The Dean

LAWRENCE C. FREENY

January 12, 1993|By LAWRENCE C. FREENY

When the Maryland General Assembly convenes tomorrow, Sen. Frederick C. Malkus Jr. will begin his 47th consecutive year of legislative service, the midpoint in his present term.

Is that a record?

Apparently not, but Mr. Malkus is very nearly the nation's senior state legislator, in terms of unbroken service.

Rep. John L. O'Brien of Washington last year closed out 50 years in office, but redistricting altered the make-up of his constituency and he was defeated for re-election. In New Hampshire, Rep. Daniel Healy, with 23 two-year terms, matches Mr. Malkus' 46 years -- and, like the white-haired Eastern Shoreman, is still going strong. Sen. Max Howell of Arkansas retired last year after 45 years' service.

No definitive records of state legislatorial longevity are available, but the National Conference of State Legislators has profiled these four among America's senior lawmakers.

Senator Malkus himself expresses little interest in the issue. ''It doesn't much matter to me,'' he said in an interview at his Cambridge law office.

Mr. Malkus came to Annapolis in 1947 as a freshman in the House of Delegates, then moved to the Senate in 1951. He ran in 1973 for Congress, which of course would have truncated his bTC state legislative career, but he was defeated.

Of the eight governors he has worked with, Mr. Malkus said, the first, William Preston Lane, was the best. The newest president also stirs his enthusiasm. At last summer's Democratic convention, the Eastern Shoreman hailed the nomination of the Clinton-Gore ticket with ''Looks to me like that pair of ducks is going to fly.''

Asked to name his proudest legislative achievements, the senator listed three:

''First, the Potomac River Compact of 1958 that replaced the old fisheries compact of 1785. . . . Second, there's the Home Rule Bill of 1960. . . . It was a complicated bill with many amendments [but it] has worked very well. . . .

''And third comes the hard work devoted to the passage of the several civil-rights and open-accommodations bills in the 1960s. That was indeed a difficult, turbulent time in Maryland's history.''

Another monument is the four-lane bridge that bears the senator's name and carries U.S. 50 traffic over the Choptank River at Cambridge.

Senator Malkus was less interested in reminiscing than in talking about the new legislative session, which he expects to be dominated by budget battles. ''There's nothing I like better than a good floor fight in the Maryland Senate,'' he said.

Lawrence Freeny writes from Towson.

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