Mandel was born in Baltimore, Maryland, and attended the Baltimore City Public Schools, graduating from the The Baltimore City College, which was a city-wide, all-male institution that served as an early model of a college prep, specialized “magnet” school that developed and became popular in American public education forty years later. Mandel received a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Maryland at College Park in 1939 and a Bachelor of Laws degree from the University of Maryland Law School in 1942. Mandel was first elected to public office in the Maryland House of Delegates in 1952, representing northwestern Baltimore City. Mandel served several terms throughout the tumultuous events and urban politics of the 1950s and early ’60s when civil rights was on the state’s front burner, and was finally chosen as Speaker of the House of Delegates in January 1963 and served in that position until January 1969. Speaker Mandel was first elected Governor and then sworn in by the legislative members of both houses in a joint session of the General Assembly in January 1969, prior to Gov. Agnew’s being sworn in as Vice President later that week. In his short inaugural speech to the legislators, he famously predicted his method and attitude towards the powers of his office putting aside the indirect and unusual way he came to the executive office and the idea of serving as an “acting governor”, from the formerly opposing party, saying, “Make no mistake about it, we intend to govern!”. After serving 23 months (almost two years of the unfinished Agnew term), he was duly further elected by the entire Maryland state body of voters in a special gubernatorial election for a full four-year term in November 1970, and re-elected in a regular state election in November 1974.
Mandel’s executive administration was notable for many reasons. While he was governor, the executive branch of the Maryland state government was reorganized, combining the recent 20th-century growth of commissions, boards, offices, bureaus and agencies into twelve departments headed by supervising secretaries with several administrative levels in each executive department. Each secretary and their assistants and deputies reported directly to the governor and their chief-of-staff, reflecting the current American federal presidency and presidential cabinet system. Additionally, the mass-transit system of Maryland was established and fostered under Mandel, enacting plans begun back in 1969 for the establishment of two urban subway networks. The first such rail network was for the Baltimore metropolitan area (Baltimore City and its two adjoining suburban counties of Baltimore County and Anne Arundel County), and the second was for the National Capital area of Washington, D.C. (comprised of several northern Virginia counties, and the Maryland suburban counties of Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties. A state-wide public school construction program initiative for Baltimore City and the 23 counties of Maryland to be equalized and fully funded by the State was undertaken while Mandel was governor. Accordingly, students in kindergarten or first grade would begin their public education through to high school with equally adequate buildings, supplies and teachers.
The additional executive departmental reorganization and structure simplified the state government as had been suggested and outlined in the previously convened Maryland Constitutional Convention of 1967–1968. Although narrowly rejected by state voters in a 1968 referendum, (because of several large controversial proposals) many of the proposed charter’s other more generally acceptable provisions and reorganizations were later pushed past the legislature by the new Mandel administration and enacted into law and policy by the voters in several special elections/referendums and the edicts of the Mandel and later Hughes and Schaefer administrations. These included the reorganized four-level system of the state court system, continuation of the highest level – the “Maryland Court of Appeals”, supplemented by an Intermediate (later renamed “Special”) now known as the “Maryland Court of Special Appeals”, followed by 24 divisions of the “Circuit Courts of Maryland “for” (or on behalf of) the various counties and Baltimore City. The City was finally included in the logical reorganized system, eliminating its variously named accumulated “municipal”, “criminal”, “superior”, “criminal court #2”, etc. including its old traditional ancient name of “The Supreme Bench of Baltimore City”, handed down from old state constitutions and city charters. With a reduction in the number of court systems for the City and associated clerks and employees, the old Baltimore City Courthouse of 1896–1900, by 1971 now contained one unified “Circuit Court of Maryland FOR Baltimore City”, with its appointed/elected judges and one circuit court clerk’s office for the City (which now handles criminal and civil law disputes) and a single “Circuit” of the Circuit Court “FOR” each county and the city of the reorganized “Circuit Court of Maryland” system and a uniform statewide District Court system with many branch/district courthouses scattered throughout the counties and city for lower minor felonies, misdemeanors and traffic cases – a major administrative, financial and constitutional reform accomplishment of Gov. Marvin Mandel.
Other similar administrative organizations and efficiencies were reflected in the various other departments as they were set up and took shape with the various “administrations”, authorities” and “offices” arrayed beneath the state secretaries in the governor’s new cabinet, including newer unprecedented departments such as the environment, general services, public safety and correctional services, and natural resources. Other departments replaced agencies with old familiar names known to generations of Marylanders such as the old “State Roads Commission” and “Department of Motor Vehicles” (“D.M.V.”), which became “administrations” under the new super Department of Transportation (with new acronyms for State Highway Administration (S.H.A.) and Motor Vehicle Administration (M.V.A.). Joining them in the new unified Transportation agency, along with the old private bus and streetcar companies joined by the new “Metro” subway train cars and re-invented “light rail” cars and lines into the new “Mass Transit Administration” and several commuter passenger railroad lines from the corners of the State into the cities of Baltimore and Washington were combined into a state-subsidized Maryland Railroad Administration” (known as “M.A.R.C.”) to alleviate car traffic on rush-hour highways and routes to business and urban centers. The various newly constructed toll river bridges and tunnels were supervised under a new Toll Facilities Authority with its own patrolling Police force. The old city-built and -operated Friendship International Airport was combined with another Martin State Airport in an Airport Administration and finally even the oldest transport facility in the State, the Port of Baltimore, first designated in 1706 was reorganized under a unified Port Administration from the older municipal and state boards with newer terminals begun and built further downriver by deeper waters and now heavily marketed and promoted internationally overseas with the entire State’s greater financial resources.
