Paul Sarbanes

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Paul Sarbanes
United States Senator
from Maryland
In office
January 3, 1977 – January 3, 2007
Preceded byJohn Glenn Beall Jr.
Succeeded byBen Cardin
Chair of the Senate Banking Committee
In office
January 3, 2001 – January 20, 2001
Preceded byPhil Gramm
Succeeded byPhil Gramm
In office
June 6, 2001 – January 3, 2003
Preceded byPhil Gramm
Succeeded byRichard Shelby
Member of the
U.S. House of Representatives
from Maryland
In office
January 3, 1971 – January 3, 1977
Preceded byGeorge Hyde Fallon
Succeeded byBarbara Mikulski
Constituency4th district (1971–1973)
3rd district (1973–1977)
Member of the Maryland House of Delegates
from the 2nd district
In office
January 18, 1967 – January 13, 1971
Personal details
Paul Spyros Sarbanes

(1933-02-03)February 3, 1933
Salisbury, Maryland, U.S.
DiedDecember 6, 2020(2020-12-06) (aged 87)
Baltimore, Maryland, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Christine Dunbar
(m. 1960; died 2009)
Children3, including John
EducationPrinceton University (BA)
Balliol College, Oxford (BA)
Harvard University (LLB)

Paul Spyros Sarbanes (/ˈsɑːrˌbnz/; February 3, 1933 – December 6, 2020) was an American politician and attorney. A member of the Democratic Party from Maryland, he 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.[a] He was the first Greek American senator.

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. He did not seek re-election in 2006, when he was succeeded by fellow Democrat Ben Cardin. Sarbanes was known for his low-key style,[1] often shunning the limelight over his thirty-year Senate career. He was a coauthor of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, which is generally noted as his most noteworthy piece of legislation.[2][3]

Early life[edit]

Sarbanes was born on Maryland's Eastern Shore in the city of Salisbury to Greek immigrant parents, Matina (née Tsigounis) and Spyros P. Sarbanes, who had emigrated from Laconia, Greece and owned a Salisbury restaurant.[4][5]

A graduate of Wicomico High School in Salisbury, Maryland, Sarbanes attended Princeton University, where (like the younger Bill Bradley) he played basketball[6] and earned a bachelor's degree in 1954[7] from the School of Public and International Affairs after completing a senior thesis titled "The Smith Act: A Denial of American Freedoms".[8] At Princeton, Sarbanes was a member of the American Whig–Cliosophic Society. As a senior, he received the Moses Taylor Pyne Honor Prize, Princeton's highest undergraduate honor.[9] He also was awarded a Rhodes Scholarship that brought him to Balliol College of the University of Oxford in Oxford, England.[10] He graduated with a First Class degree in 1957.[10] Sarbanes then returned to the United States and attended Harvard Law School.[11]

After graduating in 1960, he clerked for Federal Judge Morris A. Soper before entering private practice with two Baltimore law firms.[10]

Political career[edit]

State legislature[edit]

In 1966, Sarbanes ran for the Maryland House of Delegates in Baltimore and won.[12] During his four years as a State delegate in Annapolis, Maryland he served on both the Judiciary and the Ways and Means Committees.[13]

U.S. House of Representatives[edit]

Sarbanes was elected to the United States House of Representatives in 1970 from the fourth district of Maryland and was reelected in 1972 and 1974 from the third district.[10] While in the House, Sarbanes served on the Judiciary Committee, the Merchant Marine and Fisheries Committee, and the Select Committee on House Reorganization.[14]

As a member of the Judiciary Committee he participated in the impeachment process against Richard Nixon.[10] On July 26, 1974, he introduced the first articles of impeachment against President Nixon for obstruction of justice.[15]

Sarbanes (center) with President Bill Clinton (his left) and Representative Elijah Cummings at the Morgan State University graduation in May 1997
Before signing the Sarbanes–Oxley Act on July 30, 2002, President George W. Bush (right) met with Senator Sarbanes (left), Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao and other dignitaries in the Blue Room of the White House.
An earlier photograph of Senator Sarbanes

U.S. Senate[edit]

Sarbanes was elected to the United States Senate in 1976 and re-elected in 1982, 1988, 1994, and 2000.[10][12] In 2002, he was the United States Senate sponsor of the Sarbanes–Oxley Act of 2002, which reformed federal securities laws in the wake of the 2002 accounting scandals.[12]

Sarbanes served on the following Senate committees:[14]

