UPPER MARLBORO, Md. (WJLA) - Even before he became Prince George’s County executive in 1994, Wayne Curry had a vision. And plans. And an unrelenting passion for achieving his goals. To wit:
National Harbor? Thank Wayne Curry.
FedEx Field? Thank Wayne Curry.
Bowie Town Center? Thank Wayne Curry.
Curry, 63, died this week. The Washington region’s first black county executive (1994-2004), Curry helped turn the once-sleepy area into a vibrant, upscale place where affluent African-Americans made a distinct mark and all races come to mingle without a second thought.
As a politician in Prince George's County, Curry worked to improve its image amongst its regional counterparts. He discouraged the use of the county's P.G. nickname and battled with former Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke over funding for FedEx Field.
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., Curry grew up in Cheverly, Md. and was one of the first African-American students to attend Bladensburg High School. He got his first job in politics as an assistant to County Executive Winfield M. Kelly Jr. As a lawyer, Curry counted among his clients hospital systems, developers and the parents of Len Bias, the University of Maryland basketball star who died of a cocaine overdose.
A former cigarette smoker, he had been diagnosed with lung cancer late last summer.
Reaction Wednesday about Curry’s death was swift.
Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley noted that, "As Prince George's County Executive, Mr. Curry led the County through one of the most transformative periods in its history, overseeing the County's explosive population and economic growth."
Maryland Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown issued a statement that said, in part, “Wayne Curry was an advocate in the best sense of the word: a fighter who never stopped championing his vision for a better, stronger, more inclusive Prince George’s County. He was smart and tough – a leader who you always wanted on your side. And he never shied away from tough challenges, including his final battle with cancer.”
Added U.S. congressman Steny Hoyer (D-Md.): "He presided over a transformation that has seen Prince George’s County recognized across the country as a great place to live and raise a family, as a collection of communities that see diversity as a rich asset, and as a source of economic vitality and growth that promotes a strong middle class."
There was this from Maryland Sen. Jim Rosapepe: "Wayne Curry. . .never forgot where he came from -- Prince George's County. And he never gave up on his dream of convincing the world outside its borders of its world-class people. Few people have achieved so much of their vision. Wayne was a game changer."
And from Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder: “I am saddened to hear of Wayne Curry’s passing. He was a great friend to the Washington Redskins and his legacy lives on as part of our Ring of Fame. His service to Prince George’s County will always be remembered and our thoughts and prayers go out to his family.”
Curry, talking about his lung cancer, told the Washington Post in late May that, “You get to talk to people you love and to say, ‘Man, I love you,’ which you would never say if you were not dealing with something potentially fatal."
In his final days, Curry was still working on bringing businesses and jobs to the county, and was also planning on going fishing on Wednesday before passing away, surrounded by family.
Current county executive Rushern Baker was too overwhelmed with grief to speak publicly today, but mentioned that the loss was deep:
“He was an amazingly generous friend, colleague, and supporter.”