Helen Delich Bentley

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Helen Delich Bentley
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Maryland's 2nd district
In office
January 3, 1985 – January 3, 1995
Preceded byClarence Long
Succeeded byRobert Ehrlich
Chairwoman of the Federal Maritime Commission
In office
Nominated byRichard Nixon
Preceded byJohn Harllee[1]
Succeeded byKarl Bakke[2][3]
Personal details
Helen Delich

(1923-11-28)November 28, 1923
Ruth, Nevada, U.S.
DiedAugust 6, 2016(2016-08-06) (aged 92)
Timonium, Maryland, U.S.
Political partyRepublican
William Roy Bentley
(m. 1959; died 2003)
Alma materUniversity of Missouri

Helen Bentley (née Delich; November 28, 1923 – August 6, 2016) was an American politician who was a Republican member of the United States House of Representatives from Maryland from 1985 to 1995. Before entering politics, she had been a leading maritime reporter and journalist.[4]

Early life[edit]

Bentley was born in the copper-mining town of Ruth, Nevada.[5] Her parents were immigrant Serbians, and her father was a miner.[4][6] When Bentley was eight years old, her father died of silicosis, a common miner's disease, and Bentley took a part-time job in a dress shop while her mother took in boarders to support the family.[6]

While at high school, she had her first experiences of journalism and politics while working on the weekly newspaper of Ely, Nevada, which was published by Republican state legislator Charles Russell.[4] She won scholarships to study journalism at the University of Missouri, graduating in 1944 after earning a BA degree with honors.[4][7] While at college, she worked on the Senate campaign for Democrat James D. Scrugham, and was appointed his Senate secretary.[6]



Following her graduation, Bentley worked for small-town newspapers in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and Lewiston, Idaho, but she wanted to report hard news for a larger publication; at the time, most women journalists were limited to writing society news.[6] She wrote to all the main East Coast newspapers and eventually, in 1945, The Baltimore Sun offered her a reporting position.[4] She initially reported on labor and union matters, but was subsequently allocated maritime and waterfront news, a significant beat in a city and state whose port contributed heavily to the economy.[4][8] She became a widely respected maritime reporter, dealing with people from dock workers to state politicians, and also writing for port agencies and shipping companies.[6]

Beginning in 1950, Bentley hosted a local Baltimore TV program on WMAR, The Port That Built a City, presenting maritime and transportation-related news.[9] Later retitled The Port That Built a City and State, the series was produced by Bentley until 1965 and included then-novel live remotes from the decks of ships in Baltimore harbor during the early years of television.[10]

During the Vietnam War, Bentley became aware of the congestion in the port of Saigon, and traveled there to report on the problems of supplying American troops. President Johnson became aware of her report, and subsequently improvements were made to port facilities in Cam Ranh Bay to relieve pressure on Saigon.[4]


In 1969, Bentley was offered a seat on the Federal Maritime Commission. However, she declined and asked for the position of chair instead. She was appointed and chaired the commission from 1969 to 1975.[6] The position made her the highest-ranking woman in President Nixon's administration.[4][8] During her tenure, Bentley advocated for federal support for American shipbuilding yards.[6]

Bentley challenged Democratic incumbent Clarence Long in Maryland's 2nd congressional district in 1980 and 1982. She defeated Long on her third attempt in 1984, and was elected to the 99th Congress and to the four succeeding Congresses, serving from January 3, 1985, to January 3, 1995.[6]

During her time in office, Bentley was a strong advocate for protectionist trade policies in support of U.S. manufacturing and the U.S. Merchant Marine fleet.[4] She also introduced legislation which enabled the Chesapeake Bay to be dredged, allowing larger cargo ships to access the port of Baltimore.[4] In the 1990s, she was sympathetic towards Serbians during the civil war in Yugoslavia, and opposed U.S. military involvement in that conflict.[6]

Helen Delich Bentley with Serbian poet and journalist Dejan Stojanović in 1993

Bentley was not a candidate for reelection to the 104th Congress in 1994, but was an unsuccessful candidate for nomination for Governor of Maryland. Despite an endorsement from the incumbent Democratic governor William Donald Schaefer,[11] she was defeated in the Republican primary by the more conservative Ellen Sauerbrey.[8]

When her successor in Congress, Bob Ehrlich, gave up his seat, Bentley sought to take the seat back in 2002. However, the district had been made significantly more Democratic in redistricting and included a large slice of Baltimore City, an area Bentley had never represented. She lost to Baltimore County Executive Dutch Ruppersberger.[6]

In 1995, Bentley founded Helen Bentley & Associates, Inc., and provided consultancy services on international trade, business and government.[4][12] She was also a consultant for the Maryland Port Administration and the Port of Baltimore, and served on the Board of Trustees for both the Baltimore Museum of Industry and the Maritime Industries Academy High School.[8][13]

Electoral record[edit]

