Best of the Spy: Anne Jelich and the Eastern Shore Garden

Editor Note: This was first published on June 9, 2011

When Alice Walker wrote “In search of my mother’s garden, I found my own,” she was clearly speaking for hundreds of thousands of gardeners, but it rings particularly true for Trappe landscape designer Anne Bartlett Jelich. Her love of garden design comes as much from her own passion as it does a multigeneration of famed Talbot County gardeners. With a keen eye and a relaxed sense of space, Anne, along with husband John, has used her home on the banks of the Choptank River, as a laboratory for experimentation, finding creative solutions for the Chesapeake’s unique climate and almost perfect soil.

The Spy caught up with her last month.

The Politics of Reason: The Life of Rogers Morton

Editor note: This was originally published on July 16, 2012

When the Talbot Spy formally launched in the Spring of 2011, it dedicated itself to the memory of Talbot County’s Rogers C.B. Morton, a Republican Congressman and former Secretary of the Interior and Commerce in the Nixon and Ford Administrations.

This might have been seen as an odd choice for a brand new e-newspaper, with a decidedly progressive point of view, to honor  a former Republican congressman, let alone one who had passed away more than thirty years ago. Indeed, even many of the GOP faithful have lost memories of one of their great Republican icons of the region.

While we knew that Morton (who represented the Eastern Shore in Congress from 1962 to 1972), was undoubtedly a good man, our reasons to acknowledge his contributions were motivated by his legendary capacity to reach across the great political divide. Despite his active and very public partisan roles (he also served as Chairman of the National Republican Party) Morton was behind the scenes working with Democrats and conservatives in his own party to protect the Chesapeake Bay, usher in civil rights, fair housing, ethics reform, environmental protection and land conservation.

His daughter Anne “Babe” Wyman recalls that her father’s self-image was one of a businessman first and foremost. “He liked the fact that he came from business. He had a love of the Bay and farming, but what he thought he brought to the table was a business-like mindset such as keeping taxes down and government’s role limited, but be fair.”

Rogers C.B. Morton (Photo courtesy of Gerald Ford Library)

Morton’s unique sense of reasonableness however transcended party lines, wealth, or race. In many ways, he embodied the best qualities of the Eastern Shore, and, in particular, his adopted home of Easton, and it seemed appropriate for us to set the tone for our new undertaking by tipping our collective hat to Rogers C.B. Morton.

But who was Rog Morton? And how did his collegial form of politics fair in the policy jungles of Washington DC? In a three-part series, the Spy takes a second look at the Morton legacy and the man himself.

The Man

On a hot August morning in 1968, Richard Nixon was enjoying perhaps the most stunning political comeback in American history, having just secured the Republican nomination for president the night before only six years after telling the press in 1962 that “they won’t have Nixon to kick around anymore.”

The “New Nixon” had masterfully crafted his comeback with a primary campaign of remarkable organization and planning. Unlike his poorly executed presidential run in 1960, almost every detail and strategy had been anticipated with laser-like focus, including the tapping into Madison Avenue for the successful “Nixon’s the One” slogan.  And yet, even with this “big picture” approach, and knowing full well he had locked up the nomination weeks before Miami, he was uncharacteristically indecisive about who would be his running mate.

It wasn’t all that surprising Nixon was avoiding making this particular call. Given his own selection to be Eisenhower’s VP nominee eight years before, this was not a front-burner issue for Nixon. In his mind, his choice was to be a political calculation based on conditions on the ground in Miami. There was no need to look seriously at such things as compatibility or assessing presidential timber, let alone personal finances. The paramount consideration was who would best attract the independent voter that year. Nonetheless, Nixon struggled.

In fact, Nixon had already met twice with aides and congressional leaders to consider possible choices, and it was apparent to key aides at the time that no firm candidate had emerged. But now, with only hours left to make up his mind, he called for yet another meeting with his closest people to put the issue to bed that morning.

Six arrived and took seats in the living room of the suite: Headed up by Nixon’s pipe-smoking campaign manager John Mitchell, future White House chief of staff and Watergate felon Bob Halderman, old California friend Bob Finch, convention floor manager Robert Ellsworth, as well as party leaders, Senator John Tower from Texas and Congressman Rogers Morton from the small Eastern Shore town of Easton, Maryland.

