By Hannah Himes
For The Diamondback
Family members, friends and former colleagues gathered at the University of Maryland on Monday to celebrate the life of former Maryland Sen. Joseph Tydings and promote a new book about his advocacy for progressive ideals. The discussion broached topics covered in the book, including the influence of money in politics and the rise of politically motivated young people.
About 80 attendees — from Tydings’ first cousin to members of his Senate campaign — gathered at the Samuel Riggs IV Alumni Center in honor of the former senator’s upcoming 90th birthday and in support of his new autobiography. Titled “My Life in Progressive Politics: Against the Grain,” the book documents Tydings’ career as he fought for progressive issues like gun control, civil rights, healthcare and environmental protection.
“I admired his fearlessness,” said John Frece, a former state house bureau chief for The Baltimore Sun who co-authored the book. Frece called the book “an opportunity to tell what I think is a great story.”
“He’s had quite a life and has done some really courageous things and I wanted to associate myself with him and with that story,” said Frece, who has previously written books about politics in Maryland and co-authored an autobiography from former Maryland governor Harry Hughes.
Tydings was elected to represent Harford County in the Maryland House of Delegates in 1954. He was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1964 and served one term. He lost re-election in 1970 after receiving criticism from the National Rifle Association for his support of stricter gun control policies.
One attendee, Jo-Ann Orlinsky, worked with Tydings on his 1964 senate campaign. The staff from that campaign still meets once a year, she said.
Orlinsky said she was excited to get his book at the event “because it’s Joe.”
“The biggest thrill for all of us was the 1965 Civil Rights Act,” Orlinsky said. “Joe played a large part in getting that through.”
During the event, Tydings called the influence of money in politics “a huge, huge problem for our democracy.”
“You couldn’t buy elections [in the 1960s] like you can today,” he said.
Tydings added that young people — and particularly young women — becoming more politically involved “means everything” and is a “great positive,” he said.
“The young Democrats were the heart of the progressive movement” in the 1960s, Tydings said. “Without them, I would never have won the nomination.”
Tydings is the adopted son of former U.S. Congressman Millard Tydings, for whom Tydings Hall on this university’s campus is named. Joseph Tydings served on this university’s board of regents for a decade and on the University System of Maryland Board of Regents from 2000 to 2005.
“Anyone who knows me, knows I’m a University of Maryland man!” Tydings said.
Many of Tydings family members attended the event to show support for Tydings and celebrate his life.
“How many 90th birthday parties are you going to have?” joked Diahne Grosjean, Tydings’ first cousin.
“For decades, Senator Tydings has made numerous contributions to the State of Maryland and our university community, beginning with his time as a student and carrying through his many years on the Board of Regents and UMCP Foundation Board of Trustees,” Jackie Lewis, vice president of university relations, said in a statement. “We are honored to celebrate his legacy.”
CORRECTION: Due to an editing error, a previous version of the photo caption on this article misspelled Joseph Tydings’ name. The caption has been updated.