‘Changing the Face of a County: The Wayne Curry Story’

 


Former county executive Wayne K. Curry speaks at opening of exhibit, “Changing the Face of the County: The Wayne K. Curry Story.” (Michael Yourishin/ Prince George’s County)

“Changing the Face of a County: The Wayne K. Curry Story,” an exhibit celebrating the 20th anniversary of Curry’s election as Prince George’s County executive, opened this week at the Southern Regional Technology and Recreation Complex in Fort Washington.

The exhibit documents the life of Curry — from his childhood helping to integrate Prince George’s schools to his historic election as the county’s executive in 1994, making him the first African American elected to lead a county in the Washington region.

Curry served two terms, leading a county that transformed from a majority white, blue-collar suburb into one of the most affluent majority-black jurisdictions in the country.

“We are a novel community,” Curry said in an interview. “We are the only big political subdivision, including big cities, in the history of this country to go from small, all-white and rural to big, cosmopolitan and majority African American, where income and education have gone up and not down. That remains a historical anomaly.” The county now has a population of more than 881,000.

“It is something to be proud of when you drive through Prince George’s County … and see the progress that has been made socially, politically and economically,” Curry said. “It’s a unique thing.”

During a celebration opening the exhibit, Rushern L. Baker III, who was elected Prince George’s County executive in 2010, told a crowd gathered that Curry has had a profound impact on the county. “This is a historic day for a historic man,” Baker said. “No one else will have the chance to be the first African American County executive. He loves this place he calls home. I could not do this job or be prepared for this job if I didn’t have Wayne Curry as a mentor.”

Baker added: “The true mark of greatness is not how you treat people when they are on top. The true mark of greatness is how you treat people every day of your life. Today, we are celebrating how you treat humanity. That is Wayne K. Curry.”

The “Wayne K. Curry Story” runs through Feb. 28 at Southern Regional Technology and Recreation Complex, 7007 Bock Road, Fort Washington 20744. For more information, call 301-749-4160.

A second exhibit featuring Curry’s tenure in the county is entitled “Celebrating Civil Rights Milestones: From Emancipation to Administration in Prince George’s County, 1864-1994.” This exhibit, which was created by a team of students from Suitland High School, highlights historic events that shaped the national, state and local landscape, including the 1954 Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education, the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the election of Curry.
“Celebrating Civil Rights Milestones” runs through March 7 at Harmony Hall Regional Center, 6600 Kenilworth Avenue, Riverdale, MD 20737. For more information, contact: 301-699-2255.

DeNeen L. Brown is an award-winning staff writer at The Washington Post who has covered night police, education, courts, politics and culture.

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Tom Jackman · February 27, 2014