After tossing out names like Massachusetts Governor John Volpe, Howard Baker of Tennessee, and a few other dark horses, there was a decidedly indifferent response from his team. Nixon finally circled back to the Spiro Agnew option again.

Agnew looked good to Nixon. He had been particularly impressed by his quick political rise in Maryland. Within four years, Agnew had gone from a county executive to governor of a major state, very similar to Nixon’s own rise from the House to the Senate and finally Vice President in almost the same amount of time. He was also perceived as a moderate with strong civil rights credentials. It also didn’t hurt that Agnew had working class roots as well as Greek-American ancestry.

On the other hand, he had spent very little time getting to know Agnew. While Ted Agnew had endorsed Nixon early in the primary season, they had never had a formal meeting of any significance prior to the Miami Convention. More importantly, there was no serious due diligence on Agnew, or any other possible running mate up for review. It would be four years later when both parties started to take the VP selection seriously in the aftermath of the famous George McGovern debacle with his selection of Senator Tom Eagleton in 1972.  There was no “Agnew file” to measure performance or to know what ghosts hid in the closet.  Nixon needed some raw information.

He turned to Agnew’s fellow Marylander Rogers Morton for a frank assessment.

Unlike most of his other personal relations in politics, he actually liked “Rog”. While he was pleased that Morton had endorsed Nixon very early on in 1968, there was something else about Rog, a rare likeability hard to define,  that placed Morton on Nixon’s very, very short “good guy” list.

It seemed like everyone liked Rog. Republicans, Democrats, Chesapeake watermen, Eastern Shore farmers, and more than a few landed gentry. The six-foot seven congressman, with Kennedy length white hair, a belly laugh heard through walls, and native Kentucky charm, quickly became known as the “gentle giant” around Washington.

Unlike Morton’s good friend, the six-foot four Lyndon Johnson, who made physical intimidation into a Washington art form, Morton used his massive frame to engulf people in a sea of fraternal friendship, that even the introverted and cautious Nixon found hard to resist.

As a testament to Nixon’s affection for Morton, he had elected to ignore Morton’s blue blood pedigree, which in most cases was a deal killer for the class conscious Southern Californian. As a product of Woodberry Forest, Yale and, even worse for Nixon, inherited wealth, it was impossible to hide his establishment credentials.

After the family flour business was acquired by Pillsbury in the 1950s, it was no secret that Morton lived a very comfortable existence. His move to Talbot County was due to his love of sailing, not because it was territory for a political opportunity. While he never stopped working, as he was always eager to point out, he spent his professional life mostly serving on corporate boards (like Pillsbury), gentleman farming and occasionally boat building before his years in Congress.

There seems to be some truth in the story that Morton entered politics in part to compete playfully with his beloved older brother, Thurston, who had become a popular U.S. Senator from Kentucky.  But Morton’s road with his own political career was more or less a set of random occurrences which eventually led  to winning Maryland’s 1st Congressional District in 1962.

The first random event was his close friend and former incumbent Ed Miller who unexpectedly pulled out of the 1962 race. The second was that his very popular opponent in the general election, Democrat Tom Johnson, was charged with federal bribery charges just weeks before the election.

This was not the kind of tough political training Nixon admired. And yet with Morton, it didn’t matter. He trusted him.

“Rog, what’s your take on Agnew,” asked Nixon.

Morton with no hesitation noted that Agnew’s downside was his “tendency to be lazy.”

Nixon quickly responded,“Well, Rog, maybe you would be the better choice for me.”

Morton, while a political novice compared to Nixon, was well aware that a simple change in voice inflection, an ambiguous “it’s your call, Dick” response would have started a serious conversation.  But, by all all accounts, Morton instantly fired back, “If it’s between me and Ted Agnew, Ted would be the better choice.”

Nixon, who knew Morton was not bluffing, quickly acknowledged the non-starter by turning quickly to John Mitchell with a formal nod indicating the this last option was off the list and then swung back to Morton and said, “call Agnew.”