By 1981, Sarbanes was noted as a frequent critic of military budgets.[16] In spite of this, in May of that year, he voted in favor of approving a Reagan administration-backed $136.5 billion military authorization bill.[16] In December, he voted in favor[17] of an amendment to President Ronald Reagan's MX missiles proposal that would divert the silo system by $334 million as well as earmark further research for other methods that would allow giant missiles to be based.[18] While the military authorization bill was seen as supporting the administration,[16] the December vote was viewed as a rebuff of Reagan.[18][19]

On March 11, 2005, Sarbanes, the longest-serving senator in Maryland history, announced at a news conference his decision not to seek re-election in 2006.[20] Colleagues of Sarbanes said that the reason for his retirement from the Senate was due to his annoyance with not having any leadership roles on committees.[21]

Sarbanes received the Foreign Language Advocacy Award in 2007 from the Northeast Conference on the Teaching of Foreign Languages in recognition of his lifelong commitment to the values, languages, and cultures of the ancient world in service to the modern world.[22]

Personal life and death[edit]

In June 1960, Sarbanes married Christine Dunbar of Brighton, England; they had three children (John Sarbanes, Michael Anthony Sarbanes, and Janet Matina Sarbanes) and seven grandchildren.[10] Christine Sarbanes died of cancer on March 22, 2009.[23] Sarbanes held the highest lay office in the Greek Orthodox Church, "Order of St. Andrew, Archon of the Ecumenical Patriarchate"[24] and was a member of the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Annunciation in Baltimore.[13]

His son, John Sarbanes, won the general election for Maryland's 3rd congressional district in 2006, the district that Paul Sarbanes represented prior to his election as senator.[12]

Paul Sarbanes died at his home in Baltimore on December 6, 2020, at the age of 87.[25][26]

In April 2021, Wicomico Public Libraries announced that the library in downtown Salisbury would be renamed after Sarbanes.[27]

Election history[edit]

Year Office sought Election Subject Party Votes % Opponent Party Votes %
1970 Maryland's 4th congressional district General Paul Sarbanes Democratic 93,093 69.7% David Fentress Republican 40,442 30.3%
1972 Maryland's 3rd congressional district General Paul Sarbanes Democratic 93,218 83.8% William Matthews Republican 17,967 16.2%
1974 Maryland's 3rd congressional district General Paul Sarbanes Democratic 54,936 70.1% William H. Mathews Republican 23,491 29.9%
1976 U.S. Senator, Class 1 General Paul Sarbanes Democratic 772,101 59.3% John Glenn Beall, Jr. (incumbent) Republican 530,439 40.7%
1982 U.S. Senator, Class 1 General Paul Sarbanes Democratic 707,356 63.5% Lawrence Hogan Republican 407,334 36.5%
1988 U.S. Senator, Class 1 General Paul Sarbanes Democratic 999,166 61.8% Alan Keyes Republican 617,537 38.2%
1994 U.S. Senator, Class 1 General Paul Sarbanes Democratic 809,125 59.1% Bill Brock Republican 559,908 40.9%
2000 U.S. Senator, Class 1 General Paul Sarbanes Democratic 1,230,013 63.2% Paul Rappaport Republican 715,178 36.8%



  1. ^ Both Sarbanes and Mikulski served five terms (thirty years) in the Senate. However, due to a differing number of leap days over their tenures, Mikulski finished with 10,958 days of Senate service, to Sarbanes's 10,957 days.


