BALTIMORE (AP) — Frank M. Conaway Sr., the longtime elected clerk of Baltimore’s circuit court who made waves last year when he switched allegiances to the Republican Party, has died. He was 81.

Conaway’s lawyer, Tom Maronick, confirmed Conaway’s death Sunday. Maronick said Conaway died in his sleep overnight some time between Saturday night and Sunday morning.

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Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake issued the following statement on the passing of Frank Conaway Sr.:

“My heart is heavy to learn of the passing of Frank M. Conaway Sr. A truly dedicated public servant, he redefined what was possible for generations of African Americans in Baltimore. This month as we celebrate the heritage and diversity of the African American experience, it is only fitting that we remember all that Frank accomplished. Baltimore is stronger today thanks to his decades of selfless service. I extend my deepest condolences to his family during this difficult time. I know they recognize the mark Frank left on Baltimore. His legacy will remain for generations to come.”

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Conaway was elected to a fifth term as circuit court clerk last year. In December, after being sworn in, Conaway announced he was switching parties. He said he switched because he had been given a cold shoulder by Democratic officials.

The change gave Republicans a rare elected office holder in the heavily Democratic city.

His survivors include Frank M. Conaway Jr., a member of Maryland’s House of Delegates, representing parts of Baltimore.

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