ANNAPOLIS — Hundreds descended upon Maryland state’s capital Monday to pay respects to the late House Speaker Michael Busch, a man affectionately known as “coach,” “friend” and “my speaker.”
The State Police Honor Guard escorted Busch’s state flag-adorned casket and placed it on a sunlit spot underneath the State House dome.
“It is fitting that we have this opportunity to pay our respects for such a great Maryland leader here in the city that he called home,” Gov. Larry Hogan said during a ceremony for Busch. “In these hollowed walls where he was such a strong presence for so many years.”
Dozens of lawmakers said Busch, a 72-year-old Democrat from Anne Arundel County, said he became the first person to push for diversity among leadership positions.
Sen. Obie Patterson (D-District 26) of Fort Washington, who served in the House of Delegates for 12 years, said Busch appointed him as chair of the election law subcommittee on the Ways and Means Committee.
“He was a great man,” Patterson said. “You can go in his office and he would talk with you. You may not always agree with him, but he was fair. That’s the bottom line.”
Busch died April 7 of pneumonia following complications from a 2017 liver transplant. He had served as House speaker since 2003, longer than anyone in state history.
Born in Baltimore but later residing in Anne Arundel County, Busch garnered numerous awards that included Man of the Year from the county’s Lacrosse Association in 1982, the county’s Sports Hall of Fame in 2004 and municipal superstar from the Maryland Municipal League in 2009.
The former high school football coach received acclaim for his education and environmental advocacy from those statewide.
This year, lawmakers credit Busch for pushing legislation to improve the Chesapeake Bay, increase education spending to $7 billion and gradually increase the state’s minimum hourly wage to $15.
“He brilliantly led Maryland through generational … and demographic changes with great vision,” said Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Maryland). “By bringing people of different views together for a common purpose, he achieved an incredible record that will guide Maryland for generations to come.”
Busch’s successor will be determined at a special session in the House of Delegates on May 1.
Three delegates vying for the position — Dereck Davis (D-District 25) of Mitchellville, Maggie McIntosh (D-Baltimore City) and Adrienne Jones (D-Baltimore County) — all spoke during the nearly 30-minute ceremony. Jones has served the same number of years as speaker pro tem, a position that’s second-in-command of the House and presides over the sessions in the speaker’s absence.
After the ceremony, dozens waited behind a rope for a public viewing. Busch lied in repose until 7 p.m. and again from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. Tuesday before his funeral service in Annapolis later that day.
Delores Mooney of Annapolis showed up early Monday and said she will remember Busch for obtaining grants to improve a local community center and birthday cards.
“His office would mail me a birthday card,” she said. “I got about three of them. I don’t know how I got one, but I sure did appreciate it.”
Those who attended the viewing could take small wallet-sized cards with Busch’s picture and a scripture from the King James Version from 2 Timothy 4:7-8: “I have fought a good fight. I have finished my course. I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day; and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.”