Charles A. LaMason, 67, political consultant, local radio executive

May 12, 2002|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Charles A. LaMason, former radio executive, speechwriter, political consultant and raconteur, died Thursday of heart failure at his Parkville home. He was 67.

Mr. LaMason had been director of public affairs for the insurance division of the Maryland Department of Licensing and Regulation for 10 years until his retirement in 1998.

An avuncular and almost larger-than-life character, Mr. LaMason was known for his courtly presence, carefully trimmed white mustache and ever-present wide-width suspenders.

He was also known for his keen knowledge of Maryland politics and history and his ability at turning a phrase, which made him an invaluable asset to Republicans and Democrats alike.

"He was a nice guy whose knowledge of state issues made him the envy of everyone. You gave him an issue, asked for a speech and within 24 hours, like magic, he had it ready for me," said former U.S. Rep. Helen Delich Bentley.

While working as chief speechwriter for William Donald Schaefer, then Baltimore mayor, Mr. LaMason had an idea for a call-in radio show in 1978.

Ask Mayor Schaefer was first broadcast over WITH and later WBAL radio, with Mr. Schaefer taking questions from constituents listening to the show who wanted a problem resolved or to comment on a city issue.

"Charlie was a good PR man and he initiated the show. He told me to get on the phone and talk to the people. And we got lots of good ideas out of it," Mr. Schaefer said yesterday.

"My aides listened to the show and took notes. By the time it was over, they had already tried to find solutions to the problems and questions called in," he said.

"Charlie was a very fine public employee who was always around when you needed him. He was very devoted to his job and even when sick, got out of bed and came to work," said Mr. Schaefer.

After Mr. Schaefer was elected governor in 1985, Mr. LaMason, who wanted to avoid the daily drive to Annapolis from his Parkville home, went to work for his successor at City Hall, Clarence H. Du Burns. He also briefly worked on the staff of Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke in the late 1980s.

Mr. LaMason was born in Baltimore and raised in Parkville. After graduating from Towson High School in 1952, he attended the University of Maryland for two years before enlisting in the Army.

He served in Alaska, working as a disc jockey on Armed Forces Radio. After being discharged in the late 1950s, he began working in radio full time.

His career took him to stations in Washington and Philadelphia and culminated in his joining Mutual Radio Network in New York in the 1960s as assistant to the station's president.

After returning to Baltimore, he managed WITH Radio in the early 1970s.

"He was a great storyteller who loved sitting around over a couple of beers and talking about his radio days and people he had known," said Michael Golden, Schaefer's spokesman, who worked with him at WITH.

"He could captivate you with his stories and actually put you there. Through his work, he had rubbed elbows with the rich and powerful," Mr. Golden said.

Patrick Pannella, executive director of the Maryland State Athletic Commission and a longtime friend, recalled him as a "gentleman of the old school" who "loved life and lived life."

"He was a master of words and a voracious reader of newspapers and books, always trying to gather more facts. He had an incredible knowledge of Baltimore and Maryland history and had a way of weaving them into speeches and proclamations," said Mr. Pannella.

"He was a curmudgeon who was extremely intelligent and known for his variety of life experiences," said Jacqueline Lampell, director of communications for the Maryland Department of Business and a close friend.

Mr. LaMason served on the steering committee of the Leslie Moore Scholarship Foundation and was active with the Babe Ruth Museum. A cat fancier, he was also active with the SPCA.

Funeral services will be held at 1 p.m. tomorrow at Evans Funeral Chapel, 8800 Harford Road, Parkville.

Mr. LaMason is survived by a brother, Clifford G. LaMason of Parkville; two nephews; and a niece.

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