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Llewellyn King: Those Were The Days – The Life and Times of Former AEC Commissioner Wm. Doub

By Llewellyn King

William O. Doub, former Maryland Public Service commissioner, member of the Atomic Energy Commission, international lawyer and enthusiastic booster of the U.S. Energy Association, has died at the age of 83.

Bill was my cherished friend for more than 40 years, and one of the kindest men I have ever known. I have always thought of him as a man who woke up in the morning thinking,“What can I do for my friends today?”

He rendered me, through all the years of our friendship, little and big kindnesses in every way – from seeing that I was included in “Who’s Who” to assisting me in establishing the publication, The Energy Daily.

As a public servant, Doub was a tough but nonpartisan utilities regulator. When he became chairman of the Maryland Public Service Commission (PSC), he shook up the old-boy world of Maryland regulation. I sat through hearing after hearing when he bore down equally hard on the companies under his jurisdiction and the public interest groups.

Initially, there was consternation in Maryland utility circles. Here was Doub, by birth a Maryland aristocrat and a former Republican candidate for state attorney general, dealing magisterially in public with issues that, in the prevailing culture, were settled between “gentlemen” over drinks in a club.

Gradually, the public and interest groups came to respect and revere their new chairman as a man who put the public good first.

As a commissioner of the then-mighty Atomic Energy Commission, Doub sought to find answers. The opposition to nuclear power was just emerging, and one of its most vociferous leaders was Ralph Nader. In those days, Nader was a god-like figure to many. Doub took it upon himself to reason with Nader. As I recall, he held a series of 5 a.m. meetings with Nader — a time decided by Nader. They did not reach a meeting of the minds, but Doub had the small satisfaction of having tried. It was his way: Try reason. All it takes is time and effort.

Spiro Agnew propelled Doub into public life. Doub, a lifelong Republican (as one might say of the old school), ran for Maryland attorney general on the same ticket that Agnew (whose middle name was Theodore and, in those days, liked to be called “Ted”) ran for governor.

Agnew won an unlikely victory in predominately Democratic Maryland because of the racist stands of his Democratic opponent. Doub lost and Agnew appointed him to the PSC.

Later, when Agnew became Richard Nixon’s vice president, Doub joined the Atomic Energy Commission – then the promoter and regulator of nuclear power. He brought in his friend, Manning Muntzing, to run the regulatory side of the agency.

When the AEC was dissolved, Doub and Muntzing formed a boutique energy law firm with clients in Japan and pre-revolutionary Iran. Their firm merged later with a larger firm, Newman, Reis & Axelrad. In time, that firm split up and the regulatory lawyers moved to Morgan Lewis & Bockius.

Doub was not happy with big, Washington law firm culture with its emphasis on billable hours. He was a man of friends; his clients were friends first and clients second.

Bill found an outlet in volunteer work. He played a critical role in improving the fortunes of the U.S. Energy Association — a unique organization that supports all energy sectors, but does not lobby.

Bill enjoyed a party. I was lucky enough over the years to party with him in Geneva, London, Madrid, Vienna, and all over the United States. The energy industries have a penchant for holding their meetings at the best resorts. We went willingly.

We got a great deal of laughter out of each other's company. Bill’s wife, Mary Graham, and my wife, Linda Gasparello, joined in the frolics. We laughed, we drank and we made up elaborate stories about one another and our ancestors. Although the Doub family was French originally, we thought an Irish surname, O’Doub, suited Bill’s buoyant temperament.

I met Bill when I was working for McGraw-Hill and The Washington Post. I arranged to interview him somewhere, and described myself as balding and fat. “We should find each other,” he averred. “That’s a description of me.” It took no more to launch a long relationship. Later, he was proud of controlling his weight.

When I founded what became The Energy Daily early in 1973, Bill telephoned me from the AEC to find out how he could help. I said it would help if the agency bought a handful of subscriptions. He went to work with the brilliant controller John Abbadessa; they delivered not a handful of subscriptions, but 140, and a whopping check of $35,000 – a veritable fortune in 1973.

Bill was one of the men-of-the-hour in the energy crisis that unfolded at the end of 1973. For those of us involved, the crisis delivered something that few enjoy: the sense of working on something really important, of being of real value.

In later years, Bill and I rued the way the energy industries had changed: how money and politics had come to dominate in an age of overpaid, under-talented executives; how the national interest had become subjugated to the personal one.

That was not Doub. He withdrew and spent his days worrying about his friends from his family farm in Keedysville, Md., and his house in Naples, Fla.

When idealism becomes subservient to money, there is no place for nobility. Bill was noble in public service, in the practice of law and, above all, in friendship. I owed him when he was alive, and I will always owe him.

In the end, the kindness is what we remember of people, of lives. William O. Doub’s kindness was monumental. He will be remembered.

Llewellyn King is executive producer and host of “White House Chronicle” on PBS. His e-mail is lking@publishing.com.

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