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Theodore McKeldin, one of Maryland’s long lost few Republican heroes

You can thank this man for the Baltimore Beltway and for not forcing you to excercise

Shout out to The Baltimore Sun
  • Photograph of McKeldin by Baltimore photographer Paul Henderson.

    Photograph of McKeldin by Baltimore photographer Paul Henderson. Paul Henderson, not dated. MdHS, HEN.00.B1-071.

    Long lost in the history books, Theodore McKeldin was the last elected Republican mayor of Baltimore City! Imagine that! Baltimore once having a Republican mayor!

    He was the 53rd governor of Maryland from 1951 to 1959, beating his opponent William Preston Lane, Jr. in 1950 by the largest margin in state history up till that point in time.



    He helped create the Baltimore Beltway, but didn’t create the traffic that now clogs it every day. You can thank your nearby federal government for that.

    But one of his most memorable quotes, reflecting on his push for the interstate road system, was this:

    “I rode by train over several state borders. I carried no passports. No one asked me to identify myself. No one had the right to. This is America.”

    Governor Theodore McKeldin shaking hands with Martin Jenkins, President of Morgan State College. Paul Henderson, 1951. MdHS, HEN.00.B1-067.

    Governor Theodore McKeldin shaking hands with Martin Jenkins, President of Morgan State College. Paul Henderson, 1951. MdHS, HEN.00.B1-067.

    But you may think, oh a Republican, well he probably hated minorities.

    Not so, he was one of the state’s staunchest civil rights supporters,

    Having worked to end segregation in Baltimore theaters, stores and lunch counters. As governor, he ordered the integration of state ferries and beaches, abolished racially based lists for state jobs and played a crucial role in ending school and hotel segregation. -From The Baltimore Sun

    Ironically, he once said in a speech that recreation should not be compulsory, even though the McKeldin Recreation Area, a state park in Carroll County, MD, has his namesake.

    History is stranger than fiction.

    Pictures are from an exhibit on African American Maryland photographer Paul Henderson at the Maryland Historical Society. Paul Henderson: Baltimore’s Civil Rights Era in Photographs, ca. 1940-1960 is on view at the Maryland Historical Society at 201 West Monument Street, Baltimore, Maryland.

    Go here for more information on the exhibit.


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