DUNKIRK, MD. -- Claude "Chuck" Sturgis, a 49-year-old Defense Department employee, says he moved in the early 1970s from the town of Cheverly in Prince George's County to the Shores of Calvert subdivision here because of his opposition to court-ordered busing for integration.

When he and his family left Cheverly, they sold their home to a black family, a process repeated over and over as Prince George's evolved during the last two decades into a county with a 51 percent black majority.

Sturgis is one among the thousands of whites who have migrated since 1970 from Prince George's to Calvert County, a nearby peninsula in Southern Maryland.

In dozens of interviews, the migrants cited a variety of reasons for moving: more land, a country setting within reasonable commuting distance of Washington area jobs, lower taxes, safer streets and neighbors who are racially like them.

The two-decade-long migration has increased the percentage of whites in Calvert, decreased the percentage in Prince George's and turned Calvert into the second-fastest growing county in Maryland, behind Howard.

Whites have also left Prince George's for other nearby communities in Charles and Anne Arundel counties, census data show.

"You're documenting a big social movement which has transformed the racial composition of a big part of this metropolitan area," said George Grier, senior associate at the Greater Washington Research Center, which studies demographics in the area.

Grier said that the white exodus from Prince George's was hastened by real estate agents playing on racial fears and that the new black majority came about in part because blacks were steered to the county.

"It was a vicious kind of thing," he said. "It meant black movement was all channeled into Prince George's County. Otherwise, it might've been more widespread and there might've been more integration than there was."

He said that white flight from Prince George's reached its peak during the 1970s and continued, but at a slower pace, throughout the 1980s.

From 1970 to 1990, Prince George's white population declined by 246,000 people, or 43 percent. The number of whites increased by 46,414 in Charles, by 103,685 in Anne Arundel and by 29,869 in Calvert. Migration accounted for most of the increase in Calvert and Charles, while births were a bigger factor in Anne Arundel.

According to Internal Revenue Service data, Prince Georgians accounted for 37 percent of the people who moved to Calvert from 1980 to 1988, the largest single group among 26,549 new residents. Former Prince Georgians also made up the largest group of new residents in Charles and Anne Arundel counties in the same period.

Often the newcomers to Southern Maryland have completed a two-decade, two-step movement. They once lived in Southeast Washington, moved to Prince George's as Southeast turned black in the 1950s and '60s, and more recently moved to Calvert.

While in Prince George's, many of the migrants lived in older lower-income neighborhoods inside the Capital Beltway. Most of them did not live in the newer outer Beltway communities, such as Lake Arbor, which are profoundly middle class and have become home to Prince George's County's upwardly mobile black professionals.

Asked why they left Prince George's, some migrants laughed nervously, then acknowledged race as a major factor, sometimes throwing in busing and crime.

"It wasn't safe to walk out to the car or when you came out at night," said Joanie Lovell, who lived in Southeast Washington as a child and moved here from Temple Hills in Prince George's three years ago. "The neighborhood changed in 10 years time. It's changed everywhere racially. Everybody's moved."

Some were blunter, employing a common racial epithet to explain their departure from Prince George's.

Others said that race played no part in their move, and cited congestion and the quality of the public schools as reasons for leaving Prince George's -- despite some evidence that schools have improved.

In addition, statistics show that household income and median house prices in Prince George's more than doubled in the 1980s along with the emergence of Prince George's black majority, which includes one of the nation's largest concentrations of the black middle class.

Nonetheless, to many of those who left, Prince George's is "still seen as a terrible place of drugs and racial strife and not a safe place to live," said T.J. duCellier, a former Prince Georgian and now publisher of the weekly Chesapeake Observer in Chesapeake Beach in northern Calvert.

"Nobody here shops at Landover Mall or any inner Beltway malls. Nobody here wants to even go to the Capital Centre," she said, although the arena by the Beltway is often filled with majority white crowds.

The migrants to Calvert perceive their adopted county as offering the amenities for which they initially moved to Prince George's.

