J. Millard Tawes

John Millard Tawes (April 8, 1894  June 25, 1979), a member of the United States Democratic Party, was the 54th Governor of Maryland in the United States from 1959 to 1967. He remains the only Marylander to be elected to the three positions of State Treasurer, Comptroller, and governor.[1]

J. Millard Tawes
54th Governor of Maryland
In office
January 14, 1959  January 25, 1967
Preceded byTheodore R. McKeldin
Succeeded bySpiro T. Agnew
Treasurer of Maryland
In office
June 1, 1973  January 14, 1975
GovernorMarvin Mandel
Preceded byJohn Luetkemeyer
Succeeded byWilliam S. James
Comptroller of Maryland
In office
GovernorWilliam Preston Lane Jr.
Theodore Roosevelt McKeldin
Preceded byJames J. Lacy
Succeeded byLouis L. Goldstein
In office
GovernorHerbert O'Conor
Preceded byWilliam S. Gordy, Jr.
Succeeded byJames J. Lacy
Personal details
John Millard Tawes

(1894-04-08)April 8, 1894
Crisfield, Maryland, U.S.
DiedJune 25, 1979(1979-06-25) (aged 85)
Crisfield, Maryland, U.S.
Resting placeSunny Ridge Memorial Park
Crisfield, Maryland
Political partyDemocratic
Helen Avalynne Gibson (m. 1915)

Early life and family

Tawes was born to James and Alice (née Byrd) Tawes in Crisfield, Maryland. He received his early education in the Somerset County, Maryland public schools, and later attended Bryant and Stratton Business College where he studied banking and accounting. After college, Tawes earned a living working in lumbering and canning firms that were owned by his father, which later expanded into shipbuilding, baking, and banking. Tawes married Helen Avalynne Gibson on December 25, 1915 and with whom he had two children.[2]

Maryland political career

Tawes' political career began in 1930 when he was elected as clerk of the court for Somerset County, Maryland, narrowly defeating his opponent Harry T. Phoebus by 72 votes.[2] After winning re-election in 1934, Tawes pursued state office. In 1938, he was elected Comptroller of Maryland, defeating Republican rival William G. Jack by 140,000 votes.[2] Under Tawes, the state budget of Maryland nearly quadrupled in just six years. He was re-elected as Comptroller in 1942.[2]

In 1946, Tawes ran for governor of Maryland but lost to William Preston Lane, Jr. in the Democratic primary. Tawes initially retired, but was appointed by Governor Lane to serve as a State Banking Commissioner in 1947. Tawes held that position until 1950, when he was appointed Comptroller to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of James J. Lacy. He was re-elected to the office in 1950 and 1954.[2]

Governor of Maryland

In 1958, polling among Marylanders showed that Tawes was quite popular. This led Tawes to announce, for the second time, his candidacy for governor. He faced minor opposition in the primary, and defeated Republican James Devereux, a Congressman and veteran of World War II, by approximately 200,000 votes in the general election. On January 14, 1959, he was sworn in for his first term.[2]

The beginning of Tawes' term as governor was benefited by the overwhelming Democratic majority present in both houses of the Maryland General Assembly. Seeking to improve the state's economy following a recession in 1958, Tawes established extensive departments and agencies that primarily regulated and assisted agriculture, industry, and the economy in general. He also established organizations to deal with the elderly, insurance, savings and loans, and justice. Seeking to improve the highway system, Tawes create the State Roads Commission that added over a thousand miles of major roads and highways to the state. Concerning environmental matters, Tawes established programs to help the oyster population within the Chesapeake Bay, established several island nature reserves, and doubled the size of the state park system. He also worked towards reducing water pollution and saving forests from destruction.[2] Tawes also sought to phase out slot machines in Maryland, which was completed after he left office in 1968.

Regarding education, the state of Maryland saw significant strides in areas including the expansion of the University System of Maryland, the establishment of public educational television channels, and the creation of state agencies encouraging educational loans. Tawes would later remark that the educational strides under his administration should be regarded as the greatest accomplishment.[2]

One of the major constitutional concerns during the Tawes Administration came from the reapportionment of districts within the state. When Maryland was granted an extra Congressional seat following the 1960 census, years of unsuccessful attempts to redraw the state districts resulted in a federal jury of three judges redrawing the boundaries in 1966. Regarding the General Assembly districts, Tawes oversaw the shift of power from the rural areas to the urban. Ever since the American Revolution, representation in the General Assembly was divided evenly for all counties, which meant the more numerous rural counties dominated politically. Following the series of "one man, one vote" decrees by the Supreme Court of the United States, a lower court in Maryland ruled the General Assembly districts unconstitutional. Tawes, a rural county politician himself, called the General Assembly into special session to redraw the districts, resulting in a substantial gain in representation in the State Senate and House of Delegates for the urban areas of the state for the first time.[2]

