May 27

WAYNE K. Curry’s life has included singular achievements. He was one of the first black children to integrate his elementary school, he was the first African American to become Prince George’s County executive and his policies and personality helped transform the county.

Such is the measure of the man that it really shouldn’t come as a surprise that, as he battles a fatal disease, he still wants to make a difference. His final campaign: to get people to give up smoking, which caused his lung cancer.

“Stop now. . . .Don’t do like I did and assume that you will be one of the lucky ones,” Mr. Curry told WUSA-TV’s Bruce Johnson in a wrenching interview. Mr. Curry, 63, said he had been given the grim diagnosis in August and decided he wanted to continue a legacy of public service by using his experience to illustrate the dangers of smoking. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that cigarette smoking is responsible for more than 480,000 deaths per year in the United States. And for every person who dies from a disease related to smoking, about 30 more suffer with at least one serious illness from smoking.

While Mr. Curry’s illness has taken a physical toll, the brashness that infused his administration and fueled his insistence that Prince George’s be treated as a peer of the region was very much in evidence. As a politician, “I don’t specialize on telling on myself,” he said, but he allowed how he spent “many, many many years smoking and I spent many years smoking a lot of cigarettes.” The regret was almost palpable since, yes, he said, there were times he tried to quit.

Our kudos, again, to Mr. Curry for putting himself out in the hopes of doing some public good.