Political veteran changes fronts

Lighthizer takes helm of preservation group

November 24, 1999|By Jackie Powder | Jackie Powder,SUN STAFF

A veteran of political fights in stints as Anne Arundel county executive and Maryland transportation secretary, O. James Lighthizer is turning his attention to other battlefields -- from the Civil War, as president of a newly formed preservation group.

He is leaving his job of the past three years as a partner with the Baltimore law firm Miles and Stockbridge to head the Civil War Preservation Trust, based in Arlington, Va.

"I've reached a point in life where I really want to do something that I'm interested in and I'm committed to," Lighthizer said yesterday. "Money has become secondary, and job satisfaction is primary. Hopefully, I'll have the chance, God willing, to do it the rest of my professional life."

The trust was created this month by the merger of two leading battlefield preservation groups, the Association for the Preservation of Civil War Sites and the Civil War Trust.

"I think that Jim Lighthizer is a dynamo," said Carrington Williams, chairman of the board of the merged organization. "He's dedicated, he is intelligent, he's got energy. The guy's got everything as far as I'm concerned."

Lighthizer, 53, also has more than a passing acquaintance with Civil War history. He teaches a continuing education class in the subject at Anne Arundel Community College.

He said a historical novel sparked his interest in the period. "I was going to the beach for a week, and somebody recommended a book called `The Killer Angels,' " he said. "At first, I scoffed because I don't normally read fiction, but I read it, and the rest, as they say, is history."

The new job, which he will assume Dec. 1, is a "once-in-a-lifetime chance," Lighthizer said.

The Crofton resident served in the House of Delegates from 1979 to 1982, when he won the first of two terms as county executive.

Lighthizer said he gained experience in land preservation during his tenure as secretary of Maryland's Department of Transportation in the administration of Gov. William Donald Schaefer from 1991 to 1995.

He said the state was the first in the country to use federal highway money to protect Civil War sites. The initiative, which has been copied around the country, has saved more than 4,500 acres at Maryland battlefields, including land at Antietam, South Mountain and Monocacy.

"I think the leading position that Maryland has in Civil War battlefield preservation is in large measure due, as I understand it, to Jim Lighthizer," Williams said.

Williams said one of the Civil War Preservation Trust's first projects will be a fund-raising campaign to secure federal money available for the preservation of endangered battlefields. The trust must raise $16 million to obtain $8 million through the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund, he said.

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