Election results[14][15]
Year Office Election Candidate Party Votes % Opponent Party Votes % Opponent Party Votes %
1980 Representative for Maryland's 2nd District General Helen Delich Bentley Republican 89,961 42.6% Clarence Long Democratic 121,017 57.4%
1982 Representative for Maryland's 2nd District General Helen Delich Bentley Republican 75,062 47.4% Clarence Long Democratic 83,318 52.6%
1984 Representative for Maryland's 2nd District General Helen Delich Bentley Republican 111,517 51.4% Clarence Long Democratic 105,571 48.6% N/A Other 1 0.0%
1986 Representative for Maryland's 2nd District General Helen Delich Bentley Republican 96,745 58.7% Kathleen Kennedy Townsend Democratic 68,200 41.3% N/A Write-in 1 0.0%
1988 Representative for Maryland's 2nd District General Helen Delich Bentley Republican 157,956 71.5% Joseph Bartenfelder Democratic 63,114 28.5%
1990 Representative for Maryland's 2nd District General Helen Delich Bentley Republican 115,398 74.4% Ronald P. Bowers Democratic 39,785 25.6%
1992 Representative for Maryland's 2nd District General Helen Delich Bentley Republican 165,443 65.1% Michael Hickey Jr. Democratic 88,658 34.9%
1994 Governor of Maryland Republican Primary Helen Delich Bentley Republican 89,821 37.9% Ellen Sauerbrey Republican 123,676 52.2% William S. Shepard Republican 23,505 9.9%
2002 Representative for Maryland's 2nd District General Helen Delich Bentley Republican 88,954 45.7% Dutch Ruppersberger Democratic 105,718 54.3%


In 2004, Bentley was inducted into the International Maritime Hall of Fame.[4] In 2006, as part of the Port of Baltimore's 300th anniversary celebrations, the port was renamed the Helen Delich Bentley Port of Baltimore.[12]

Bentley was a member of the Maryland Women's Hall of Fame, and a recipient of the Speaker's Medallion, First Citizen Award, and Governor's International Leadership Award from the state government of Maryland.[16]

Personal life[edit]

Bentley was married to William Roy Bentley, who died in 2003 from a stroke. The couple had no children. She died at the age of 92, at her home in Timonium, Maryland, from brain cancer.[4][8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Saxon, Wolfgang (February 14, 2005). "John Harllee, 91, Rear Admiral, Is Dead". The New York Times. Retrieved November 20, 2019.
  2. ^ "The Houston Port Bureau Reports" (PDF). Port of Houston Magazine. December 1975. p. 18. Retrieved November 20, 2019.
  3. ^ "Business Briefs". The New York Times. May 18, 1976. p. 64. Retrieved November 20, 2019.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Dresser, Michael (August 6, 2016). "Helen Delich Bentley, congresswoman who was a staunch advocate of the port of Baltimore, dies". The Baltimore Sun. Archived from the original on January 25, 2017. Retrieved August 6, 2016.
  5. ^ "Famous American Serbs". Baba Mim. Retrieved February 18, 2012.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Langer, Emily (August 6, 2016). "Helen Delich Bentley, journalist-turned-politician who promoted Baltimore port, dies at 92". The Washington Post. Retrieved August 7, 2016.
  7. ^ "Maryland Voters Guide: District 2 U.S. Congress". The Washington Post. 2002. Retrieved May 2, 2020.
  8. ^ a b c d e "Former U.S. Rep. Helen Bentley dead at 92". WBAL-TV. August 6, 2016. Archived from the original on August 9, 2016. Retrieved August 7, 2016.
  9. ^ Shapiro, M. Sigmund (Fall 1999). "The Saga of Samuel Shapiro & Company". Generations. Jewish Museum of Maryland. Archived from the original on February 19, 2011. Retrieved July 16, 2011.
  10. ^ Rasmussen, Frederick N. (July 23, 2011). "Lawrence H. Taylor—One of the pioneering broadcast engineer's duties was maintaining WMAR-TV's transmitter (obit.)". Baltimore Sun. p. 14.
  11. ^ Defilippo, Frank A. (June 19, 1998). "Schaefer's endorsement of governor no mystery". Baltimore Business Journal. Retrieved June 9, 2009. Glendening showed up to break bread with the same Schaefer who endorsed Republicans George Bush for president, Helen Delich Bentley for governor and John G. Gary for Anne Arundel County executive.
  12. ^ a b "Former U.S. Rep. Helen Bentley in hospice care". WBAL-TV. 22 June 2016. Retrieved August 7, 2016.
  13. ^ "Baltimore Museum of Industry Board of Trustees". Baltimore Museum of Industry. Archived from the original on June 12, 2011. Retrieved June 30, 2011.
  14. ^ United States House of Representatives. "Election Statistics". History, Art & Archives. Retrieved August 13, 2016.
  15. ^ Maryland State Board of Elections. "1994 Gubernatorial Election". Maryland Elections by Year. Retrieved August 13, 2016.
  16. ^ "Baltimore Sun's Business and Civic Hall of Fame honoree: Helen Delich Bentley". The Baltimore Sun. June 10, 2016. Retrieved August 7, 2016.

External links[edit]

U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Maryland's 2nd congressional district

Succeeded by