Ulysses Currie and his wife Shirley A. Gravely-Currie at his retirement tribute ceremony in Greenbelt, Maryland, on June 16. (Demetrious Kinney/The Washington Informer)
Ulysses Currie and his wife Shirley A. Gravely-Currie at his retirement tribute ceremony in Greenbelt, Maryland, on June 16. (Demetrious Kinney/The Washington Informer)

Ulysses Currie maintained a distinguished posture much like the one he consistently held from his seat in the Maryland General Assembly representing Prince George’s County for the past 32 years. He smiled, greeted longtime colleagues, and stood to hug friends and church members who dropped by to commend him for a job well done.

Those who were a part of his illustrious career came out in droves to attend his retirement celebration held recently at Martin’s Crosswinds in Greenbelt, Maryland. The occasion marked the end of a long and pivotal career in politics for the North Carolina sharecropper-turned-educator and five-term Maryland state senator.

Rep. Anthony Brown (D) kicked off the afternoon of accolades with a simple, heartfelt message to Currie: “I love you very much.”

“Today we celebrate you,” said Brown, who served as Currie’s campaign chair in his first successful election to the state Senate. Brown also served two terms as Maryland lieutenant governor, and currently represents Maryland’s 4th Congressional District in the U.S. Congress.

“You lead by example,” Brown said. “You have always been a quiet force that consistently and steadfastly stood for those who need a helping hand. And you inspired so many of us to do the same. You have always reached out to the young, the unfamiliar, the newcomers; always willing to give us what you had, your experience, your wisdom, your time, so long as we were willing to give back just like you always do.”

With that, Brown walked to Curry’s seat to hug his mentor.

It was a bittersweet moment for Curry’s wife, Rev. Shirley Gravely Currie, who has been by her husband’s side throughout their nearly three decades of marriage and politics. In recent years, Reverend Currie has been seen sitting with her husband during legislative sessions in Annapolis, providing support for the 80-year-old senator.

Reverend Currie, who was given enormous praise, said she couldn’t have felt happier or prouder of the outpouring of love and support she received as hundreds gathered at the June 16 to honor her husband.

Currie first announced his retirement in 2016, writing in a letter sent to Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. that his health would no longer permit him to carry out his duties “with the strength and energy you all deserve,” according to The Baltimore Sun.

State Sen. Melony G. Griffith, who honored Currie with congratulatory remarks, will succeed him.

Miller, who called Currie “the right man at the right time,” said the two met when Currie was a teacher at the school Miller’s children attended. He noted that Currie, who was named chair of the “powerful” budget and taxation committee, was responsible for making every fiscal decision for the entire state of Maryland.

“He insisted on putting money in public education and not individual projects around the state,” Miller said.

Currie’s career began with education. After leaving the military, he earned a master’s degree in education from American University later pursued doctoral studies in early childhood development at the University of Maryland. He became a teacher, principal and then Head Start program administrator logging in more than three decades of direct service in the Prince George’s County Public Schools system. He then served in the Maryland General Assembly as a member of the House of Delegates from 1986 to 1994, after which he was elected to the state Senate, serving 24 years representing District 25 in Prince George’s County.

Currie’s colleagues presented him with a proclamation signed by 47 members of the Senate from both sides of the aisle, congratulating him for a stellar career and designating June 15, 2018, as Ulysses S. Currie Day.

WI Guest Author

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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