Influential and controversial state senator passes away

The son of a sharecropper, who during his thirty years of elected public service wound up rising to the top budget position in the Maryland State Senate, passed away late last night. He was 83-years old.

Former State Senator Ulysses Currie, a democrat who represented parts of Prince George’s County for three decades, passed away almost a year after retiring from public service. Currie, who was originally elected to the Maryland House of Delegates in 1986, representing District 25 in Prince George’s County, wound up becoming one of the longest serving state senators in the state. During his time in the house, he became the Majority Whip, the 3rd-ranking position in the House after the Speaker and the Majority Leader and was later elected to his seat in the State Senate in 1994.

He rose to lead the senate’s powerful Budget and Taxation Committee less than a decade later, becoming one of the most influential lawmakers in Annapolis between 2003-2010. However, on September 1, 2010, a federal grand jury indicted Currie, and Shoppers Food Warehouse Corporation executives William J. White and R. Kevin Small, in connection with a scheme that stretched from 2002 to 2008, in which the supermarket chain allegedly paid Senator Currie in exchange for using his official position and influence in matters benefitting White, Small, and the supermarket chain.

Currie eventually was acquitted on all charges a year later, but was stripped of his chairmanship and censured by his colleagues on the state senate for ethics violations stemming from the facts that were uncovered during that investigation. Currie himself voted for his own censure, apologizing to his colleagues and those he let down. “I am a person with flaws, and I do have weaknesses,” Currie told his colleagues at the time.

But despite the rare move of a legislator being censured on the senate floor, Currie remained popular in his district and thus remained serving the district in the state senate for years to come. It wasn’t until November of 2016, when the 79-year old Currie decided to call it quits and offered up his letter of resignation. However, once he realized that his wife, Shirley A. Gravely-Currie did not have the votes of the state central committee that would be tasked with appointing his replacement, he rescinded his resignation and remained in the state senate until his term ended in January of this year.

However, the last few years of service were marred with whispers of his deteriorating health, which caused his wife to accompany onto the senate floor for most of the time during the 90-day legislative session. And now it appears as if the humble giant of a man who was once rumored to be the heir apparent to Senate President Thomas ‘Mike’ Miller has succumbed to the failing health that has limited him over the past few years. He will forever be remembered as one of the kindest and most humble political leaders Prince George’s County and Maryland will ever know, who rose above all others while successfully navigating the landmine-infested political battle field known as the MD State Senate to establish his own little kingdom within the good ole boys club of Maryland.

He will forever be remembered with mixed emotions; from those who knew the man for who he truly was, to those who knew the political figure he had become, in both his successes and failures. RIP Senator Curry, and our prayers are with your family.

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