Born on November 2, 1921, William Donald Schaefer lived most of his life in a modest rowhouse on Edgewood Street. The only child of William Henry and Tululu Irene Schaefer, he attended Lyndhurst Elementary School, Baltimore City College and the University of Baltimore.
After serving in Europe during WWII, Schaefer made two unsuccessful attempts for a seat in the Maryland House of Representatives. In 1955, local political king-maker Irvin Kovens, nicknamed the "The Furniture Man" for his West Baltimore furniture store, and Phillip H. Goodman, founder of the Dandy Fifth Democratic Club, recruited Schaefer to run for the Fifth District Baltimore City Council seat. From this modest beginning, Schaefer went on to become Baltimore City Council President, then Mayor, and Governor of Maryland.