Paul Spyros Sarbanes was born on February 3, 1933 in Salisbury on the east coast of Maryland. He was the son of two Greek immigrants, Spyros and Matina (Tsigounis) Sarbanes, who ran the Mayflower Restaurant in Salisbury. The family lived upstairs.
As a star student and athlete at Wicomico High School, Mr. Sarbanes had strictly local college ambitions until a Princeton alumnus attended and met him. He received a full scholarship and was the first Wicomico student to go to Princeton.
Mr. Sarbanes graduated in 1954 and won a Rhodes Scholarship. He attended Balliol College, Oxford and received a second bachelor’s degree in 1957. In 1960 he earned a law degree from Harvard and within a year married Christine Dunbar, whom he had met at Oxford.
He worked for a federal judge; served as an advisor to Walter W. Heller, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers to President John F. Kennedy; Baltimore Attorney; and was the executive director of a commission drafting a new charter for Baltimore City.
In 1966 he ran for a seat in the House of Delegates in Maryland and won. In 1970, he challenged a 13-year-old home veteran, George H. Fallon, chairman of the House Pork-rich House Committee on Public Works, in a Democratic elementary school. Mr Sarbanes, who fought door to door with his wife, won with 52 percent of the vote against the 45 percent of the incumbent, and then won the general election.
The post-1970 census redistribution put him in yet another potential race against Democratic House Committee Chairman Edward A. Garmatz. Mr. Garmatz chaired the Merchant Marine and Fisheries Committee that was important to the Port of Baltimore. But he withdrew and Mr Sarbanes easily won re-election.
He was then elected to the Senate, defeating Republican Senator J. Glenn Beall Jr. in 1976 with 57 percent of the vote. He was attacked in 1982 by the National Conservative Political Action Committee, which had used the Panama Canal issue in 1980 to defeat several Democratic senators. But Mr Sarbanes won comfortably over and over again in 1988, 1994 and 2000 before announcing in 2005 that he would no longer run in 2006.