More than 2,500 people gathered July 10 to express their last condolences and celebrate the life of Wayne Keith Curry, the first African-American chief executive for Prince George’s County, Md.
“Today we celebrate his great life and the imprint that he left in our hearts,” County Executive Rushern Baker III told the congregation of mourners gathered at the First Baptist Church of Glenarden in Upper Marlboro. “He was our blazing talent; he was our symbol of vitality. Yes, he was our champion. He set the agenda for this county.”
Baker also announced he would appoint a committee to recommend that a county facility be named in honor of Curry.
Although Curry’s passing is somber; his life, feats, accomplishments, disagreements, and passion for the county were brought to life in the church as family members, elected officials, business professionals, and residents said their final goodbyes.
He served for two terms and helped transform Prince George’s into one of the most affluent majority-Black counties in the nation.
Maryland Sen. Barbara Mikulski referred to Curry’s passionate stance on improving the county’s economic makeup as unapologetic. “With Wayne you never had a meeting, you had an encounter,” she told the press. “If you didn’t have an outcome, out you went and you didn’t come again.”
Mikulski said although Curry is in another place, he is still working to make Prince George’s County better. “Now you know Wayne is in heaven,” she said. “And I’m sure he’s talking to Nelson Mandela and Dr. King today, saying lets help that gal get that FBI building in Prince George’s County.”
According to a press release from the funeral, Wayne Curry “was called visionary, tenacious, paradoxical, humorous, colorful, and full of life.” Dion Smith, a Prince George’s County resident, said, “When you have good representation and people that are passionate about what they do and want to represent the people and the populous, then they can make things happen and I think that’s what he did, he made things happen.”
Curry brought Fed Ex Field to Prince George’s County along with other economic growth endeavors. “Wayne helped the people in Prince George’s County understand that the people who come in our county and do business, they should be operating in our county from a position of servitude, where [they’re] going to give back to the county,” Emerick Peace, president of the homeowners association where Curry lived, said. Other county residents, who attended the funeral, reiterated that Curry stood as a pinnacle for economic development in the county.
Past and current politicians from both parties across the state of Maryland, including Democrat U.S. Reps. Steny Hoyer and Donna Edwards; Gov. Martin O’Malley; Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake; and Republican former county executive Lawrence J. Hogan Sr.; and others attended. President Barack Obama, former President Bill Clinton, Sen. Ben Cardin, U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings, and D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray sent their condolences through letters read during the funeral.
As part of remembering his brother, Daryl Curry pretended to take a phone call from Saint Peter to acknowledge the “challenge” Curry’s strong-will and passion could bring.
“You know sometimes he sees things, he thinks they need to be addressed,” his brother told Saint Peter. “No don’t send him down there.”
Curry’s longtime pastor and friend, the Rev. Perry Smith III, retired pastor of First Baptist Church of North Brentwood – who counseled Curry until his death, baptized his children, and officiated his marriage ceremony – gave the eulogy.
In the eulogy, Smith compared Curry’s life to that of Job. According to Smith, Curry told him to talk about Job at his funeral. “Like Wayne, [Job] refused to take no for an answer, he would not take silence, he refused to take clichés for an answer, he refused to let God of the hook,” Smith said.
Curry died July 2 after a yearlong battle with lung cancer. He was 63 years old.