Whatever Happened To ... the first black Prince George's county executive

Wayne Curry helped bring FedEx Field to Prince George's County.
Wayne Curry helped bring FedEx Field to Prince George's County. (Kevin Clark - The Washington Post)
By Lisa Frazier Page
Sunday, October 3, 2010

Wayne K. Curry had soared to the peak of his political career in September 1996 when he was featured in a Washington Post Magazine cover story. Two years earlier, Prince George's County voters had made him the first black executive and the nation's only black chief elected official of a county.

Curry, a real estate lawyer who had grown up in Prince George's and helped desegregate its public schools, was the most potent symbol of the demographic shift that had transformed the county from a predominantly white, blue-collar farming community into a haven for an emerging African American middle class. Curry described Prince George's then as "the jewel in the crown of the post-civil-rights era," a place whose new black leadership wanted prosperity and progress for everyone, not just its then-55-percent black majority.

Curry (D) served two terms, leaving office in December 2002 to return to his law practice and consulting work. Six months later, he suffered a brain aneurysm that required surgery and extensive rehabilitation. "I've been infinitely blessed to have recovered fully from that episode," says Curry, now 59.

He has since joined the Baltimore-based law firm founded by William H. "Billy" Murphy Jr., and he does political consulting. And he's still politicking; he campaigned heavily for Rushern L. Baker III, who won the Democratic nomination for county executive.

"I'm using the residue of those two terms to continue a lifetime of community service and commitment to ideals by helping other candidates," Curry says. Since leaving office, he has been mentioned as a possible contender for several statewide posts. In 2005, rumors circulated widely that he was high on the list of candidates to run for lieutenant governor on a ticket with his Republican friend, then-Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich. Curry says he has no plans to run for office again.

Never say never, he added, but Curry says he is "pretty much content" with his life as is. He and his wife, Sheila, still live in their Upper Marlboro mansion. Their son, Julian, 16, and daughter, Taylor, 14, are prize-winning equestrian riders. Their great-grandfather, retired 1st Sgt. Mark Matthews, who died in 2005 at age 111, was the oldest known member of the Buffalo Soldiers, a famed group of African Americans who served in the U.S. Army after the Civil War. Curry jokes that he needs to stay out of public office to afford his children's sport, which "costs an arm and a leg and some body parts."

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