Robert H. Kittleman : 1926-2004

GOP senator remembered as `great leader' in State House

Howard Co. lawmaker dies of leukemia

September 12, 2004|By Doug Donovan | Doug Donovan,SUN STAFF

Republican state Sen. Robert H. Kittleman, a cattle farmer, Westinghouse engineer and one-time minority leader in the Maryland House of Delegates, died yesterday. He was 78.

Mr. Kittleman, who served as a delegate for 19 years and joined the state Senate in 2002, died at 1:30 p.m. at Johns Hopkins Hospital of leukemia, his son said. Nearly his entire family had been by his side since Friday night.

"He affected a tremendous amount of people with his life," said Allan H. Kittleman, who lived with his father and brother at their West Friendship cattle farm. "There are some people who are larger than life. That was my father."

Former Rep. Helen Delich Bentley, a longtime leader of Republican politics in the state, recalled Mr. Kittleman as a "very able, very together guy."

"He was a great leader for the Republican Party at a time when we were very small," Mrs. Bentley said.

Mr. Kittleman, whose Senate district encompassed Howard and Carroll counties, played an active role in this year's 90-day General Assembly session, which ended in April. News of his illness emerged shortly thereafter.

He remained involved in politics as recently as last month, when he fought a Howard County Council bill to ban leg-hold animal traps. County lawyers concluded that the county did not have the authority to enforce the law to ban the traps that catch fox or beaver.

"People have no understanding at all of nature and the real world," Mr. Kittleman was quoted as saying in an Aug. 26 article in The Sun. Allan Kittleman, a Republican county councilman, joined his father in fighting the measure.

Mr. Kittleman served on numerous committees and boards during his time in the House of Delegates and the state Senate. During his tenure in the House, he served minority leader for the Republicans from 1995 to 2001. He served as minority whip from 1987 to 1994.

He moved over to the Senate chamber in 2002 to take the seat left vacant by Christopher J. McCabe, who took a job in the Bush administration and now serves as the Maryland secretary of the Department of Human Resources.

Mr. Kittleman was set to receive the John W. Holland Humanitarian Award tonight from the Community Action Council of Howard County. The award is presented annually to a person who demonstrates extraordinary commitment and dedication to disadvantaged residents of Howard County.

Mr. Kittleman was born in 1926 in Omaha, Neb., and was raised in Iowa. He served in the Navy from 1943 to 1946 and was stationed on Guam, Allan Kittleman said. He studied engineering at the University of Oklahoma and earned a bachelor's degree in 1947.

Mr. Kittleman worked for Westinghouse for 26 years before retiring in 1984, two years after he was elected to the House of Delegates. Allan Kittleman said his father was most proud of his efforts to desegregate schools during the 1960s.

Shortly after the third-generation Iowa Republican moved to Howard County in 1956, he became the first white person to join the local branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. He later became the group's first white president.

During that time, he had told The Sun in 1995, "Howard County was one of the worst places in the world for blacks."

He worked tirelessly to integrate schools, the police force and county restaurants.

"Howard County is a good county now, probably one of the best in the country in terms of race," he said in 1995.

He was defeated in the 1978 Howard County Council election but then emerged five years later as the first Republican elected to the House of Delegates from Howard County in more than 60 years. His district represented Howard and Montgomery counties. By 1990, Mr. Kittleman was raising money for Republicans all over the state.

Allan Kittleman said his father adored his grandchildren and enjoyed teaching them the musical instruments that he was adept at playing: clarinet and piano. Mr. Kittleman also enjoyed gardening and raising cattle on his farm.

Funeral arrangements had not been finalized as of last night.

Mr. Kittleman is survived by his wife, Trent M. Kittleman, deputy secretary of transportation; a daughter, Laura Yeatts of Poolesville; sons Cody and Allan, both of West Friendship; and 10 grandchildren.

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