Sarbanes has served as Maryland's senator since 1977 -- the longest term for a U.S. senator in the state's history. In the wake of the 2002 corporate accountability crisis, Sarbanes and U.S. Rep. Michael Oxley, R-Ohio, pushed through an act regulating accounting and investment disclosures.
"Without question, Paul Sarbanes is an intellectual giant in the Senate," House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said. "His record and career in public office ought to be emulated by all who wish to serve."
Democrats considered likely to vie for the chance to replace him him are former NAACP executive director and ex-U.S. Rep. Kweisi Mfume, Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley and Montgomery County Executive Doug Duncan.
The son of Greek immigrants, Sarbanes first garnered national attention in 1974 when, as a member of the House Judiciary Committee, he proposed articles of impeachment against President Richard M. Nixon.