FORESTVILLE, Md. — Ulysses Currie, a powerful former Maryland lawmaker who was censured in an ethics scandal, died on Friday, Dec. 27, 2019. He was 82.
Currie’s wife, Shirley Gravely-Currie, told The Washington Post that he died from advanced dementia at his home in Prince George’s County. The Democrat had represented the area as a state lawmaker for more than three decades until his term ended earlier this year.
The son of a sharecropper, Currie was a teacher who rose to become a popular and leading Black lawmaker. He was elected to the House of Delegates in 1986 and then elected to the state Senate in 1994.
Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller praised his former colleague, saying his story “is the story of the best of our state and this country.”
“He was a valued member of the Senate, and was loved by all who came in contact with him,” Miller said in a statement. “He was a colleague, mentor and friend, and I will miss him very much.”
Currie was the chairman of the powerful Senate budget committee in 2002 but stepped down from the chairmanship when he was indicted in federal court in 2010 for failing to disclose work for a grocery store chain that paid him about $245,000 over several years.
He was acquitted of all charges, including conspiracy, bribery and extortion. The Senate later voted unanimously to censure him, making it the first time in 14 years the chamber had disciplined one of its own.
“I will not stand here and make excuses,” he told his colleagues at the time. “I am a person with flaws and I do have weaknesses. I never intended to do anything that would bring dishonor to you, my wife or me.”
In 2016, Currie announced he would resign, but he reversed his decision weeks later. He ended up serving out the remainder of that term — his wife oftentimes by his side at work — and did not run for re-election in 2018.
Sen. Melony Griffith, a Democrat who represents Currie’s old district, told the Baltimore Sun that Currie was committed to improving the quality of education and especially interested in offering children opportunities to learn to play chess.
“It is hard to find someone to speak an unkind word about him because he was so well-loved by everyone,” Griffith said.
In addition to his wife, Currie is survived by: his sons, Michael Currie and Aris Currie, and two grandchildren.