In the election of 1962, Tawes faced substantial competition in the primary from David Hume, a critic of Tawes' conservation policies, and businessman George P. Mahoney. While both Hume and Mahoney polled impressively, Tawes managed to retain the Democratic nomination. His challenger in the general election, Congressman Frank Small, Jr., lost to Tawes by a margin of 78,000 votes, primarily due to Small's poorly managed campaign. Tawes' second administration began on January 9, 1963.[2]

The Civil Rights Movement in the United States took place during the Tawes Administration. While Tawes was publicly neither strongly for or against discrimination, Maryland became the first state south of the Mason–Dixon line to enact a public accommodations laws under his administration, and he also directed the state government and its contractors to conduct anti-discriminatory hiring practices.[3]

Many of the themes Tawes began in his first term were continued in his second, including educational reform. The allocation of state aid to educational institutions was recalculated by the legislature during his second term, resulting in increased funds being directed towards the most needy districts. Tawes also managed to establish an educational television network, which he had been campaigning for since his first term.[2]

While Tawes had always maintained a platform of fiscal conservatism, spending by the state government doubled under his administration from approximately $448 million to over $1 billion.[3] His final years in office involved the initiation of the review of the Maryland Constitution of 1867, and the establishment of commissions to remove areas of waste within the government. Both of these measures would not come to fruition until after he left office. Tawes's tenure as governor came to a close on January 25, 1967.[2]

Later life

When Tawes left his office as governor, he was given a 1967 Cadillac Fleetwood as a gift from his supporters. Soon after he was elected by the people of Somerset County to represent them in the Maryland Constitutional Convention of 1967/68. Tawes was voted honorary president by the members of the convention, but remained silent during the proceedings as to not give the impression of a conflict of interest. After all, it was Tawes who called for the convention whilst governor.[2]

After the signing of the Constitutional ratifications, Tawes was appointed by his successor, Governor Spiro Agnew, to serve as Chairman of the Board of Natural Resources. Agnew's successor, Marvin Mandel, appointed Tawes as Secretary of the newly created Department of Natural Resources, where he served as an advocate for the protection and nurturing of Maryland's environment. Tawes' final service to the state came as Treasurer of Maryland, where he was chosen to fill an unexpired term from 1973 to 1975.[4]

Tawes was found unconscious at his home in Crisfield on June 25, 1979 from what appeared to be a heart attack. After spending nearly an hour attempting to revive him, ambulance personnel and doctors on the scene determined that he could not be saved. He had been admitted to the hospital a month before complaining of chest pains, and two weeks prior due to a mild heart attack.[4]

Following his death, Tawes was reflected upon as a moderate and calm political figure. While publicly seen as weak due to his age and often indirect administration methods, Tawes was capable of pushing legislation through the General Assembly when necessary, though he was not always eager to do so.[4] He was also capable of appealing to both sides of an issue by maintaining a moderate record.[4] Before his death, Tawes noted his proudest accomplishments revolved around leaving a state government that was fiscally sound, and also for improving the education system and establishing community colleges.[3][4] He is buried in Sunny Ridge Memorial Park in his hometown of Crisfield.[2]

Building dedications

See also


  1. "J. Millard Tawes (1894-1979) Biographical Series; Governor of Maryland, 1959-1967 (Democrat)". Archives of Maryland, MSA SC 3520-1485. Maryland State Government. 18 July 2008. Retrieved 11 September 2018.
  2. White, Jr., Frank F. (1970). The Governors of Maryland 1777-1970. Annapolis: The Hall of Records Commission. p. 293–299. ISBN 978-0942370010. Retrieved 11 September 2018.
  3. Maraniss, David A. (1979-06-26). "J. Millard Tawes Dies, Was Maryland Governor for 8 Years". The Washington Post. pp. C5. Retrieved 2007-05-22.
  4. "Politicians eulogize Tawes". Evening Capital. Annapolis. 1979-06-26.
Political offices
Preceded by
William S. Gordy, Jr.
Comptroller of Maryland
Succeeded by
James J. Lacy
Preceded by
James J. Lacy
Comptroller of Maryland
Succeeded by
Louis L. Goldstein
Preceded by
Theodore McKeldin
Governor of Maryland
January 14, 1959 – January 25, 1967
Succeeded by
Spiro T. Agnew
Preceded by
John Luetkemeyer
Treasurer of Maryland
Succeeded by
William S. James
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