Baltimore Mourns The Death Of William Donald Schaefer

Share Your Memories About Former Governor William Donald Schaefer At The Bottom Of This Page Following Other Readers’ Comments

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — William Donald Schaefer, the man who singlehandedly transformed the state of Maryland and who served as mayor, governor and comptroller, has died at the age of 89.  Flags across the state are flying at half-staff in honor of Schaefer.

Kai Jackson has reaction to his passing.

Schaefer is linked to the most recognizable landmarks in the city–the Inner Harbor, Oriole Park at Camden Yards and the National Aquarium just to name a few.

A larger than life icon in Maryland politics, Schaefer died Monday in his Baltimore County retirement home at the age of 89.

“I was there when he passed away.  I was holding his hand,” said his longtime aide Lainy LeBow-Sachs.  “All day long, I was saying how much I loved him and what he meant to me.”

He served four terms as mayor, two as governor, then two as comptroller.

“He was a person who had pretty strong opinions, and he was a person who was not shy about sharing them,” said Governor Martin O’Malley.

“He admired a fighter, as long as it was for the people.  If you were fighting for yourself, he had no business with you,” said Senator Barbara Mikulski, who will speak at his funeral.  “He was a friend but he was friend to a lot of people.  He was a friend to the cab driver, the waiters, the top leadership.  He knew everybody but most of all, he worked to know them.”

Schaefer was born in Baltimore on Nov. 2, 1921. His mother was a housewife, his father a lawyer. He served in the Army and later followed in his dad’s footsteps becoming a lawyer, but his calling was helping people–in politics.

Schaefer is as legendary for what he got done, as he is for how he got it done. He hated bureaucracy and wasn’t afraid to say so.

“He was the only mayor I knew, up until high school. He really set the standard, putting his footprint all around Baltimore City. And again, being a visionary leader with a ‘get it done’ attitude,” said Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake.

Schaefer had recently been treated for pneumonia and his long-time aide LeBow-Sachs was holding his hand as he died.

“For all of the various titles he held, there wasn’t a person in the city of Baltimore that didn’t feel like they couldn’t stop and approach him with a problem and that he wouldn’t follow up. They knew he would,” said O’Malley.  “For all his impatience with excuses and bureaucracy, he always had time for a citizen.  He went to work every day doing the work of the people.”

Schaefer’s long-time friend and first press secretary, Michael Golden first met the governor in the 1970s.

“He looked at all of us, those of us who worked for him, and those of us that he served as his family. That was his life. That was what drove him 24- 7,” said Michael Golden, first press secretary.

“The one thing that I noticed about William Donald Schaefer was he was big so the city would be big. He used all of his personality to promote the city because he had a deep faith that Baltimore’s best days were yet to come,” said Mayor Rawlings-Blake.

O’Malley says Schaefer was a person who was “impatient with slowness in government” but who always had time for the people he served.

“And we’re all going to miss him and at the same time I think all of us can feel grateful for the service that he gave to all of us in his distinguished career,” said O’Malley.

Click here to read well wishes. 

Schaefer never married and doesn’t leave behind a big family.  His longtime companion, First Hostess Hilda Mae Snoops, died 12 years ago.

“He loved her so much; they went back and forth like an old married couple,” said Baltimore City Council Member Mary Pat Clarke.  “We lost a lot.  We owe it to him and ourselves to pick up his legacy and carry it on.”

Schaefer was educated in Baltimore schools. He graduated from City College in 1939. 

In November 2009, Schaefer was honored with a statue at Harborplace, one of his proudest accomplishments.  The ceremony was one of his last public appearances.

Rawlings-Blake declared a moment of silence for the governor’s passing at 9 a.m. Tuesday. She urged residents,visitors and friends of the city to participate in remembering Schaefer as “one of the greatest mayors in American history.” Rawlings-Blake says the biggest gift he gave Baltimore was a spirit that the city had a promising future.

Schaefer will lie in repose Monday, April 25 at the State House and Tuesday, April 26 at Baltimore’s City Hall. His funeral will be on April 27 at 11 a.m. at the Old St. Paul’s Church in Baltimore, and he will be buried later that afternoon at Dulaney Valley Memorial Gardens. Click here for funeral plans.