However, Calvert is beginning to experience the symptoms that have accompanied rapid residential growth throughout the Washington exurbs: increasing traffic, crime, drugs, rising taxes to support services such as new schools, a growing scarcity of affordable housing and a burgeoning slow-growth movement involving both newcomers and old-timers.

Calvert's population increase from 20,682 in 1970 to 51,372 in 1990 has also made the county whiter. In 1970, Calvert was 37.3 percent nonwhite, according to the census. In 1990, only 16.7 percent of the residents fit that category.

In the increasing white majority, former residents of Prince George's are seemingly everywhere. The Ames clerk, the convenience store manager, the man who owns the lawn service -- likely as not, they migrated here from Prince George's.

"We wanted to upgrade our living standard and build our own home here," said Roger Anderson, 53, manager of the Dunkirk 7-Eleven. He moved in 1972 from Camp Springs to McDonald's Farms, where houses range in price from $200,000 to $400,000 and "virtually all" residents are from Prince George's, he said.

"It's a county within a county," said publisher duCellier. "There are a lot of firefighters, police officers, government employees and professionals. They tend to move into developments where other Prince George Countians live."

Indeed, groups of neighbors have transplanted themselves. Several households from Marlboro Meadows, a development near Upper Marlboro, now live in the Shores of Calvert.

A similar phenomenon has taken place in the modest subdivision of Cavalier Country. Pat Northedge, who grew up in Southeast Washington, moved in 1973 from Hillside -- an unincorporated area adjoining Southeast with small, early 20th-century houses -- to Cavalier Country. "We've known the Gardners from Hillside before we ever moved down here," she said. "Next door {to us} is a woman my husband grew up with, also from Hillside."

The migrants to Calvert have settled especially in the county's northern end, where brick entrances to new subdivisions appear on and off Route 4, the highway leading up to Washington and down the spine of the peninsula bounded by the Chesapeake Bay and Patuxent River.

Route 4 rush hours offer dramatic evidence of the migration, with steady heavy northbound traffic in the morning and the reverse in the late afternoon.

Dunkirk is 35 miles from downtown Washington, half as far from the Beltway. The area includes a range of subdivisions from the modest and older Cavalier Country to the newer Twin Shields and Lyons Creek Hundred, where houses sell for up to $800,000.

A few miles farther south are Shores of Calvert, where Sturgis lives, and Ferry Woods Landing, what real estate agents here call a "waterfront-privileged" community with larger homes set back on expansive wooded lots.

Among the Ferry Woods residents is Joyce Terhes, a Calvert native who lived and worked in Prince George's as a schoolteacher before moving back in 1976. Now GOP state chairman and a county commissioner, Terhes said she was stunned at the number of former Prince George's residents she found when she began knocking on doors to register Republicans in 1986.

"Before I could get a sentence out, it was, 'Mrs. Terhes, don't you remember me?' There'd be a student I taught in seventh grade now living in the county."

The Bevards, a well-known name from Prince George's County, have also migrated here. Sam Bevard, who sold the family's Silver Hill Sand and Gravel in 1988, moved to Twin Shields last year. His son, niece and nephew, all former Prince Georgians, live elsewhere in the county.

Why did he leave? "I don't think it would make good print," he said. "I just like it down here, I'll put it that way."

A 3-to-1 Democratic registration edge has become 1.4-to-1 as the migrants have switched parties. When Vincent duCellier, a former high-ranking Prince George's policeman, ran as a Republican for sheriff last year, he received 40 percent of the vote, with his highest totals in the county's northern end.

The migration slowed as house and lot prices have risen, real estate agents say. But controversy over the county's future continues, with many former Prince George's residents joining natives such as Carolyn Jackson in opposing more expansion. Jackson works in the county assessor's office and her red pickup truck bears a homemade bumper sticker that says, "Welcome to Calvert County. Now Go Home."

But Jackson, it turns out, also has roots in Prince George's, from which her family migrated generations back.

"We all came from somewhere sometime," she said.