For those who knew Rogers C.B. Morton, the consequences of Nixon’s decision on American history can not be overstated. While Morton would have more than likely failed to save Nixon from the crippling paranoia that ended his presidency in disgrace, Morton’s friends nonetheless suggest he would have saved the country from the trauma of having both a president and vice president resign due to scandal within months of each other.  And more than a few suggest he might have proven to be a more remarkable leader for the country than his good friend Jerry Ford.

But those same friends were also not surprised by Morton’s instinctive gesture to defer in the face of ambition.  In fact, Morton had a remarkable record of these gentlemanly deferments. He had only recently bowed out of Maryland’s governor’s race in 1966 (that Agnew eventually won) even after a Baltimore Sun editorial called on him to enter the race.  And more recently, in early 1968, he had graciously decided to hold the door open for his friend Mac Mathias to run for the US  Senate even though in the Maryland’s GOP circles, Rog was considered the more attractive candidate.

While modesty might have played a role in Morton’s low key approach to political ambition, he also had an equally strong desire to avoid jobs where he didn’t think he could experience a certain degree of fun and enjoyment.

And what he enjoyed most were people. From the extremes factions of the Goldwater wing in the GOP to the new “hippies” that started to emerge in the late 1960’s, Morton could always find common ground.

At the heat of the protest movement against the Vietnam War, his then aide Jay French tells a story of driving in DC  with Morton during Nixon’s first term when they spotted protesters from the other side of the street.

“We were in a place where kids were clearly going to disrupt the event we were attending. They were radicals, and loud, and he walked right into the middle of the group, and of course towered over them with that 6.7 foot frame.  By the end, everyone was laughing. It was just the way he had with people when there were disagreements. He seemed so darn reasonable to people.”

While there is a current wave of nostalgia these days for the demise of “moderate Republicans,” friends of Morton tend to explain his approach to politics in different terms.  Fellow Congressional colleague and friend Don Rumsfeld warns that the label “moderate” is too neat a category to fit Morton.

“I’m not sure we would have used the term ‘moderate’.. but I think we did see ourselves as reformers,” says Rumsfeld. “Rog and a number of us were trying to get the Congress to have better rules and procedures, like supporting an ethics committee” as well as civil rights and environmental protection.

What does emerge from Morton’s time in Washington was a remarkable period for bipartisanship and reason.  And it was a core value for Morton. He had been reasonable about civil rights when many Democrats had been opposed to it, reasonable on medicare, reasonable on international relations, and reasonable in protecting the country’s natural resources.

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Spy Profile: Gunston School’s John Lewis

As part of our ongoing series on education on the Eastern Shore, the Spy talked recently with Headmaster John Lewis of Gunston School.

A native of Rockville, and graduate of Georgetown University, holding master degrees from Harvard and Columbia, John Lewis represents a new model for the role of headmaster in contemporary private education. Gone are the days of the classic head of school as depicted in John McPhee’s New Yorker article on Frank Boyden of Deerfield Academy.

Mr. Lewis talks of Gunston’s unique history and mission, but also candidly on the financial challenges small schools are facing in the aftermath of economic recession.

The interview is approximately ten minutes long.

Maryland 3.0: Mike Jensen and Unity Church Hill

It should be reassuring to those interested in Eastern Shore entrepreneurship that they can point to Mike Jensen, owner of <a href=”http://www.unitychurchhillnursery.com/” target=”_blank”>Unity Church Hill Nursery</a>, as part of a new breed of young, smart and focused innovators working in the region. In Mike’s case, it is particularly encouraging since he is home grown fellow (graduate of Kent County High School) making it work financially in the place he wants to raise his family.

Unity Church Hill as taken the unique step of combining Mike’s legacy landscape design work with a fully functioning retail nursery. The results of his labor can be seen at their Route 213 store with an extraordinary collective of both native and exotic plants. Mike talks to the Spy about his experience and future plans with an addictive sense of humor and creativity.

<em>The video is approximately six minutes in length. </em>

Profiles in Education: A View from the Academy with Sean O’Connor

Sean O’Connor, Washington College’s professor emeritus of education, is the first to admit that his role over the last thirty years in the field of learning has been in the lofty  perch of the academic world, or the “Academy” has he affectionately refers to it.  For the former Irishman,  his career has been one of scholarship,  philosophy, and policy rather than being on the “front lines” of public education.

