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Jack Johnson

Jack Johnson was born on April 3, 1949 in Wadmalaw Island, South Carolina to Adolphus and Ermine Johnson. Johnson graduated from Haut Gap High School on John’s Island, South Carolina in 1966 and received his B.S. degree from Benedict College in 1970. He attended Howard University School of Law, obtaining his J.D. degree in 1975. Johnson served in the United States Army Reserves as a combat medic during the Vietnam War.

In 1975, Johnson worked as an attorney in the Office of Chief Counsel with the Internal Revenue Service until 1984. For the next three years, he served as a law professor at North Carolina Central University’s School of Law. Johnson then became the Deputy State Attorney, managing the day-to-day operations of the prosecutor’s office, before becoming the State’s Attorney for Prince George’s County, Maryland. In this position, Johnson recruited a diverse, highly motivated and well-trained staff of prosecutors, investigators, administrators and support personnel.

In December 2002, Johnson was elected the sixth County Executive of Prince George’s County. He made history shortly after being elected to office by increasing the county’s budget by more than $1 billion. Johnson’s budget priorities focused on education and public safety. He increased the school funding by over $100 million and is also responsible for building the largest police force in the county’s history and saving the county’s hospital system. Johnson was re-elected to a second term in 2006.

Johnson has served as a board member of the Prince George’s County United Way and the Coalition of Concerned Black Christian Men. He has received the NAACP President Award and the National Forum of Black Public Administrators’ First Leadership Award.

Johnson resides in Mitchellville, Maryland with his wife, Leslie. They have three adult children.

Johnson was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on April 26, 2007.

Accession Number

A2007.163

Sex

Male

Interview Date

4/26/2007

Last Name

Johnson

Maker Category
Organizations
Schools

Haut Gap High School

Howard University School of Law

Benedict College

Edith L. Frierson Elementary School

First Name

Jack

Birth City, State, Country

Wadmalaw Island

HM ID

JOH30

Favorite Season

Fall, Spring

State

South Carolina

Favorite Vacation Destination

Hilton Head, South Carolina

Favorite Quote

It All Works Out.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

District of Columbia

Birth Date

4/3/1949

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Washington

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Rice

Short Description

State deputy attorney and county government official Jack Johnson (1949 - ) was elected County Chief Executive of Prince George’s County, Maryland.

Employment

AXA Financial

North Carolina Central University

Internal Revenue Service

Prince George's County (MD)

Prince George's County Executive’s Office

Favorite Color

Red

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Jack Johnson's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Jack Johnson lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Jack Johnson describes his mother's family background, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Jack Johnson describes his mother's family background, pt. 2

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Jack Johnson describes Edisto Island, South Carolina in the early 20th century

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Jack Johnson talks about his mother's education

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Jack Johnson describes his family's land in Edisto Island, South Carolina

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Jack Johnson recalls his mother's adoption of a Haitian refugee

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Jack Johnson describes his father's family background

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Jack Johnson describes his paternal great-grandfather

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Jack Johnson talks about his great-uncle's nickname

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Jack Johnson recalls spending time with his paternal grandfather

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Jack Johnson describes his father's occupation

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Jack Johnson talks about his father's education

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Jack Johnson lists his siblings

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Jack Johnson recalls how his parents met

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Jack Johnson describes the sights and sounds of his childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Jack Johnson describes his earliest childhood memories

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Jack Johnson remembers his home on Wadmalaw Island, South Carolina

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Jack Johnson describes the Gullah language and culture

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Jack Johnson recalls listening to the radio as a young boy

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Jack Johnson talks about traditional Gullah foods

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Jack Johnson describes Rockville Elementary School in Wadmalaw Island, South Carolina

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Jack Johnson recalls starting a year early at Rockville Elementary School

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Jack Johnson remembers his teachers at Rockville Elementary School

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Jack Johnson describes himself as a student

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Jack Johnson recalls attending Haut Gap High School in Johns Island, South Carolina

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Jack Johnson describes his activities at Haut Gap High School in Johns Island, South Carolina

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Jack Johnson recalls his decision to attend Benedict College in Columbia, South Carolina

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Jack Johnson remembers avoiding the U.S. Army draft

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Jack Johnson describes his experiences at Benedict College

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Jack Johnson recalls Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s assassination

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Jack Johnson remembers the guest speakers at Benedict College

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Jack Johnson recalls working for Equitable Life Assurance Society of America

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Jack Johnson remembers joining the U.S. Army Reserve

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Jack Johnson recalls befriending a white South Carolinian in the U.S. Army

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Jack Johnson talks about his decision to attend Howard University School of Law

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Jack Johnson describes his experiences at Howard University School of Law in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Jack Johnson remembers Howard University president James Cheek

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Jack Johnson remembers his classmates at Howard University School of Law

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Jack Johnson recalls working for the Internal Revenue Service in Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Jack Johnson remembers joining the Internal Revenue Service's national office

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Jack Johnson describes his work in partnerships and corporation transactions

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Jack Johnson talks about challenges for African American lawyers at the Internal Revenue Service

