General Assembly honors veteran State House reporter

Stuckey of Associated Press covered 43 legislative sessions

April 07, 2006|By JILL ROSEN | JILL ROSEN,SUN REPORTER

The scribe briefly became the story yesterday as the General Assembly honored a reporter who quietly but diligently covered 43 legislative sessions.

Senators and delegates rose to give Associated Press reporter Tom Stuckey standing ovations - a legislative first - honoring a man who because of his longevity was called "dean of the press corps" and whose work earned their respect.

Because Stuckey, 67, plans to retire this year, this will be his last time documenting the harried, 90-day stretch that is lawmaking in Annapolis.

The Senate and then the House of Delegates voted unanimously to honor the reporter's service and to rename the cramped quarters in the State House basement where he spent more than four decades the Tom Stuckey Memorial Press Room.

Summoning Stuckey from his usual place in the House press chairs to the podium, House Speaker Michael E. Busch called the reporter "a man who set a standard for how his profession should be conducted in the General Assembly."

"What a nice view from up here," the slight and graying Stuckey joked from Busch's power perch. "Thank you for patiently answering the thousands and thousands of questions I've asked over the years."

Though the wire service is known for moving reporters from city to city, Stuckey spent essentially his entire career in Annapolis, turning down several promotions to do so.

His work spanned the terms of seven governors: J. Millard Tawes, Spiro T. Agnew, Marvin Mandel, Harry R. Hughes, William Donald Schaefer, Parris N. Gendening and Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. The latter's bid for re-election might be Stuckey's last story.

Knowledgeable but never self-important, hard-working but never too busy to help out a colleague, Stuckey, among his fellow reporters, evolved into a State House resource, a walking, talking manual of how things work.

As a journalist, he became a trusted chronicler, issuing the news of the day - year after year after year - in the measured unadorned style of the wire service.

That he managed to do so for 43 years in a volatile political environment, then end his career with accolades from both sides of the aisle, is all but unheard of.

"He is the prototype for what we should have - always - in the press," said Senate Minority Leader J. Lowell Stoltzfus of the Eastern Shore.

Senate Majority Leader Nathaniel J. McFadden of Baltimore said, "I hope the journalists that come behind you will have the same kind of temperament and pursuit of excellence that you've shown."

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller said, "He's one of those people that belong to everybody."

Like other reporters, Stuckey found that mistakes and typos occasionally made their way into his copy. His favorite was referring to Baltimore County Sen. Paula C. Hollinger as "a former nun."

"It came as great surprise to many of her constituents," Stuckey said of the former nurse, who is Jewish.

After the tribute in the House, journalists and officials shared a cake in the lounge, as television cameras trained on Stuckey and reporters fired questions at him about making it in the business for 43 years.

"It's a labor of love for him," said his close friend, Bob Smith, who joined a number of Stuckey's loved ones at the State House for the ceremony. "He wanted so much to make sure a story got told the right way - that was very important to him."

As soon as the festivities ended, Stuckey walked back to the press corner. As the clerk began calling bills, he picked up his notebook and began scribbling notes as he has for many years.

jill.rosen@baltsun.com

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