Ocean City Today

Bobby Baker and rise of good times in Ocean City

Nov 22, 2017



printed 11/24/2017


Bobby Baker and Ocean City — The one-time king of the smooth operators in the U.S. Senate and a small resort town on the Maryland coast.

What does Baker, congressional bag man and wheeler-dealer who died at 89 years of age on Nov. 12 in St. Augustine, Florida, have to do with Ocean City? The Carousel Hotel.

The former top staffer for the Senate’s Democratic majority and fixer for Lyndon Johnson built it with partners in the barren sands north of 118th Street. He opened it in 1962 and did it on loans piled on top of loans while making less than $20,000 a year in the Senate.

In his 1976 memoir, “Wheeling and Dealing: Confessions of a Capitol Hill Operator,” the former Johnson protégé and confidant said he had 51 loans out between 1959 and 1963.

The motel, as he called it in his autobiography, was a beach retreat for some of the most powerful people in Washington D.C., who wished to let their hair down without adverse publicity. Baker accommodated them, and, he would later acknowledge, took his cue from some of the more unscrupulous members of this group.

“As they presumed their high stations to entitle them to accept gratuities or hospitalities from patrons who had special axes to grind, so did I. As they used their powerful positions to gain loans or credit that otherwise might not have been granted, so did I,” he wrote.

On the day of the Carousel’s opening on July 22, 1962, then Vice-President Johnson and his wife, Lady Bird, arrived in a limousine, while 200 senators, congressmen, lobbyists and congressional staffers swilled champagne on the way down in seven chartered buses.

The hotel also drew a great number of locals who were fascinated by its glitz, glamor, clientele and two bars. The Carousel was like nothing Ocean City had ever seen and it put the resort on the national map.

Baker went to prison in 1971 after being convicted of tax evasion, bribery and fraud. During his 15-month stretch, his wife and brother-in-law sold the hotel out from under him and he drifted into obscurity after his release.

Baker was an out-sized character in his high-flying days and the Carousel reflected his belief in a good time. And once the good times began on 118th Street, they set the stage in Ocean City to roll all the way down Coastal Highway.

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