November 20, 2019

Central Maryland Celebration Series Senator William James

Maryland’s Senate President from 1963-1975, Harford County Senator William S. (Bill) James was a truly strong and capable leader for Central Maryland.

A farmer and lawyer by trade, James was known as an intellectual yet humble individual who rose to the top of Harford County legal circles quickly after receiving his Juris Doctorate from the University of Maryland School of Law in 1937. James would become a trial magistrate in 1944 and serve until 1946 when he would leave that position for the Maryland General Assembly.

First elected as a member of the General Assembly in 1946, James would go on to serve three terms in the House of Delegates until his election to the Senate in 1954. He would serve as a State Senator from 1954 through 1974 and concurrently as Maryland’s Senate President from 1963 through 1974.

As a Senator from a rural area, James brought a unique perspective to the General Assembly. His personal style and temperance allowed him to navigate sensitive and complicated legislative issues with a sense of ease paralleled by very few. His legislative accomplishments were numerous and widespread and he clearly recognized not just his duty to his district but also to the State as a whole.

James would make responsible decisions even when they were difficult. He led Maryland’s redistricting and reapportionment efforts giving more fair legislative representation to residents throughout the State. Additionally, he sponsored bills to protect natural resources, to create a legal basis for community colleges, to better fund state libraries, and to reform Maryland’s automobile insurance system.

James would leave the Senate in 1975 but he wouldn’t leave public service. Upon his departure from the Senate Presidency, he would be elected by his General Assembly colleagues as Maryland’s State Treasurer. He would serve in that position for three consecutive terms until his retirement in 1987 when he would return to his native Harford County.

Because of his profound contributions to the State, one of two Senate office buildings in Annapolis is named in his honor as well as an elementary school in his native Harford County. James passed away in 1993 leaving behind his wife of nearly forty years, the former Margaret Higinbothom with whom he’d raised two children (Robert Roy and future State Delegate Mary-Dulany). James would also leave behind him a profound legacy of service to the residents of Maryland and to the Maryland Senate Presidency that endures to this day.