Click here for a slideshow of Schaefer’s life.

  • Steve

    WOW….Where did all the comments go? I agree that William Donald Schaefer was the best Mayor n Governor for Bltimore, Maryland. He would’ve make a good President…Somebody said to me that Ronald Reagan and Jesse Ventura would’ve make a great team…..I let people be the judge

  • A Tearful Brother

    A fine example of a Free Mason. Always ready to stretch fourth his hand and be ever ready to assist someone. May you wear the Badge of a Mason forever proudly. You will be missed Brother.

    • Marilyn Dash

      I,Marilyn Dash,Didn’t know that he was a Mason,half of my family were Masons.I will always remember Mayer,Governor Scaffer as a very fine & frendly person! Most recently He was at my motherin laws PROMOTION TO Full COLONER IN THE ARMY& MDs NATIONAL GUARD. That was very special to me! I will always remember seing him since my family moved herei 1971 My father is now retired Army .llt.Colernal.
      HE will be greatly missed. Marilyn Dash

  • sheriff willie

    The WJZ Nazi police came & took them all away as usual. Schaefer was controversial as a public figure alright & he spoke his mind & people knew where they stood with him. I like that honesty about him, his views on illegals & speaking english when being served by a foreigner. He was a fair minded man & you obeyed the letter of the law, just look back in history & all the porch monkeys kept their place when Willie-Don headed up the city. As a governor, he helped bring football back to Baltimore. Good for the morale & business but stiffed the general public when we the taxpayers had to build a stadium for many that will never be able to afford to see a game. Camden yds? Another good accomplishment. Where are the leaders today? Since Schaefer, we have had a Schmuck (Shmoke), a few crooks & now a handicapped mayor who’s afraid to offend her own race….So sad. What happened to ye Baltimore my Baltimore?

    • Debbie

      WOW…You could have kept most of that to yourself!!!!!

      • sheriff willie

        Debbie, Why? Its common knowledge & besides it’s the truth.

  • sheriff willie

    As a follow up to my previous comment, Schaefer would not have made a good president. As a marrer of fact he was somewhat over his head as Governor & his last term in office was disastrous at the end. Schaefer was a hands on control guy & as Governor he needed to relinquish that power & consolidate it. He was a small town person who lived with a close inner circle of friends & his beloved Hilda May. A very parochial style leader.

    • Joe

      That’s not the only reason why Schaefer did not run for President. He had control and a very powerfull enflunce on ALL the media outlets within the Maryland broaders except the News American. Of course those of us who can remember knew what happen to the News Amreican….publishing unpopular news agains’t Schaefer and his cronies. However Scheafer knew if he ran “national” that the media outside the Maryland broaders could and would expose all those skelitins in Scheafers closet. Too much at risk with a dead reporter from his past.

  • Wayne &Glenda Hock

    Every once in a while a good ethical public leader comes along, That would be William Donald schafer. To bad Maryland hasn’t seen one since Rest in Peace .

    • D Woodard

      when William Donal Schafer left off>>>Baltimore & All Of Maryland >>was never the same ! May he Rest in Peace 4 All His Hard Work & 4 All He Did 4 Baltimore & All Of Maryland

  • mike freeland

    Well, in all honesty, @ 45 years of age, I feel this was by far the best Mayor Baltimore had. Sure Schmoke brought the NFL back but that is minor compared to the works Mr Schaefer did in his career. I could say all the things that everyone will say about how awesome Baltimore looks thanks to him. however, i would like to make it more personal by saying ” Thanks for giving me my first summer job that kept me out of trouble and made me proud to be able to bring home a check as a young teenager when my friends played is the school yard all day. Thank you…Oh, and thanks for showing us that even when we men get old, we still have a little tiger in our You will be missed!

  • Bernice Payne-Gales

    Shelly Gales

    I thought Schaefer was a great Mayor for Baltimore. He showed by his actions that he loved Baltimore and would do any and everything to support his beloved city. My mom loved him for his support of Baltimore’s senior citizens. I so agreed with the stance he took when it came to illegals working in the city, but unable to speak the language. I saw him a lot when he visited the State Office Preston street complex, and he was always friendly to everyone. He was a great Mayor, Govenor and Comptroller, but his greatest role was being a wonderful human being! May his soul rest in peace!

