Press Release

October 10, 2018
Cardin Statement on the Passing of Senator Joe Tydings

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.) delivered the following remarks on the floor of the U.S. Senate Wednesday in remembrance of Senator Joe Tydings:

“Mr. President, I would like to take this opportunity to talk about a man whose lifelong commitment to progressive causes has had an enormous positive impact on Maryland, and on the United States: former United States Senator from Maryland, Joseph D. Tydings. Joe Tydings died on Monday, at the age of 90, after heroically battling cancer.  We will miss this man, who was determined to help bend the arc of the moral universe toward justice as fast as possible.

“Joe Tydings was born as Joseph Davies Cheesborough in Asheville, N.C., on May 4, 1928 to Eleanor Davies of Watertown, Wisconsin and Tom Cheesborough of Asheville.  Tydings’ sister, Eleanor Cheesborough, was born in 1932.  In 1935, his parents divorced and his mother married Millard Tydings, who was then serving his second of four terms as one of Maryland’s U.S. Senators.  Several years later, Millard Tydings formally adopted Joe and his sister, Eleanor.

“Joe Tydings’ illustrious family included his namesake grandfather, Joseph Davies, an early advisor to Woodrow Wilson who later was appointed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt as America’s second ambassador to the Soviet Union.  While Joe was still a boy, his maternal grandfather married one of the richest women in America, Marjorie Merriweather Post, who owned homes in New York City and Long Island, the Hillwood Estate here in Washington, D.C., the Topridge Great Camp in the Adirondacks, and built Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach.  Joe sailed home from Europe aboard the Sea Cloud, Post’s luxurious 322-foot, four-masted barque, the largest privately owned sea-going yacht in the world at the time.

“Joe Tydings attended public schools in Aberdeen, Maryland, before entering the McDonough School in Baltimore County as a military cadet in 1938.  After he graduated, he enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1946 and served in one of the Army’s last horse platoons as part of the post-war occupation of Germany.  When he returned to the United States in 1948, he entered the University of Maryland, where he played lacrosse and football and was student body president, and then earned his law degree at the University of Maryland Law School in 1953.

“Joe Tydings was surrounded by tremendous wealth and prestige and political power while he was growing up.  The obituary that appeared in the Baltimore Sun notes that despite the fact that Joe was born into a life of privilege, he was a frugal person and quotes his daughter, Mary Tydings, as saying, ‘He was a man of the people despite how he grew up.’ His adoptive father was also a Democrat but opposed some of the New Deal legislation because he was a fiscal conservative.  Joe, on the other hand, was a progressive from the get-go – and attributed his Wisconsin-born mother as the influence.  But it’s clear that his father, who was known for taking principled, if often controversial, stands on many issues, also shaped Joe’s approach to politics and to life.

“Joe Tydings started his political career by serving as president of the Maryland Young Democrats.  While he was president, he confronted a hotel owner in Ocean City who refused to let back members of the organization stay at the hotel for an event being held there. In 1954, Joe was elected to represent Harford County in the Maryland House of Delegates.  Once there, it was clear that he was willing to fight established powers.  He started with the State’s savings and loan (S&L) associations following a banking scandal.  In My Life in Progressive Politics: Against the Grain, an autobiography co-written by former Baltimore Sun reporter John W. Frece published earlier this year, Joe reflected, ‘I was appalled no one was doing anything about it.’  The reason, he argued, was that many too many Maryland politicians were profiting from the schemes that led to the scandal.

“While Joe Tydings had a famous last name in Maryland political circles, it was his early and enthusiastic association with Senator John F. Kennedy that pushed Joe onto the national stage.  In 1960, Joe directed Kennedy’s president campaign in Maryland and then helped out in other primaries, at the party convention in Los Angeles, and throughout the fall election.  After Kennedy won, Tydings was offered a post in the new administration, and he asked to be appointed U.S. Attorney for Maryland.  The Maryland Democratic Party establishment was wary of the young reformer; nearly every Democratic Congressman in the State opposed his appointment.  President Kennedy questioned his brother, Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy about the opposition, saying ‘how can I appoint him with all these people opposed to him.’  Robert Kennedy replied, ‘That’s exactly why you are going to appoint him.’

“As U.S. Attorney, Joe Tydings assembled a staff of neophyte trial attorneys that included a future Attorney General of the United States, Benjamin R. Civiletti, and a future Attorney General of Maryland, Stephen H. Sachs, and many other lawyers who would become judges and successful attorneys with prominent law firms.  He worked hard to establish the non-partisan reputation of the U.S. Attorney’s office in Maryland and build a modern federal prosecution force that has effectively targeted political corruption in Maryland up to the present day.  Joe successfully prosecuted Representative Thomas Johnson, a fellow Democrat, for receiving illegal gratuities.  And he successfully prosecuted Maryland House Speaker A. Gordon Boone, another Democrat, for mail fraud connected with the S&L scandal.

“In 1963, President Kennedy visited Oakington, the Tydings’ 550-acre estate along the Chesapeake Bay in Harford County, to urge Joe to run for the Senate, which he agreed to do.  On the November day that Tydings held his farewell luncheon with colleagues to prepare for his Senate run, he learned that President Kennedy had been assassinated in Dallas.  Joe ran as a reformer and had to win a primary against the State’s beloved Comptroller, Louis L. Goldstein.  Joe, whose campaign slogan was ‘Working for Maryland, Not the Machine,’ energized reformers within the State party, attracted an army of volunteers, and won.  It was Louis Goldstein’s only loss during six decades in public office.  Joe then went on to defeat the incumbent Republican Senator, James Glenn Beall, Sr., in the general election.

