Sen. Ulysses Currie, a Prince George’s County Democrat who rose from humble beginnings to serve as a leader in the Maryland State Senate, has died. He was 84 years old.
Currie died early Friday morning in his Forestville, Maryland, home, according to his family.
He was a sharecropper’s son, Maryland Senate President Mike Miller said in a statement, and the first in his family to graduate college. He spent decades as an educator in Prince George’s County, Maryland. His family said he served as a teacher and principal for over 30 years.
Miller added, “He was a colleague, a mentor and friend, and I will miss him very much.”
Currie was known as a “fierce advocate for education,” his family said, adding, “He leaves behind a legacy of service and leadership, which will be missed by all who knew and loved him.”
State Sen. Jim Rosapepe served with Currie as part of the Prince George’s County delegation. Rosapepe said, “He was one of my best friends in the legislature and in Prince George’s County politics.”
Rosapepe said one of the things he remembers most about Currie is the late senator’s dedication to standing up for those in need. When a proposal to establish schools for children of immigrants got pushback in Prince George’s County, Rosapepe said Currie appealed directly to the community, telling constituents at a PTA meeting, “Look, they’re all our children.”
State Sen. Melony Griffith, who now holds Currie’s seat and who ran against him in the past, said Currie leaves “big shoes to fill.”
Griffith said Currie was beloved by his constituents, not just for his ability to deliver for his district, but “because he is such a down-to-earth, approachable leader. People just thought of him as a friend.”
“In the nearly 25 years that I’ve known Senator Currie, I don’t believe that I’ve ever heard anyone say a disparaging word about him,” Griffith said.
Currie chaired the powerful Maryland Senate Budget and Taxation Committee. He lost that position after he was indicted on federal corruption charges in 2010.
Currie was on the payroll of Shoppers Food Warehouse as a consultant while serving in the Maryland Senate. He was acquitted on the federal charges, but was censured by his Senate colleagues and stripped of his leadership posts in February 2012.
When that vote was taken, he apologized to his Senate colleagues and voted for his own censure.
Rosapepe said Currie continued to have the support of his constituents, winning reelection twice after his legal troubles. Rosapepe said of Currie’s constituents, “They understood that he was not a perfect man, but that he was a good man.”
Currie is survived by his wife, Shirley Gravely-Currie, two children and two grandchildren.
Editor’s note: A previous version of this story misstated the late senator’s age. This story has been updated with the correct age as confirmed by Currie’s family.