  • Mark Payne

    I grew up in Bsltimore city and remember then Mayor living a few blocks away. I was so impressed a I walked to my bus stop, I would see his limo come by and pick him up each morning. I will remember him as “the mayor among the people” RIP

    • Chaundrae Gordon

      I also lived about two blocks away from Mayor William Donald Schaefer and remember the limo picking him up while I stood on the bus stop. My mother, Ethel Gordon, I believe still has a taping (on a motion projector, remember those) of the then Mayor and I breaking ground for The Mary E. Rodman Recreation Center. Thanks for the memories…RIP In my eyes, no one is perfect so to all those that gave a negative talk, you didn’t have to take that walk. WWYD (What Would You Do) … Oh well, doesn’t matter, we’ll never know !!!! For the age of that man and to look back and see and hear everything that this man touched & worked for in BALTIMORE, MD……He was awesome I believe wholeheartedly !!!

  • Chris

    I grew up in Baltimore not far from where Memorial Stadium used to stand. I stayed in Baltimore until I was 19 and back then it was a wonderful place to grow up. Schaefer did everything he could to make Baltimore a nice place and he wanted everyone to be proud of it. I don’t think that we will ever see that kind of devotion again. Baltimore has become a not very nice place to live and everytime I go there and see the landfill that it has become I think that he would be ashamed. It would be nice if people would pull together and try to make it a nice place again in his memory.

    • Marilyn Dash

      Boy,don’tII”I,Marilyn,agree,with you!He madeThis city out of a trash dump ,that it was used to be,and then the idiots who are there now have trashed it up again!I don’t want to go there any more.All I can think and say is WHY OH WHY!!! WHAT and AND WHERE IS THEIR MENTALITY? May They AlLL ROT IN HELL!! Who needs Then? We Don’t.

  • Martin Richardson

    What I see was a person at the public trough for 40 plus years that used other peoples money to benefit his cronney friends. I wonder who is going to benefit from his fat pension.

    • Martha

      What a bitter old man yu must be!! Donald Schaefer was the most honest person in politics in this country and worked very hard to the benefit of Baltimore for most of his life. So, what have you done for society lately??

    • babs

      Martin, I agree with you. He wasn’t for the state employees and took away many benefits. People out there should try living on a small stipend of their pension because of the former governor . We have to pay for our insurance at a much higher rate than current state employees. Baltimore City in my opinion is a living hellhole and drug infested place. Thank God I don’t live there. It’s ironic that Shaeffer ending up living in a reitremnet community in Baltimore County and not his Baltimore City.

      • Alla Bradley

        He created jobs when he built up downtown.

      • Richard Crystal

        Thanks, Babs! I feel it was so right that God chose to take WDS from this earth at Easter time. Because judging from the pages and pages and pages of copy about him in the Sun and the non-stop news coverge all day, every day, I’m quite certain that after he is interred for 3 days he surely will rise from the dead.

    • Alla Bradley

      your an ah

  • Donna

    My Father knew Mr. Schaefer in the old days. Dad was a Baltimore City Police Officer, and spoke og the many times he would have lunch with Mr. Schaefer. Dad said Mr. Schaefer was a man’s man, he had time for everyone, even the little people. He wasn’t in it for himself or a select few – he was there for anyone who needed him. Mr. Schaefer did volumes for Baltimore and Maryland, I think he had fun doing it – he taught us to love life and to care about the other person – unlike our current politicians( the I/me people). Dad and Mr. Schaefer are again having lunch, cracking jokes, and solving the traumas of our all too impersonal times. William Donald Schaefer will be missed – God bless him for his many humanitarian endeavours, the acceptance of people as they were, the lessons he taught people about taking care of each other, and that a smile was a good thing. You will be missed by this Baltimore birned and raised girl.

  • bob gray

    I feel like my father died . opened the morning paper and the tears just started flowing.

