My kind of man, Ted Agnew is... Agnew for Governor Campaign Song, 1966
In 1966, Spiro Theodore Agnew certainly was Maryland's kind of man. The self-made, middle class, Republican candidate for governor was riding high on a coalition of suburban Republicans and Democrats throughout the state to defeat hard-line segregationist George Mahoney, the Democratic nominee.
Despite the fact that Democrats out-number Republicans by three to one in Maryland, Agnew easily beat Mahoney in that election. But the Ted Agnew who captured the governorship of Maryland on a wave of backlash against segregation was a far cry from the Spiro Agnew who would emerge on the national scene two years later to accept the vice presidential nomination from Richard Nixon.
After Mahoney received the Democratic nomination for governor, largely as a result of support from the conservative Eastern Shore and Western Maryland counties, liberals and moderates turned to Agnew in droves as the middle of the road candidate. And during the 1966 campaign he was exactly that.
Countering Mahoney's "Your home is your castle" slogan, Agnew ran a classic liberal-moderate campaign. He pushed for tax reform, open housing laws, took a moderate stand on law and order and called for the repeal of a Maryland statute prohibiting interacial marriages.
Liberal and black Democrats from the overwhelmingly Democratic suburban Washington, D.C., counties championed Agnew as the ideal candidate; a moderate career public executive who approached elective office with more emphasis on problem solving than on partisanship. Reform-minded Democratic leaders throughout the state told voters over and over throughout the campaign, "Agnew is one of our own."
During his first year as governor, Agnew established a progressive record. He pushed hard for the issues on which he had campaigned, continually met with black leaders throughout the State in attempts to head off racial problems and took a moderate position on crime and punishment. As a result his support among the coalition increased and he had few problems with the Democratic controlled Maryland Congress.
Then, in his second year, Agnew bewildered his liberal supporters with numerous reversals of his previous positions. When rioting broke out in black sections of Baltimore, Agnew called in the black leaders and issued a scathing statement blaming them for the trouble.
He slashed the state budget, including money for many reforms which he had supported the year before. Foreshadowing his later stances on crime in the streets, Agnew spoke out strongly in favor of "stop and frisk" laws. It was the Spiro Agnew of this second year in office who would go on to be vice president.
Agnew began his career as a lawyer specializing in labor cases in Baltimore County. In 1957 he was nominated to serve on the Zoning Board of Appeals of Baltimore County and in 1966 he became the county executive.
After attending Baltimore County public schools, Agnew entered Johns Hopkins University in 1937 to study chemistry. He transferred to Baltimore Law School three years later and received his LLB in 1947, having attended classes at night and worked as a clerk in the day. As a company combat commander in World War II, Agnew received a Bronze Star for heroism in France and Germany.
Agnew opened up a law office in Towson, Md., and quickly became an active member of the community, joining Kiwanis, the local VFW post and becoming president of the local PTA.
E. Lester Barrett, one of his senior law associates and now a judge in Baltimore County, persuaded him to shift from Democrat to Republican in the early 1950s and thus when he was elected county executive in 1962 he became the first Republican to hold the office in Baltimore County since 1895.