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Features Sections from WYPR including Fraser Smith's Commentary, Inside Maryland Politics and Sports at Large with Milton Kent.

Remembering An Honorable Environmentalist

Tom Chalkley

The late Torrey Brown – physician, legislator and defender of the environment – was a one-of- a- kind talent his friends say. He was rumpled . He tended to mumble.  He took care to avoid credit for the things he did. 

Natural camouflage, his friends say, might have been the key to his success.  He managed to convince the wary that tough action was needed even when it threatened livelihoods and ways of life on the Chesapeake.

Dr. Torrey Brown, who died Sunday, was a Johns Hopkins trained medical doctor and researcher. He was a two-term member of the General Assembly. He was chairman of the Environmental Matters committee. And later he served as Secretary of Natural Resources under then Governor Harry Hughes.  Former Governor William Donald Schaefer kept him on.

“He was a one of a kind individual,” says his friend and colleague Jim Lighthizer, the former Anne Arundel County executive.  Some people attain a level of prominence in one field, but few do so in three, Lighthizer said. “Everything he did he did large,” said another friend, Paul Schurick, a colleague during the Schaefer Administration.

Brown was an author and shaper and administrator of the Bay-saving critical areas bill in the general assembly.  He was the lead proponent of a ban on fishing for striped bass, or rockfish, in the mid-1980s. Many in the state’s fishing industry came to respect – and thank him – after the rockfish made a dramatic comeback. He was also a major advocate in the effort to preserve open spaces in Maryland.  Many will have seen signs naming one of the rails-to-trails bike paths in his honor.

He did all of this, Lighthizer and others say, with great passion and concern for people. He wanted Maryland to truly be the land of pleasant living.