Paul Sarbanes, the Greek-American Giant of the US Senate, Passes Away

Paul Spyros Sarbanes (February 3, 1933 – December 6, 2020). Credit: Wikipedia

Paul Sarbanes, the Greek-American politician who over many decades championed Hellenic issues in the US Senate, passed away on Sunday. He was 87.

Congressman John Sarbanes (D-Md.) announced the passing of his father by saying “My father, Senator Paul S. Sarbanes, passed away peacefully this evening in Baltimore.

“Our family is grateful to know that we have the support of Marylanders who meant so much to him and whom he was honored to serve.”

Paul Sarbanes was born on Maryland’s Eastern Shore in the city of Salisbury to Matina Tsigounis and Spyros P. Sarbanes, Greek immigrants who had emigrated from Laconia, Greece and who came to own a restaurant in the city.

A member of the Democratic Party from Maryland, Sarbanes served as a member of the United States House of Representatives from 1971 to 1977 and as a United States Senator from 1977 to 2007.

Sarbanes was the longest-serving senator in Maryland history until he was surpassed by Barbara Mikulski by a single day when her term ended on January 3, 2017.

Born in Salisbury, Maryland, Sarbanes was a graduate of Princeton University, Balliol College, Oxford, and Harvard Law School.

Elected to the Maryland House of Delegates in 1966, he went on to serve two terms in the Maryland House from 1967 to 1971.

In 1970, he won a seat in the United States House of Representatives, representing Maryland’s 4th and later Maryland’s 3rd congressional district from 1971 to 1977.

In 1976, he ran for the United States Senate, defeating Republican incumbent John Glenn Beall, Jr. with 59% of the vote. Sarbanes was re-elected four times, each time receiving no less than 59% of the vote.

In 2002, with Republican Representative Mike Oxley, Sarbanes marshaled a new bill to approval after energy trader Enron Corp. and long-distance phone provider WorldCom Inc. were driven into bankruptcy by bookkeeping abuses at the highest level of management.

“Traditionally our markets have been the most transparent, reliable and efficient in the world,” Sarbanes said on July 24, 2002, the day a compromise measure addressing the corporate malfeasance was approved by congressional negotiators. “Our legislation intends to see that they merit that reputation.”

Reactions

“Senator Paul Sarbanes was a towering figure in US politics and a strong advocate of Greek issues, for which Greece will always be grateful. He will be greatly missed. My sincere condolences to @RepSarbanes and his family,” Greek PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis tweeted.

In a statement, the US Embassy in Athens said that Sarbanes was “a remarkable leader of the Senate and a champion of the Greek-American community who represented the best of the ideals that unite our peoples.”

Greek President Katerina Sakellaropoulou also expressed her condolences to the Sarbanes family in a Tweet, saying that the Senator had “always been there when our nation needed him.”