And yet, during Sean’s three decades in the Unite States, hundreds of his students have graduated and gone on to play important roles in the country’s public school system.  And this is particularly so in Kent County, where 43 graduates are teachers or administrators. He has also sent his own children to local public schools.

In a interview with the Chestertown Spy, the professor offers a unique perspective of Kent County Public Schools and their future in society. While he retains his belief and confidence in America’s public education system, he is also eager to note the profound challenges that a small county like Kent must face in the decades ahead.

The interview is approximately seven minutes long. 

Downrigging: Filmmaker David Conover Takes on Science and Religion in “Behold the Earth”

Filmmaker David Conover, who will be presenting out-takes of his documentary “Behold the Earth,” Saturday night of Sultana’s Downrigging Weekend, is on a mission to find the common ground between science and religion.  This is not an easy task; these two powerful concepts have been at odds with each other for centuries. In fact, for some it remains one of the great unresolved issues for mankind.

And yet for the Emmy-nominated filmmaker, the perceived gap  seemed to dramatically shrink as he began to capture his conversations with scientists and theologians on these two powerful forces.  “There is knee-jerk reaction in both camps that there isn’t much common ground, but what I’ve seen in making this film is a huge overlap that we’re just beginning to understand,” said Conover.

Part of Conover’s discovery of common ground was the result of using the right  language to start the conversation.  “I think it was Bill Moyers who was the first to point out for me that using the right words is the first step in starting the dialogue, particularly when 40% of Americans are not on board with evolution. For example, to start with the story of Noah’s ark and eventually discuss the dangers of global warning leads to different view of the world.”

The other discovery was the awareness that even within evangelical faiths, there exists a wide range of conservation ideology.  Conover noticed that there was a right, center and progressive elements within each of  these groups. “Clearly some are less open than others, but many evangelicals understand the  important need for the scientific to deal with threats to the planet,” noted Conover.

Conover gets part of his message across by enlisting the help of such highly respected scientists like biologist E. O. Wilson from Harvard, and Cal DeWitt, one of the great influences in the evangelical environmentalism movement.  “Behold The Earth provides an opportunity to hold steady within the BIG PICTURE of American identity and the natural world. It asks the big questions of thought leaders like Wilson, Dewitt, Richard Louv, Theo Colborn, and others. Where have we come from? Where are we going? How do we know what we know?”

 

David Conover
An Inquiry into America’s Divorce from the Outdoors
Saturday, October 27 / 5:00pm (FREE)
Garfield Center for the Arts
210 High St Chestertown

Sondheim Artscape $25,000 Prize Moves to the Walters for 2013

The Baltimore Office of Promotion & The Arts announces the relocation of the eighth annual Janet & Walter Sondheim Artscape Prize.  The finalists’ exhibition and award ceremony for the competition will be held at the Walters Art Museum for 2013.  The internationally renowned museum has partnered with the Baltimore Office of Promotion & The Arts to ensure the continuation of the prestigious visual arts competition.  The relocation of the Sondheim Artscape Prize finalists’ exhibition is due to major renovations to the Alvin and Fanny Blaustein Thalheimer Galleries of The Baltimore Museum of Art.  The BMA has had a longstanding partnership with the competition since its inception in 2005.  The Sondheim Artscape Prize awards a $25,000 fellowship to assist in furthering the career of a visual artist or visual artist collaborators living and working in the Greater Baltimore region.  Submission information for the 2013 competition will be announced in late October.

“I would like to thank Doreen Bolger and the staff at the BMA for all of those years of support and setting the bar for a high caliber Sondheim Artscape Prize finalists’ exhibition,” said Bill Gilmore, executive director of the Baltimore Office of Promotion & The Arts.  “I’m looking forward to the same commitment and collaboration with the Walters.”

“We welcome the opportunity to host the eighth annual exhibition of finalists selected for the prestigious Sondheim Artscape Prize,” said Gary Vikan, director of the Walters. “This is a great opportunity to engage with diverse visual artists in our community and enjoy interplay between art of the past and present.”