  1. ^ Charles Babington (March 12, 2005). "Cerebral Sarbanes Aloof to Limelight".
  2. ^ Greg Farrell (July 30, 2007). "The men behind the Sarbanes–Oxley Act".
  3. ^ Dick Carozza. "An Interview with Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes Sarbanes–Oxley Act Revisited".
  4. ^ "Paul S. Sarbanes, U. S. Senator (bio)" (PDF). National Institutes of Health. Archived from the original (PDF) on May 28, 2010.
  5. ^ "Paul Sarbanes, Greek-American Senator, dies at 87". Elathimerini. Retrieved December 7, 2020.
  6. ^ McPhee, John (October 9, 2023). "Under the Carpetbag". The New Yorker. ISSN 0028-792X. Retrieved December 17, 2023.
  7. ^ Stevens, Ruth (November 16, 2006). "Sarbanes and Coles to Be Honored with Alumni Awards". Princeton University News. Retrieved December 17, 2023.
  8. ^ Sarbanes, Paul Spyros (1954). The Smith Act: A Denial of American Freedoms (bachelor's). Princeton University.
  9. ^ "Sophs receive study honors". The Daily Princetonian. February 23, 1954. Retrieved October 14, 2020.
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h "Paul Sarbanes, senator from Maryland who led overhaul of corporate accounting rules, dies at 87". The Washington Post. December 6, 2020.
  11. ^ "Former U.S. Senator and anti-fraud law co-sponsor Paul Sarbanes dies at 87". Reuters. Retrieved December 6, 2020.
  12. ^ a b c d e "Paul Sarbanes, longtime U.S. senator from Maryland who championed protection of Chesapeake Bay, dies at 87". Baltimore Sun. December 6, 2020.
  13. ^ a b "Paul S. Sarbanes, U.S. Senator (Maryland)". Retrieved August 11, 2013.
  14. ^ a b "PAUL SPYROS SARBANES (Democrat)". Retrieved December 6, 2020.
  15. ^ Naughton, James M. (August 5, 1974). "How a Fragile Centrist Bloc Emerged As House Panel Weighed Impeachment". The New York Times. Based on reporting by the author, R. W. Apple. Jr., Diane Henry, Marjorie Hunter and David E. Rosenbaum. p. 49. Retrieved January 11, 2020.
  16. ^ a b c "Senate Votes Military Funds in Victory for Reagan". New York Times. May 15, 1981.
  17. ^ "The 90–4 vote by which the Senate approved the ..." UPI. December 3, 1981.
  18. ^ a b Roberts, Steven V. (December 3, 1981). "Senators Reject Plan for Placing MX Missile in Silos". New York Times.
  19. ^ Webbe, Stephen (December 4, 1981). "Reagan scorns Senate rejection of silo-based MX missile plan". The Christian Science Monitor.
  20. ^ Kirkpatrick, David K. (March 12, 2005). "Senator Sarbanes, Maryland Democrat, Will Retire in '06". The New York Times.
  21. ^ Kirkpatrick, David (March 12, 2005). "Senator Sarbanes, Maryland Democrat, Will Retire in '06". New York Times. Retrieved October 8, 2014.
  22. ^ "The James W. Dodge Foreign Language Advocate Award". Northeast Conference on the Teaching of Foreign Languages. Archived from the original on August 21, 2014. Retrieved August 28, 2014.
  23. ^ "Christine Sarbanes". Baltimore Sun. March 24, 2009. Retrieved December 6, 2020.
  24. ^ "Archbishop Demetrios presides at Investiture of Twenty-Two New Archons | Order of Saint Andrew the Apostle – Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate". October 26, 2008. Retrieved August 11, 2013.
  25. ^ "Paul Sarbanes, U.S. Senator Who Co-Wrote Anti-Fraud Law, Dies at 87". Bloomberg News. December 6, 2020. Retrieved December 6, 2020.
  26. ^ Dwyer, Colin (December 8, 2020). "Paul Sarbanes, Longtime Senator From Maryland And Financial Reformer, Dies At 87". NPR. Retrieved April 22, 2022.
  27. ^ Hooper, Bethany (April 8, 2021). "Library Branch Renaming Planned". The Dispatch. Retrieved October 28, 2021.
  28. ^ "Sen. Paul Sarbanes". Gov Retrieved December 7, 2020.
  29. ^ "Paul S. Sarbanes". Harvard University. Retrieved December 6, 2020.
  30. ^ "SARBANES, Paul Spyros (1933-)". Bio Guide Retro. Retrieved December 6, 2020.

External links[edit]

U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Maryland's 4th congressional district

Succeeded by
Preceded by Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Maryland's 3rd congressional district

Succeeded by
Party political offices
Preceded by Democratic nominee for U.S. Senator from Maryland
(Class 1)

1976, 1982, 1988, 1994, 2000
Succeeded by
Title last held by
Ted Stevens
John Rhodes
Response to the State of the Union address
Served alongside: Robert Byrd, Alan Cranston, Al Gore, Gary Hart, Bennett Johnston, Ted Kennedy, Tip O'Neill, Don Riegle, Jim Sasser
Succeeded by
U.S. Senate
Preceded by U.S. Senator (Class 1) from Maryland
Served alongside: Charles Mathias, Barbara Mikulski
Succeeded by
Ben Cardin
Preceded by Ranking Member of the Senate Banking Committee
Succeeded by
Preceded by Chair of the Senate Banking Committee
Succeeded by
Ranking Member of the Senate Banking Committee