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Prince George's County remembers fallen county executive

Wednesday - 7/9/2014, 5:37pm  ET

curry.jpg
Wayne Curry's body will lie in state until 7 p.m. Wednesday, July 9, 2014, in the lobby of the administration building. (WTOP/Kate Ryan)

Upper Marlboro, Md. -- The front of the historic wing of the Prince George's County courthouse was draped with a massive American flag Wednesday morning. Police lined the broad, brick walk from the courthouse to the County Administration Building where Wayne Curry once served as County Executive.

But this morning, it was a hearse that brought Curry's body to the lobby of the building where he once worked.

As the crowd assembled outside the seat of county government, Former Gov. Parris Glendening -- who also served as Prince George's County Executive -- remembered how his own political career connected to Curry's starting back in the 80's.

"All that time, Wayne was a part of my life. He was a leading political force here"

Glendening smiled as he recalled how he butted heads with Curry over bringing the Redskins to Maryland. Glendening explains he tried to get the Ravens' stadium built in Baltimore and thought the Redskins should stay in the District of Columbia. At the same time, Curry was doing everything he could to move the edskins to Prince George's County. Glendening recalls how he struggled to get support for the Baltimore stadium in Annapolis and was told by members of the Senate: "Talk to Wayne".

So he did.

"And we reached an agreement, that perhaps we should have two stadiums," said Glendening.

The crowds lining the walkway into the County Administration Building fell silent as the sound of bagpipes started, and the casket, draped in the Prince George's County flag, was taken from the hearse and brought inside and placed on a funeral bier where those who knew and worked with Curry began to speak.

Reverend Perry Smith, the Senior Pastor of the First Baptist Church of North Brentwood offered a prayer. He referred to Curry's tirelessness as he led the crowd, saying of Curry; "He would not rest, but now God, he rests. Thank you for giving him the rest that he sorely deserves"

Prince George's County Council Chair Mel Franklin spoke, his voice faltering at times, said, "We have lost a giant. A fierce and passionate advocate, a trailblazer for civil rights."

Franklin called Curry a political and economic visionary. His voice nearly failed him as he said, "We will remember that Wayne Curry built Prince George's County. And the impact of his contributions to improving our quality of life will be felt for generations to come."

"I still want to be like Wayne Curry when I grow up. I will always wish for one more conversation, one more piece of advice, one more challenge to be better," said Franklin, gathering himself.

Judge Sheila Tillerson Adams recalled how she was once tasked with leading the effort to renovate the historic — and aging -- Du Val wing of the Prince George's County courthouse. Adams said she was told flat out that the county didn't have the money.

Then she added, "But in true Wayne fashion, he looked at me and he said ‘If you can go to the state and convince them to contribute to this courthouse project, I'll find a way to make it happen'"

The crowd laughed as Adams shared more anecdotes that captured Curry's personality and style.

Current Prince George's County Executive Rushern Baker rounded out the speakers when he said, "He was my refuge. And I will miss him. We have lost a county executive, but I have lost a friend."

Baker then announced he would appoint a committee to recommend that a county facility be named in honor of Curry.

"It is our way of saying thank you," Baker said. He then thanked Curry's widow Sheila, his son Julian and daughter Taylor.

At the close of the ceremony, Pastor Smith reminded the crowd that this was not a time for sadness alone. "We have some strict instructions from Wayne" he said, referring to Curry's instructions for the funeral service: "It must be upbeat. We may shed some tears, but they must be tears of joy and rejoicing."

The funeral service will be held Thursday at the First Baptist Church of Glenarden, in Upper Marlboro. Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley has ordered that flags across the state be flown at half-staff in honor of Curry.

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