Paul Spyros Sarbanes was born Feb. 3, 1933, in Salisbury, on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. He was the son of two Greek immigrants, Spyros and Matina (Tsigounis) Sarbanes, who ran the Mayflower restaurant in Salisbury. The family lived upstairs.
A star student and athlete at Wicomico High School, Mr. Sarbanes had strictly local college ambitions until a Princeton alumnus visited the school and met him. He received a full scholarship and became the first student from Wicomico to go to Princeton.
Mr. Sarbanes graduated in 1954 and won a Rhodes Scholarship. He attended Balliol College at Oxford and received a second bachelor’s degree in 1957. He earned a law degree at Harvard in 1960 and within a year or so married Christine Dunbar, whom he had met at Oxford.
He clerked for a federal judge; worked as an aide to Walter W. Heller, the chairman of President John F. Kennedy’s Council of Economic Advisers; practiced law in Baltimore; and was executive director of a commission writing a new Baltimore City Charter.
In 1966 he ran for a seat in Maryland’s House of Delegates and won, and in 1970 he challenged a 13-term House veteran, George H. Fallon, chairman of the pork-barrel-rich House Committee on Public Works, in a Democratic primary. Campaigning door to door with his wife, Mr. Sarbanes won with 52 percent of the vote to the incumbent’s 45 percent and went on to win the general election.
Redistricting after the 1970 census pushed him into another potential race against a Democratic House committee chairman, Edward A. Garmatz. Mr. Garmatz headed the Committee on Merchant Marine and Fisheries, which was important to the port of Baltimore. But he retired, and Mr. Sarbanes won re-election easily.
He was then elected to the Senate, defeating Senator J. Glenn Beall Jr., a Republican, with 57 percent of the vote in 1976. He was attacked in 1982 by the National Conservative Political Action Committee, which had used the Panama Canal issue in 1980 to help defeat several Democratic senators. But Mr. Sarbanes won comfortably then and again in 1988, 1994 and 2000, before announcing in 2005 that he would not run again in 2006.