The Janet & Walter Sondheim Artscape Prize finalists’ exhibition takes place Saturday, June 29, 2013, through Sunday, August 11, 2013.  The annual competition is produced by the Baltimore Office of Promotion & The Arts.  Held in conjunction with Artscape, America’s largest free arts festival, the finalists and semi-finalists’ exhibitions are presented in partnership with the Walters Art Museum and Maryland Institute College of Art.  Funding for the Sondheim Prize is made possible through the generous support of the Abell Foundation, Alex. Brown & Sons Charitable Foundation, Charlesmead Foundation, Ellen Sondheim Dankert, France-Merrick Foundation, Hecht-Levi Foundation, Legg Mason, M&T Bank Foundation, Henry & Ruth Blaustein Rosenberg Foundation, John Sondheim and Whiting-Turner Contracting.

For more information on the 2013 Janet & Walter Sondheim Artscape Prize, call 410-752-8632 or visit www.artscape.org.

Bay Area Association of Realtors Announces Board Members

The Bay Area Association of Realtors® (BAAR) inducted their 2012-2013 Board of Directors on October 10th at Symphony Village in Centreville. More than 40 attendees welcomed incoming BAAR President, Sue Hitt as she took over the helm from outgoing BAAR President Dick Sells. Executives from the Maryland Association of Realtors (MAR) and Coard Benson, President of the Mid-Shore Board of Realtors® were on hand to watch as new MAR President Carlton Boujai delivered the oath of office to the 14 BAAR board members and executive team.

In remarks after the induction, President Sue Hitt thanked the MAR Executives and staff for their support of our legislative initiatives and noted her focus for the year will be on increasing and improving BAAR’s partnerships with members, affiliates and neighboring Realtor Boards. She spoke about the improving market for real estate on the Eastern Shore and expressed optimism that the worst days of the real estate market looked to be behind us. The Bay Area Association of Realtors® offers support, service and training for its more than 300 members. BAAR is the leading advocate for the local real estate industry, of private property rights and for issues that affect its members’ ability to serve the public with competency, integrity and professionalism.

 

2012-2013 Bay Area Association of Realtors® board of directors with MAR
President, (left to right): Corbie Woehlke, Nic Gills, Diana Carlson, David “DJ” Dauses, MAR
President Carlton Boujai, Merry Tobin, Michelle Abplanalp, Cynthia “Cindy” Genther, BAAR
Past President Dick Sells, Elizabeth “Liz” Green, BAAR Vice-President Norma Coursey, BAAR
President Suzanne “Sue” Hitt. Not pictured are BAAR board members Douglas “Doug” Ashley,
Secretary Mary Jane “M.J.” Stevens, and Darlene Winegardner.

 

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Time Running Out to Sign up for Family Boatbuilding during Downrigging Weekend

Time is running out to sign up for Family Boatbuilding with Chesapeake Light Craft during Sultana Projects Downrigging Weekend Tall Ship & Wooden Boat Festival, October 26-28 in Chestertown, Maryland. This is a great opportunity to work with the pros from Chesapeake Light Craft to build their popular “Eastport Pram” sailing and rowing dinghy. Teams of two to four builders will spend three days over Downrigging Weekend to build their own Eastport Pram, which they can take away ready for finishing and painting on Sunday afternoon. We already have five teams ready to go for this class, so you will be in good company. No boatbuilding experience required!

Registrations to participate in Downrigging Weekend’s Family Boatbuilding must be received by Friday, October 12. If you have questions or would like to register, please call the Sultana Office at 410-778-5954.

The Marshmallow Test: How Would Your Kids Fare?

Thanks to the brilliant radio documentary on public education a few weeks ago by This American Life, the Spy was introduced to the Marshmallow Test created by Stanford University’s Walter Mischel. It is considered to be an extremely reliable tool in determining future long term success of children by evaluating the important non-cognitive skill of patience.

In short, a marshmallow was offered to each child. If the child could resist eating the marshmallow over a ten minute period, he was promised two instead of one. Mischel’s data suggests that a child’s capacity to resist temptation significantly correlated with successful adulthoods for those in the study.

Non-cognitive skills like patience, tolerance, and stress management are now seen by experts as just as important as achievement scores in testing the success of education for young people. While there might be disagreement on this point, there is none in how hard this exercise is for kids.