Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock. The school bell is ringing, don’t be late. School is now in session.
Today’s lesson is about the late Speaker of the Maryland House of Delegates, Michael E. Busch. Speaker Busch, who died last Sunday, will be buried on Tuesday.
He was from Annapolis and he made history by becoming the speaker of the Maryland House of Delegates, elected by his colleagues, again and again. He was the longest-serving speaker in Maryland’s history.
There will be a lot more written and said about him in the coming days, and most comments will focus on his his legislative achievements, which were many.
However, Speaker Busch wasn’t only a legislator, and this morning’s lesson is about things that will not be said or written about him anywhere else. He was one of the last white politicians that attempted to build racial coalitions around common ground.
He was the epitome of decency. He sought to bring people together and he did. He was mentored by the late and beloved Annapolis Mayor Roger W. Moyer, Sr.
In turn, Speaker Busch mentored many other politicians, including County Executive Steuart Pittman, Mayor Josh Cohen, Alderwoman Classie Hoyle, Alderman Samuel Shropshire, Alderman Joe Budge, State Senator Sarah Elfreth, Delegate Alice Cain, Vincent Leggett, Alderwoman Sheila M. Finlayson, Robert Eades, Wayne Taylor, Juanita Cage Lewis, former Alderman Kenneth Kirby, Janice Hayes-Williams and so many more.
He was one of the few white politicians who connected with all of his constituents.
I remember when we launched the Fannie Lou Hamer Reception that honors women, and it was then-Delegate Mike Busch who funded the first reception.
When I worked with former County Executive Janet Owens, she worked closely with Speaker Busch, who, like me, worked for county government at the time.
He worked with County Executive Owens to get the funding for the millions of dollars it took to preserve and rehabilitate the old Wiley H. Bates High School. As some readers will know, Wiley H. Bates once was the only high school that African-Americans could attend in Anne Arundel County.
I am all too familiar with the countless campaigns that he was engaged in.
Who will ever forget the racially tinged campaign of Judge Claudia Barber? Speaker Busch supported her during that campaign.
Yet, it is not the story of that campaign that I want to leave you with. It is what he did for some blacks kids at the Stanton Community Center.
You will not read about this anywhere else and here is the story. George “Lassie” Belt had worked with some children and wanted to have their artwork placed at the Arundel Center.
The then- Republican County Executive John Leopold, who voted against naming the airport after Thurgood Marshall said “no” to the artwork. He didn’t think that the children’s artwork would be “appropriate.”
Speaker Bush went to work. He got the State of Maryland to allow the children’s artwork to be placed at 45 Calvert Street, which is directly across from the Arundel Center, which is located at 44 Calvert Street.
Every day that the disgraced County Executive Leopold left his office, he saw the large mural that those African-American children created on that State building.
The best part, though, and truly poetic justice, is that it is still there and is an image of a black man breaking his chains. What a wonderful and lasting legacy that Speaker Busch has left.
There is talk about naming various things after him. I hope that Brooks Schandelmeier and the District 30 Club will consider renaming their club after him so that other future public servants who join, participate, and garner support through that Democratic club will remember who he was.
I end this history lesson with something that the late Senator Ted Kennedy said about his assassinated brother Bobby Kennedy. To paraphrase, he said let us not make more of him in death than he was in life.
Senator Kennedy said his brother saw war and tried to stop it. He saw poverty and tried to eradicate it. He saw wrong and tried to right it.
What Senator Kennedy did not know at the time was that a young Michael Busch in Annapolis heard him and spent the rest of his life trying to emulate the legacy of Bobby Kennedy, and I think he did just that.
I might add that the “Coach,” as he was affectionately called, won and lost many battles, however, his greatest achievements were not in the enemies he made but the friends that he never forgot.
The next time you walk by the building at 45 Calvert Street, look at the mural and think about Speaker Busch and those young artists whose artwork grace that building. Those young kids are now adults, and thanks to Speaker Busch, their lives will never be the same again.
See you next week for another history lesson that is not taught in our public schools, but, I teach them because I am a living eyewitness to that history.
Stay Woke. Stay Focus. Stay Involved. Stay committed to causes bigger than yourself.
A Luta Continua.
Comments? Please see our Facebook post.
Carl Snowden leads the African American Caucus in Anne Arundel County. He is a life-long activist and columnist for the Capital Newspaper and The Arundel Patriot.