“As a Senator, Joe Tydings backed the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the Fair Housing Act of 1968.  He supported controversial decisions of the Warren Court, including the one-man, one-vote requirement for apportionment of state legislatures; the prohibition of prayer in public schools; and the guarantee of the rights of defendants to remain silent and to be represented by counsel.  He was an early advocate for family planning and worried all his life about the detrimental health and environmental effects of worldwide overpopulation.  He reached across the aisle to get things done, working with Republican colleagues such as then-Representative George H.W. Bush.  He regularly decried the lack of bipartisanship in the Congress today.

“Like many of his congressional peers, Joe Tydings came to office supporting American involvement in Vietnam.  But as the war escalated, deaths mounted, and protests spread throughout the country, Tydings finally broke with President Lyndon B. Johnson and came out against the war.

“Although Joe was ranked 100th in seniority when he arrived in the Senate, he authored legislation to make long overdue improvements to the federal court system – many of which are still in place today.  He helped to create the system of federal magistrates to lighten the workload of federal judges; improved jury selection so that federal juries more fairly represent the make-up of their communities; and worked to keep unfit, unqualified, or mentally or physically incapacitated judges off the bench.  Joe became an ‘enemy’ of President Richard M. Nixon by helping to defeat two of the president’s Supreme Court nominees, Clement F. Haynsworth, Jr., and G. Harrold Carswell.

“Joe Tydings was an avid outdoorsman and hunter, but supported sensible gun safety laws, including the Firearms Registration and Licensing Act, which earned him the enmity of the gun lobby and the National Rifle Association.

“By the time he stood for re-election in 1970, Joe later admitted, he had probably supported one liberal position too many.  The country had changed and Joe’s progressive outlook had been supplanted by the backlash to new civil rights laws, fear over race riots in American cities, and a deep division over Vietnam.  Vice President Spiro Agnew, who had been governor of Maryland, called Joe a ‘radical.’  Joe narrowly lost his re-election bid to John Glenn Beall, Jr., the son of the man he had defeated in 1964, 51 percent to 48 percent.

“I mentioned that Joe was an avid outdoorsman.  He was also a great horseman.  One of the many causes to which he dedicated his energies after he returned to private life was the protection of Tennessee Walking Horses from the inhumane practice of ‘soring.’  He sought vigorous implementation of the Horse Protection Act of 1970, which he had authored while still in the Senate, and was honored by the U.S. Humane Society for his efforts.

“After Joe left the Senate, he kept his hand in Maryland politics, supporting various reform candidates and pushing for legislation to protect his beloved Chesapeake Bay.  He went on to serve as a member and later as Chairman of the Board of Regents of his alma mater, the University of Maryland.  He was appointed to three separate terms on the Regents by three different governors in three different decades.  In 1977, Joe called for the Board of Regents of the University of Maryland to divest its endowment from companies doing business with the apartheid regime in South Africa.  In September 2008, then-Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley appointed Joe to the board of the University of Maryland Medical System.

“Joe Tydings was indefatigable.  He built a national and international career in law, offering his legal services pro bono in cases challenging the death penalty.  As the Baltimore Sun obituary noted, ‘At an age when his peers were considering retirement, Sen. Tydings worked as an attorney with the Washington law firm Blank Rome LLP. He didn’t need to be here for the last 20 years of his life, said Jim Kelly, chairman of Blank Rome’s Washington office. But Sen. Tydings chose to continue to work toward causes he deemed important. ‘It sounds a little trite, but he really was committed to basic notions of justice and fairness,’ Kelly said. ‘He was not afraid to wear that on his sleeve, and he was not afraid to stand up and be counted.’

“Mr. President, when I was sworn in as United States Senator for the first time in the 110th Congress, I was honored to have Joe Tydings join Senators Paul Sarbanes and Barbara Mikulski and escort me to the well to take the Oath of Office.  One of his political slogans was ‘Joe Tydings doesn’t duck the tough ones.’  So true.  Joe’s life of service serves as an example to so many people, including me – particularly in these difficult times.  Former Vice President Joe Biden wrote in the forward to My Life in Progressive Politics: Against the Grain, ‘In reading this memoir, you can’t miss the salient parallels to challenges facing our nation today.  The issues on which Joe staked his Senate career a half-century ago are the same ones that still require our advocacy and attention.  Protecting voting rights.  Safeguarding our environment.  Pushing back against the forces of inequality that are hollowing out the middle class.  Standing up for common-sense gun safety laws.’

“In the Gospel of Luke, there is the saying, ‘Every one to whom much is given, of him will much be required; and of him to whom men commit much they will demand the more.’ (Luke 12:48).  Joe Tydings was given much; he gave back more.

“I know my Senate colleagues will want to join me in sending our condolences to Joe Tydings’ family: his sister, Eleanor Tydings Russell of Monkton, Maryland; his four children from his first marriage, Mary Tydings Smith of Easton, Maryland, Millard Tydings of Skillman, New Jersey, Emlen Tydings Gaudino of Palm Beach, Australia, and Eleanor Tydings Gollob of McLean, Virginia; and Alexandra Tydings Luzzatto of Washington, D.C., the daughter of his second marriage.  He is also survived by nine grandchildren: Benjamin Tydings Smith, Jill Campbell Gollob, Sam Tydings Gollob, Margaret Campbell Tydings; Jay Davies Gollob, William Davies Tydings, Ruby Anne Luzzatto, Emerson Almeida Luzzatto, and Maeve Chaim Luzzatto.”