Eighty years before Governor Martin O’Malley was attending conventions, enjoying the national spotlight, and entertaining thoughts of a presidential run, another Democratic governor from Maryland was poised to make a run at the presidency. Albert Cabell Ritchie (1836-1936) ran the state for 15 years and was the first Maryland governor to be re-elected by popular vote. By 1932 he had won four gubernatorial elections, been a leading voice of opposition to Prohibition, and become a major contender for the Democratic party’s nomination for President, again. Four years earlier, he lost his party’s nomination to West Virginia’s John W. Davis who previously lost the 1924 election to Republican incumbent Calvin Coolidge. (Ritchie also had an eye on the presidency in ’24.)
On June 23, 1932 before a reported throng of 80,000 supporters, Ritchie told the crowd gathered at Mount Royal Station to see him entrain for the DNC, “I am still just one of you… subject to all the same impulses and fallability.” The following day the governor was greeted “like a conquering hero” by thousands in Chicago, according to The Baltimore Sun.*
Barely a week had passed before Ritchie ran into the force that was Franklin Delano Roosevelt. In Chicago, Ritchie contended with the likes of New York’s Al Smith and Texas’ John Garner for his party’s nomination. Despite not getting that nomination, Ritchie supported FDR and was even rumored to have his name thrown in the hat for Vice President. It was thought that he would make a good counterbalance to Roosevelt. But it was Garner, who was then serving as Speaker of the House, who prevailed and received the VP slot. By the end of the first New Deal (1934), Ritchie was denouncing FDR as a radical set to overthrow the American way.
Things only got worse for the governor. An outspoken opponent of the New Deal, Ritchie began losing support from within his own state party. With many Marylanders suffering the effects of the Great Depression and a widely publicized lynching on the Eastern Shore that further tarnished his reputation, Ritchie began to lose popularity throughout his state. In 1934 he lost a fifth bid for Governor to Republican Harry Nice, who exploited the rumblings within the state’s Democratic Party and attacked Ritchie as the boss of a corrupt machine who had overstayed his welcome.
Today some Marylanders may only know the name Ritchie as that of a highway or coliseum, but the “Ritchie Era” in Maryland (1919-35) is fertile ground for researchers of all stripes. MdHS’s Special Collections department holds the strongest collection of Ritchie materials in existence: the Ritchie Papers, 1915-1936, MS710 (over 75 scrapbooks, notebooks, and diaries, notes for speeches, etc.), pamphlets, printed addresses, position papers penned by Ritchie, and more. (Joe Tropea)*The Baltimore Sun, June 24 & 25, 1932. p.1.
Brown, Dorothy. “The Election of 1934: the ‘New Deal’ in Maryland,” Maryland Historical Magazine 1973 68(4): 405-421.
Chepaitis, Joseph B. “Albert C. Ritchie in Power: 1920-1927”. Maryland Historical Magazine 1973 68(4): 383-404.
Search 100 years of Maryland Historical Magazine