Casper R. Taylor Jr., the former Democratic Speaker of the House of Delegates in Maryland, passed away on Monday at the age of 88, according to the Cumberland Times-News.
Born in 1934 in the town of Frostburg, he grew up and attended school in Cumberland before graduating from the University of Notre Dame in 1956 and served in the U.S. Air Force ROTC before opening up a restaurant in his hometown.
He was first elected to Maryland's House of Delegates in 1975 and rose to become the House Speaker in 1994, a position he held until he left office in 2003.
The Washington Post reported that former Speaker Taylor's death on Monday was confirmed by his son Dane, but no cause was given.
Taylor was preceded in death in 2021 by his wife of more than 60 years, Mary Lenore "Polly" Young, and is survived by sons Dane and Brendan and their spouses, along with five grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.
Hailing from the more rural Western Maryland, Taylor's tenure in the House of Delegates was most predominately focused on economic development and revitalization and was praised for his ability to secure millions of dollars in federal, state, and private funding for myriad projects in his corner of the state.
He was also credited with coining the phrase "One Maryland" via legislation he sponsored that provided economic and tax incentives for businesses to invest in or relocate to needy parts of the state.
"Former House Speaker Casper R. Taylor’s work in Cumberland and his efforts to create One Maryland have left an impact on this state that will reverberate for generations to come," Democratic Maryland Gov. Wes Moore said in a statement. "Speaker Taylor served Maryland with distinction for nearly three decades, as a member of the House of Delegates and one of the longest serving Speakers of the House in the history of our state.
"We are so grateful for his years of public service, and celebrate his many accomplishments which Marylanders benefit greatly from every day. Our family’s thoughts are with his loved ones, friends, and former colleagues," the governor added.
Maryland Matters reported that Taylor died in his sleep on Monday morning and was known to have recently been dealing with "several maladies" of an unspecified nature.
Visitation at a local funeral home is scheduled for Friday evening followed by a wake service that night. There will then be a Catholic mass on Saturday afternoon followed by his internment at the Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Cemetery.
Taylor was praised as a "friend and a mentor" by current Democratic Maryland House Speaker Adrienne Jones, who said of Taylor, "It was an honor to serve with him for six years in the General Assembly. When anyone mentions ‘One Maryland,’ it’s because of Speaker Taylor. He championed our efforts to make sure each resident, regardless of their zip code, had the opportunities and resources to find success. This work and his legacy will continue on in the General Assembly. He will be sorely missed."
The outlet noted that Taylor was a conservative-leaning Democrat who had no problem working with his Republican colleagues on economic matters and was credited with helping to revitalize Western Maryland with a major interstate project and subsequent related development, which included the retention of a major manufacturer in the area along with the development of a major casino resort and golf course.
What led to his political downfall and the end of his career, however, was his prominent role in getting strict gun control legislation passed in 2002, which sparked a Republican wave of opposition and resulted in Taylor losing his bid for re-election that year, as well as his speakership, by just 76 votes to a GOP challenger.