A negative highlight of Mandel’s governorship towards the end of his terms with ten years in office was the embarrassing domestic situation that occurred when the governor fell in love with another woman and moved out on his own from the “Government House” on Church Circle in Annapolis, and his first wife Barbara (Oberfeld) Mandel, (since 1941, and “First Lady” of Maryland since 1969) refused to agree to a separation, leave or move out of the governor’s mansion. For several months an unusual stand-off continued with Gov. Mandel living in a nearby Annapolis apartment and visiting his new female companion Jeanne Dorsey. A legal separation was finally agreed to and later both were divorced with Mr. Mandel soon remarrying Mrs. Dorsey and she later herself assumed the role of state “First Lady” and occasionally entertained briefly in “Government House” before the end of the Mandel era, which also occurred in an unusual manner. Related to his later Federal legal conviction in the United States District Court for mail fraud and racketeering, involving certain friends and the transfer of racing days for the former Rosecroft Race Track in Prince George’s County, although overturned later by a Federal appeals court on several grounds, which initially besmirched Gov. Mandel’s reputation and legacy, even after he had served some time in a minimum-security Federal prison camp. Mandel was represented by the noted criminal defense attorney William G. Hundley. He was convicted on the Federal charges, on June 4, 1977, when he notified Lieutenant Governor Blair Lee III that Lee would have to serve as “Acting Governor of Maryland” until further notice. Lee continued to serve as “Acting Governor” until January 15, 1979, when Mandel rescinded his letter appointing Lee as “Acting Chief Executive” (just two days before the expiration of his second original full elective term) on the basis of his overturned previous legal conviction and the neutral legal opinions on the status of his appeal case, that the governor was now eligible to re-assume the powers of his office previously delegated to Lee, even at that late date.
Mandel had already served nineteen months of his original sentence in the low-security Federal prison camp at Eglin Air Force Base, in Florida near the Gulf of Mexico coast, before having his sentence interestingly commuted and he was released early by the leader of the national opposition party, the Republican 40th President, Ronald Reagan. Based on the reasoning of an opinion of the U.S. Supreme Court, a lower U.S. District Court Judge, with the persistent advocacy of Mandel’s local trial counsel, Arnold M. Weiner, overturned the former governor’s conviction in 1987, a decade later. A year after that, the higher U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit affirmed the final decision, ending the long legal and political saga, now in the hands of historians, archivists and book authors. In addition separately, in 1980, Mandel’s administrative aide Maurice R. Wyatt, a Maryland District Court Judge Allen B. Spector, and State Health Department director, Donald H. Noren were tried and convicted by Judge James MacGill on bribery charges related to payments for land development and septic tank installation moratoriums. Although not connected with Gov. Mandel’s personal integrity and administration, these additional trials and convictions cast a pall on an otherwise overwhelming record of positive accomplishments in Maryland during the Mandel years. Mandel’s official gubernatorial portrait was not hung in the governor’s Reception Room of the Maryland State House, the historic state capitol, with the most recent occupants of the office, until 1993, fourteen years after he left the executive chair and two administrations had intervened.
Mandel married the former Barbara Oberfeld (his first wife) on June 8, 1941, at age 22 and later had two children, Gary and Ellen. In 1974, after temporarily moving out of the governor’s Mansion into a small Annapolis apartment and separating from his first wife, Mandel later obtained a decree of divorce from Barbara who had remained in the Mansion and attempted to continue to act as “First Lady” and maintain a domestic life. After finally coming to a legal and domestic agreement, the first Mrs. Mandel left and moved to her own quarters. Thereafter the governor soon married the former Jeanne Blackistone Dorsey, who occasionally entertained and performed some official functions as “First Lady” of the State in the later Mandel administration. The second Mrs. Mandel died October 6, 2001, after 27 years of marriage to Mr. Mandel. Mandel lived briefly in Arnold, Maryland, and lived and practiced law in Annapolis. Mandel served as the chairman of the governor’s Commission on the Structure and Efficiency of State Government beginning in 2003. He was also a member of the Board of Regents for the University System of Maryland from 2003 through 2009. Mandel died on August 30, 2015 at the age of 95.
- April, 19, 1920
- Baltimore, Maryland
- August, 30, 2015
- St. Mary's County, Maryland
- Lakemont Memorial Gardens
- Davidsonville, Maryland