Little more than a letter in common

Baltimore Glimpses

September 14, 1993|By GILBERT SANDLER

YOU'VE heard of the Jackson Five and the Four Aces. What about the Three G's?

So dubbed by the press, they were Baltimore's odd threesome, strutting across the political stage more than 30 years ago.

Mayor J. Harold Grady, Comptroller R. Walter Graham and City Council President Philip H. Goodman campaigned for their offices in 1958 and 1959 as "reformers" -- a harmony ticket to knock out of City Hall the formidable Tommy D'Alesandro Jr. and Co., which had held City Hall for 12 years. Where the G's were in harmony was in their shared ambition for political victory. But in personality, background, education, mood and manner, there could not have been three people less harmonious.

Grady was an Irish-Catholic from Northeast Baltimore who had been educated in parochial schools. He was Irish to his heels, had been president of the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick and voted by that group the "Irishman of the Year."

Graham was WASP, Princeton, Harvard, a financier and benefactor of the Walters whose father was a founder of Commercial Credit. Sworn to be tight-fisted, he recommended that the USS Constellation be towed to sea and given a decent burial. Louis Rukeyser, then writing for The Sun, said of Graham: "He bears as much resemblance to the average Maryland politician as Gus Triandos [Orioles catcher] does to Marilyn Monroe."

Then there was Goodman -- poor, Jewish, born in Poland. He learned his first English at the age of 6. When he graduated from City College, he was barely over 5 feet and weighed only 102 pounds. He took up wrestling and became so good at it that he served as the wrestling coach at Loyola College for seven years. He'd been a city councilman and state senator since 1951.

When the "reformers" won the election May 5, 1959, all three by landslides (and Grady by a record 81,000 votes), a banner headline proclaimed, "The Three G's Take Over," and their collective nickname became part of history.

In the spring of 1962, word got around that Grady was being considered for a federal or state judgeship. He denied it. "The responsibilities of the mayor's office are my first concern," he said. In December, he donned the robes of Judge Grady of the Baltimore Supreme Bench.

That left the mayor's office vacant, and to no one's surprise, Goodman quickly filled in and just as quickly made himself the Democratic candidate to succeed himself. He lost to Theodore R. McKeldin, whose "reform" campaign was not unlike that of the Three G's four years before. (Politicians, Glimpses has noted, are always reforming.)

McKeldin and Baltimore Sun editorial writers, who supported the Republican, charged that Goodman had taken an uncommon interest in Grady's judicial career from the day the Three G's were sworn in. He didn't care which judgeship the mayor got, the critics said, so long as his office became vacant. Goodman died in 1976 and Graham in 1987. Judge Grady is retired from the bench.

Baltimore's City Hall occupancy is best recalled as a one-of-a-kind William Donald Schaefer, two street-wise Tommy D'Alesandros, the indominatable Theodore R. McKeldin and the three oddly-matched G's.

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