Politician, Lawyer, Musician
By Matthew Skwiat, Editorial Assistant
April / May 2014
Martin O’Malley is the governor of Maryland and the former mayor of Baltimore. He was born, one of six children, in Washington, D.C. to Barbara and Thomas O’Malley, a former U.S Army Air Force pilot. It was his family who gave him the spark to enter public service. His dad’s father was a ward leader in Pittsburgh during the Roosevelt years. His mother worked for Senator Barbara Mikulski and nurtured her son’s interest in politics. His father was a lawyer rooted in civil rights. As the governor relates, “I went into public service because I grew up in a house where that was considered an honorable and important thing to do.”
In 1999, at the age of 37, O’Malley became the mayor of Baltimore. After two terms the city’s crime rate was the lowest it had been in over three decades, and investment at an all time high. In 2005, Business Week featured O’Malley as one of the “new stars” in the Democratic party. In 2006, he ran against a Republican incumbent governor and won, and was re-elected in 2010.
As governor, O’Malley has championed education (MD has the #1 ranking for best public schools in America), and has made Maryland one of the top two states for science and technology. He has also seen the creation of thousands of green energy sector jobs, and has cut state spending more than any previous governor in Maryland’s history. He has also expanded healthcare to 380,000 previously uninsured, been vocal on immigration reform and raising the minimum wage, and signed legislation for same-sex marriage. Little wonder that he hasn’t had as much time to spend with his band O’Malley’s March. But his skills as a musician, which helped pay his way through college, have also helped his political career. “I do think that playing music is a bit of an international language, understood inherently by all people, and it helped me bridge racial divides as mayor of a majority African-American city. Whenever I would visit schools, kids would come up to me and say, ‘Hey, Mayor, I play the clarinet,’ or ‘Hey, Mayor, I play the drums.’ There was that sort of commonality,” he said, speaking to Irish America.
Educated by the Jesuits, O’Malley quotes Georgetown historian Carroll Quigley: “Tomorrow can be better than today and that each of us has a personal and moral responsibility to make it so.” As a young boy he checked out all of the Irish history books at his local library, and remains connected to his Connemara roots through song, culture, and his cousins in Ireland. He says, “When you read a people’s history long enough, you become aware of the triumph of the human spirit, and the sort of universal eternal truths that are the core of the human experience.”
O’Malley is married to Catherine Curran, who has roots in Co. Kilkenny, and was a former Assistant State Attorney and is now a Maryland state judge. They have been married since 1990 and have four children: Grace (named for Grace O’Malley, the Pirate Queen), Tara, William, and Jack.