Mr. Sarbanes graduated in 1954 and received a Rhodes Scholarship, attending Balliol College, Oxford and graduating with a second BA in 1957. He received a law degree from Harvard in 1960.
He was a clerk for a federal judge, worked as an assistant to President Walter W. Heller of President Kennedy’s Council of Economic Advisers, practiced law in Baltimore, and was executive director of a commission drafting a new city charter. for Baltimore.
In 1966 he ran for a seat in the Maryland House of Delegates and won, and in 1970 he challenged a 13-term House veteran, George H. Fallon, who was chairman of the Public Works Committee of the House, rich in barrels of pork. Campaigning door-to-door with his wife, former Christine Dunbar, whom he met in Oxford, Mr Sarbanes highlighted issues in Vietnam and the environment. He won with 52 percent of the vote against 45 percent of the incumbent.
The redistribution after the 1970 census pushed Mr Sarbanes into another potential race against a House committee chairman, Edward A. Garmatz, who headed the Merchant Marine and Fisheries Committee, which was very important to the port. from Baltimore. But Mr. Garmatz retired and Mr. Sarbanes was easily re-elected.
He was then elected to the Senate in 1976, defeating Senator J. Glenn Beall Jr., a Republican. He was attacked in 1982 by the conservative National Political Action Committee, which used the Panama Canal issue in 1980 to help defeat several Democratic senators. But Mr. Sarbanes won comfortably time and time again in 1986, 1992 and 1998 before announcing in 2005 that he would not run again in 2006.
He is survived by one brother, Anthony Sarbanes; one sister, Zoe Pappas; two sons, Representative John P. Sarbanes, who occupies his father’s former seat in the House, and Michael Sarbanes; one daughter, Janet Sarbanes; and several grandchildren. His wife, Christine, died in 2009 after 48 years of marriage.
Mr Sarbanes was always attentive to local issues, leading the Chesapeake Bay clean-up effort after another Maryland senator, Charles McC. Mathias, retired in 1984. He also pushed the federal government to support transit and a transit hub in Silver Spring, Maryland named after him.
Unlike many senators, after retiring he rejected the idea of taking a job with a Washington law firm. If he had, he told friends, he would sooner or later be asked to make the unpleasant choice of pressuring a former colleague.
Adam Clymer, reporter and editor at The Times from 1977 to 2003, died in 2018. Jenny Gross contributed reporting.