This story was updated at 11:37 a.m., July 2, 2014.
Wayne K. Curry, the former Prince George’s County executive, who many leaders credit with transforming the image of the county, died Wednesday.
Curry, 63, served as county executive from 1994 to 2004. During his tenure, Prince George’s experienced a surge in growth and prosperity, said county leaders.
Curry, a New York native, announced in April that he was diagnosed with lung cancer.
While in office, Curry argued for upscale development, shopping centers like the Bowie Town Center and other large developments. He is credited with luring the NFL’s Washington Redskins from Washington, D.C., to a new stadium in Landover and convincing then-owner Jack Kent Cooke to build the team’s new home using state funds instead of county dollars.
“All that you see, everything you see from National Harbor, the new shopping centers, the grander-scale housing came from the seeds he planted,” said David Harrington, president of the county’s Chamber of Commerce. “All the nicer restaurants, shopping and new schools really started with Wayne Curry. While he wasn’t in office to see all of it nor will he see some of the finishing touches, he planted the seeds for all of it.”
After leaving office, Curry continued to use his influence to help move the county forward, lending his support to the county’s effort in 2012 to bring gambling to Prince George’s.
Lillian K. Beverly, 85, who from 1995 to 2007 served as mayor of North Brentwood, the county’s first majority black municipality, said Curry’s ascension to county executive instilled a sense of pride in the black community. Curry was the first black county executive in Prince George’s.
“We felt like we were a real part now of the county administration when he took office,” Beverly said. “Before then, we felt like we were on the outside.”
Harrington, who was Bladensburg’s mayor from 1995 to 2002, said Curry helped desegregate Bladensburg High School, which Curry graduated from in 1968.
“We worked hard to get a brand new [Bladensburg] high school built,” Harrington said. “He was the one in the bulldozer tearing down the old building. That meant so much to him being a graduate of Bladensburg High School.”
At the time of his death, Curry was president of the global commercial real estate group, NAI Michael.
Ken Michael, the chairman for NAI Michael, was not available for comment.
Curry was named chairman of the Prince George’s County Economic Development Corp. in April 2013, shortly before he was diagnosed with lung cancer.
Curry told The Gazette last year that his role in establishing development projects like the Redskins stadium in Landover and National Harbor in Oxon Hill made him an ideal person to reinvigorate development in the county.
Charles Dukes, chairman of the executive committee at W.F. Chesley real estate company, said he knew Curry for around 40 years and worked with him on the board of directors at the Prince George’s County EDC.
“I’ve never known him to have any overriding interest other than making Prince George’s County a better place to live,” Dukes said. “It was his primary driving force ... in everything he did.”
Dukes said he was working for the law firm representing the Washington Redskins while Curry was working to bring the team to Prince George’s County. He said he met with the former county executive several times to discuss the transition.
“He did what had to be done to make it happen,” Dukes said. “He [was] extremely bright. He has always been dedicated to Prince George’s County.”
Seat Pleasant Councilman Eugene Kennedy (Ward 5), whose time as mayor from 1992 to 2004 nearly matched Curry’s tenure as county executive, said Curry had a great impact on the county.
“He was very well loved and very aggressive in terms of getting things done to help this county move forward,” Kennedy said. “He tried to do things to better the life of Prince George’s County.”
Curry’s efforts to better the lives of county residents went beyond physical improvements, Harrington said.
“He elevated literally the culture of Prince George’s County,” Harrington said. “He was so passionate about the county that he really elevated all of our understanding on how we build it. He wanted the best for the county and thought it deserved nothing but the best from the best schools, the best commerce. That just affected all of us.”
Kennedy said Curry carried a great deal of respect among county residents.
“I don’t know any bad things about him,” Kennedy said. “He was a very positive person. I liked Curry very much.”
Curry is survived by his wife, Sheila, and their two children, Julian and Taylor.