  • Lady Shirley

    Don was a family friend for the last 36 years and he will be sorely missed. He has done so much for Baltimore and the state. He was relentless in his hard work for people everywhere and it showed. He was friendly, spoke his mind and stood up for average people. If only more politicians had his outlook, drive and determination. May he now rest in peace.

  • susan

    Mr. Schaefer did do alot of good for the city of Baltimore. I do remember him going into the water because the aquarium did not open when it should have. Iliked the fact that he wore that striped swimsuit and carrying the rubber duck. RIP Mr. Schaefer.

  • j

    baltimore could use another one like him,right now rip

  • Lourdes

    Schaffer is the ONE that transformed Baltimore into what she stands for today.
    Our government would benefit from having a hundred more Schaeffer’s in office. We definitely need more politicians like him.

    • Jay

      So, Donald Schaffer is the one that transformed Baltimore into what it is today? If that is the case, he didn’t leave a very good legacy. The ONLY thing Baltimore has become and is, is a crime and drug infested DUMP!

  • Michael

    He brought back pride to the city and this state.

  • Infradant Richard Phillips

    He will be dearly missed by all

  • Deb

    When Mr. Schaefer was mayor the city had pride. Our neighborhoods were beautiful. Now the city has become one big trash heap. RIP Mr. Schaefer, you are now in a City paven in Gold and free of trash.

  • Leigh Ann Erdman

    William Donald Schaefer, loved his Baltimore and loved his state. He served with a passion and a love for the citizens that has not been seen since. While he served, people were proud to be from “Bawlmer.” No one have even come close since his leadership and we have lost some of the ground he succeeded in bringing to this state. Love him or hate him, his number one priority and passion was “his people.” More political leaders in this state and city should take a lesson from that history book. Rest in Peace, WDS.

  • Joan Brown

    Mr. Schaefer held many titles yet was a caring man always lending a helping hand. Never afraid to speak his min, he made all of laugh.. Although his accomplishments will remind us of a true hero!! Because of him, we can be proud of Baltimore City and Maryland. When viisting his accomphishments we can proud he brought pride to Baltimore and Maryland!! A true hero was called home but his memory will remain with all of us>

  • bren

    Peace and Blessing to his family!

  • N

    As a young person living in Baltimore I saw The legend many times out and about ,talking to citizens and really listening , I had a aunt who worked for Baltimore City Rec and Parks for years and the one thing I always heard from her was “If I need something I need to call Schaefer ” and you know what she would call and it would happen. I’m sure now that Heaven has got it’s first Mayor .Baltimore City ,no Maryland has lost a true treasure. No I must take that back because as long as there is a Baltimore City there will always be a William Donald Schaefer.

  • SallyG

    I remember Donald Schaefer well. Under his leadership, Baltimore was a great place. I worked in Baltimore for several years, and afterwards would go to Baltimore once or twice a week. It was a good city. Now, I avoid the place. It has become a dump….dangerous and dirty. It no longer is the place it once was. The leadership is poor, and they have run the city into the ground. It’s a shame….because I remember what it once was!

  • Big Mac

    Don Schaefer was just as much responsible for the Colts leaving Baltimore in 1984 as was the Baltimore City Council, the State Assembly, the NFL and Tiger Bob. While Don was splashing around in the aquarium, Indy was building a new stadium to lure the Colts out of an old and updated concrete dump-Memorial Stadium.

    Don was also on the city council when the civic center (the 12,000 seat dump) was contructed. What has that awful arena cost Baltimore-hundreds of great concerts, a 1968 NHL expansion team, the Bullets (remember them) and countless other sporting events.

    Wasn’t Don the mayor when the convention center was built? Again what a waste of money. The Convention Center is simply too small and outdated. No vision!!!!! The new arena should have gone up in that location in 1979.

    Oh yes Don was truly a great major and governor! Not!!!!!!

    • amy w

      Geez, Big Mac.. the man is dead. Let him RIP.. IT sounds like YOU could have done a much better job than he did (well, at least you THINK you could have).. why don’t you run for mayor or gov or comptroller? go for it and let’s see how many people remember all of the wonderful things you did and your positive upbeat attitude when you pass. I highly doubt it… Oh wait, or as you would say NOT!!!

    • Sandy

      And what exactly have you done for your community, city and or state lately?

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