State Sen. John A. Cade dies at 67 Minority leader was highly respected for his budget expertise

November 15, 1996|By Peter Jensen and C. Fraser Smith | Peter Jensen and C. Fraser Smith,SUN STAFF

Maryland Senate Minority Leader John A. Cade, whose booming voice, bearish size and budget expertise made him one of the General Assembly's most respected and influential members, died yesterday after suffering an apparent heart attack.

Cade, 67, a resident of Severna Park, was a force to be reckoned with on the Budget and Taxation Committee and on the Senate floor. A fiscal conservative and social moderate, the former Marine was gruff, blunt, smart, tough and almost never reluctant to share his opinion.

The six-term senator became sick while staying at the Coconut Malorie Hotel in Ocean City, where he was attending a two-day meeting of the Chesapeake Bay Commission.

According to police, he called the hotel's front desk to complain of feeling ill and an ambulance was summoned at 6 a.m.

After getting no answer at the door, rescue workers broke into Cade's room and tried to revive him. He was pronounced dead soon after at Atlantic General Hospital.

Cade's sudden death caused an outpouring of grief, shock and sadness from politicians in both parties.

Democratic Gov. Parris N. Glendening, on a trade mission in the Far East, issued a statement calling the Republican an %o "extremely responsible leader and hard-working public servant" who was "highly respected for his expertise in budgetary matters, as well as on social and environmental issues."

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller said his fallen colleague combined a "rough exterior with a heart of gold."

"He was a giant mentally as well as physically," said Miller, a Prince George's Democrat.

"He had an enormous ability to pick apart a budget."

Two years ago, Miller appointed him to head two budget subcommittees -- an unprecedented honor for a Republican in Annapolis.

Born in Charleston, S.C., three months before the stock market crash of 1929, Cade was the oldest son of a General Electric worker. The family tended a 1-acre truck farm to help put food on the table.

After a two-year stint in the Marines, Cade earned a bachelor's degree at Xavier University and a master's in business administration from Northwestern University.

He went to work for General Electric at an aircraft engine plant outside Cincinnati. In 1959, he moved to Maryland to work for Westinghouse.

It was in Anne Arundel County that Cade discovered politics. He was unhappy with the county commissioners, each of whom held power in a district to decide which roads were repaired or which property was rezoned.

Cade led the campaign to move Anne Arundel to charter government ruled by a council and county executive. That effort lead him to a council seat in 1964, no small feat in a county that was then dominated by Democrats.

But it was after his election to the Senate in 1974 that Cade found a perfect fit. He threw himself into the minutia of legislation, particularly the state budget.

In public hearings, he used his imposing presence to full effect, intimidating bureaucrats and lobbyists.

"He was the type of person who could dress you down and strip you clean," said Sen. F. Vernon Boozer, a Baltimore County Republican. "He could take presidents of universities and scare the living heck out of them."

Cade once kept a human skull in his committee, introducing it as the last bureaucrat who had lied to him.

Although intimidating, his height and 300-pound girth were not always political assets.

"How do you campaign?" he once asked then-Sen. Howard A. Denis of Montgomery County.

"Door to door," Denis replied.

"I tried that," Cade said a bit sheepishly, "but people backed away."

Over the years, leaders of the General Assembly began to recognize what Denis called "the Cade Factor." It would be expressed in questions: Can we get this by Cade? What is Cade going to say about this?

His stature and his sometimes studied effort to appear nonpartisan did not always sit well with his Republican colleagues.

"There was a wing of the party," said House Minority Leader and Howard County Republican Robert H. Kittleman, "that was unhappy sometimes with him.

"He went after things because he perceived what the public policy should be and not for his own interests."

Friends said he would not want to be remembered just for cutting the budget and picking apart bills. Cade was the prime sponsor of legislation that improved funding for community colleges statewide. His support of legislation on Baltimore's light rail system was considered crucial to its passage. And he was proud of a 1991 law that forces developers to replace trees that they cut down.

Ardath M. Cade, his wife of 22 years, has been influential in government in her own right.

A former deputy state housing secretary, she now serves as Anne Arundel's human services officer.

Other survivors include a son, Neill Cade, and a daughter, Michelle Cade, both of Cincinnati; two brothers, Gene Cade of Severn and Walter Cade of Charleston; a stepbrother, William Vonasek of Cincinnati; and six grandchildren.

A funeral Mass will be offered at 11 a.m. Monday at Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Glen Burnie.

Pub Date: 11/15/96

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