By Mark F. Gray
Former Prince George’s County Senator Ulysses Currie, a former educator who became one of the most prominent members of the Maryland State Assembly before getting tangled in a 2010 ethics scandal, passed away at 82 years old Dec. 27.
In a statement announcing his death, Maryland Senate President Mike Miller praised Currie for his service to the state and to Prince George’s County.
“He was a colleague, a mentor and friend, and I will miss him very much,” read a portion of Miller’s statement. “He was a valued member of the Senate, and was loved by all who came in contact with him.”
Former Maryland State Senator (Prince George’s County) died at on Dec. 27 at 82 years old. (AP Photo)
Currie was the son of a sharecropper who worked as an educator prior to getting his career in politics. He was the first member of his family to receive a college degree and he put that education to work for 30 years in Prince George’s County. He graduated from North Carolina A&T and did his postgraduate work at American University.
The late senator was an advocate for equal access to adequate education opportunities for all minority children. Currie worked as a teacher, principal and supervisor of the Head Start program during a career that spanned more than 30 years of service in the County.
As one of his final legislative acts in 2018, Currie sponsored a bill that requires the governor to fund the state’s Head Start program with at least $3 million each year. His colleagues ultimately called the program the “Ulysses Currie Head Start Program” and it became law that year.
Posthumously, he was lauded by his former colleagues for representing the voice of those who needed to be heard even amongst his constituents. Currie is remembered by several of those who served with him for fighting to establish schools for children of immigrants. That proposal was not favorably received, but through his efforts, Currie appealed directly to the community which garnered him respect throughout Annapolis.
“He was one of my best friends in the legislature and in Prince George’s County politics,” according to State Rep. Jim Rosepepe.
Currie’s ascent amongst the political power brokers of state politics led him to chair the Senate’s Budget and Taxation Committee.
Currie first won the election to the House of Delegates in 1987 and 12 years later he was elected to the Senate. In 2003, he was appointed to the budget committee chairmanship which became a major political feather in his cap.
However, Currie was indicted in 2010 for allegedly using his official position as budget committee chairman for personal gain by accepting payments to help the Shoppers Supermarket chain expand in Maryland. There were two other former executives with Shoppers Food Warehouse who were implicated in the 18-count indictment. Former President William White and R. Kevin Small, former vice president for real estate development, were accused of filing contracts that falsely described Currie’s work as minority outreach, community relations and public affairs.
After beating those charges, Currie won elections twice more in 2010 and 2014. However, Currie was censured by the State Senate and stripped of his leadership position in February 2012.