

  65. NinaSky says:

    When I was younger, I looked up to Mayor Shaffer because I knew he was the kind of person that gave a damn about people. I worked for the State of Md during his tenure and he awarded me with “THE GOVENOR’S AWARD FOR DISTINGUISHED SERVICE TO THE CITIZENS OF MARYLAND”! I was so proud to serve under his leadership.

    If he ranfor office here, today, I’d vote for him again. I know that the angels have voted him into heaven.

    Kiss, Kiss


  66. Steve.T says:

    RIP…William Donald Schaefer….YEP YEP..I agree that he was the best Mayor n Governor of Baltimore, Md. He should’ve ran to become the President of United State….Alot of people were telling me that Ronald Reagan and Jesse Ventura would’ve make a great team.

  67. Johnia Hamrick says:

    I live in Frederick, but I loved Donald Schaefer. Our Dept. of Social Services building is named after him. He will be missed so very much. RIP Mr. Schaefer.

  68. A MD Voter says:

    If all politicians would have half the passion that Donald Schaefer had, rather than worry about heeping their high paying job, we all would be so much better off!! Donald Schaefer should be their benchmark! He was a wonderful person who got the job done! Wake up MD politicians – you’d keep your job and spend far less in campaign funds. BTW didn’t your parents tell you actions speak louder than words?? Donald Schaefer you will be missed and thank you for all you have done.

  69. Christine Schmidt says:

    Donald Schaefer thought the world of my grandfather Angelo Agro. We always saw them together when my grandfather drove the old hook and ladder up to Baltimore City for the Italian Festival with us on top of the fire truck when we were kids. They were two peas in a pod and good friends. Rest in peace Mr. Donald Schaefer!

  70. Chuck Meyenburg says:

    The man who built Baltimore. He really cared and will always watch over his city no matter where he is.

  71. Du Burns says:

    Baltimorons deserved this laughably stupid, ego-maniac! The sheep of Baltimore are SO naive! He used you. He used your money. The Inner-harbor is acrime-ridden joke anymore. The Orioles are a joke. Baltimore is “The City that Breeds”!

    Next thing you know, you will all be going on about how wonderful Peter Angelos is!!

    Baaaaa baaaaaaa. . . .

    1. whatnow says:

      The city was great when he left it. I believe it was some DuBurns relatives that brought it down.



  73. TaxesMDSuck says:

    Death and Taxes, and the last of them is taxes.. estate tax and MD taxes. You can’t get away.

  74. TaxesMDSuck says:

    A dead Schaefer is better than a living OMalley. Our chief exective is a joke.

  75. Ros says:

    I remember once I attended The Baltimore City Fair and there was Mr. Schaefer selling entry tickets. : )

  76. Barbara Jollymore says:

    Mayor, Governor, and Comptroller William Donald Schafer will truely be missed. He was truely a man that loved the city of Baltimore and state of Maryland. I knew Mr Schafer from working at Jimmy’s Restaurant in Fells Point, one of his favorite places. It was a honor to have had the opportunity to meet and serve him. Rest in peace my good man, you desirve it.

  77. Mike H. says:

    I was too young to have met Mayor/Governor/Comptroller William Donald Schaefer, but I can tell that was a truly extraordinary man from hearing all of these stories and memories about him. Be at peace Mr. Schaefer.

  78. BRENT BARBOUR says:

    Good Riddance you old Fart

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