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Jack Johnson remembers teaching at North Carolina Central University School of Law in Durham, North Carolina

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Jack Johnson recalls working in admissions at North Carolina Central University in Durham, North Carolina

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Jack Johnson describes his wife and children

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Jack Johnson recalls serving as the deputy to the state's attorney in Prince George's County, Maryland

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Jack Johnson talks about running for state's attorney

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Jack Johnson remembers addressing police brutality in Prince George's County, Maryland

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Jack Johnson recalls his success as state's attorney of Prince George's County, Maryland

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Jack Johnson describes his concept of a livable community, pt. 1

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Jack Johnson describes his concept of a livable community, pt. 2

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Jack Johnson talks about the opportunities and challenges in Prince George's County, Maryland

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Jack Johnson recalls being scrutinized by the media

Tape: 6 Story: 10 - Jack Johnson remembers his family's Sunday traditions

Tape: 6 Story: 11 - Jack Johnson reflects upon his life

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Jack Johnson shares a message for future generations

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Jack Johnson describes how he would like to be remembered

DASession

1$1

DATape

6$6

DAStory

2$4

DATitle
Jack Johnson recalls serving as the deputy to the state's attorney in Prince George's County, Maryland
Jack Johnson remembers addressing police brutality in Prince George's County, Maryland
Transcript
And after I left the, the teaching [at North Carolina Central University School of Law, Durham, North Carolina], my classmate, one of my schoolmates rather, a guy by the name of Alexander Williams [Alexander Williams, Jr.], ran for state's attorney in Prince George's County. And as Prince George's County is the second largest county in the State of Maryland and at, at that time, you begin to have the migration of the middle class African Americans from the District of Columbia [Washington, D.C.]. And many of them were migrating east into Prince George's County, so the numbers were changing. And one night, Alex came to my home and said, "Look, I'm going to run for state's attorney, and I would like for you to be involved in my campaign, and I would like for you to be the treasurer." He knew of my financial background. And so, I jumped at the opportunity to help him out. And, but as the campaign evolved, I got more and more involved in the campaign, not only in terms of treasurer, but running a lot of the day to day activities. And after the--we won, and it was, it, it was just a transforming victory for Prince George's County. It was the first time that they had elected an African American countywide, and this was really a big shift in politics. Alex asked me to come in and be his deputy. And so, so the chance to do something different like that was exciting. And so, I went in, and I ran the office for him--ran the budget, got involved in all of the criminal justice issues; worked in the community.$(Simultaneous) And so, when I got into the, the office, we begin to chal- not challenge, but take on the whole issue of police brutality. Our police department had a reputation for that, and it was well known, and probably deserved. And so, that was a really challenging prosecution, but not so much in terms of the prosecution, but the politics of it. I didn't realize, at the time, how the--institutionally, the police get so much support from all the politicians in the state, all the institutions, the newspapers--you have it, and the, and the judges, and the whole criminal justice system. And so, that those cases were very challenging and, in fact, the first case that I charged, I could not get anyone in the office to prosecute the case. So, we had to--I end up firing two of the, the lawyers for failing to carry out their constitutional duties to, to ensure that justice is served fairly. And, and that, interestingly, there is a guy that I had met named Lloyd Johnson, last name--he called me. He was a prosecutor. He said, "Jack [HistoryMaker Jack Johnson], if you hire me, I'll, I'll try the cases." And so, I hired Lloyd, and Lloyd came on, and tried those cases. We had a number of all the cases. And then, I set out to, to make certain that the face of the office represented the face of Prince George's County [Maryland]. And so, we began to hire a lot of young African American lawyers. And there were lots of criticism by the media claiming that my lawyers were not as well qualified as traditional lawyers had been, and those kinds of things. But not only were they well qualified, they were more qualified, and they've all done so well over the years. And so, those were the, the eight years of my prosecution years.$$What was the makeup of the police department?$$Well, they were probably getting 40 percent African American at the time, pretty close to it, at least 30 percent. But the, the, it was kind of interesting how so many of the African Americans, or a number of them, had taken on that whole custom. And so, when I talked about prosecution, I had to prosecute black officers, as well as white officers. It wasn't that--$$Okay, okay (simultaneous).$$--(simultaneous) we were prosecuting only white officers.$$Um-hm.

Wayne Curry

Wayne Keith Curry was born on January 6, 1951, in Brooklyn, New York; his father was a teacher and his mother was a homemaker and later a secretary. Curry grew up in Cheverly, Maryland, a bedroom community outside of Washington, D.C., where his family helped to integrate the neighborhood in the 1950s. He and his older brother also integrated the schools, being the first blacks to attend Cheverly-Tuxedo Elementary in 1959; he earned his high school diploma from Bladensburg High School in 1968.

In 1972, Curry earned his B.A. degree in psychology from Western Maryland College, where he was president of the freshman class. Following graduation, he worked as a teacher and director of the Child Daycare Center of Prince George’s County. In 1974, Curry took a hiatus from the professional arena and traveled across America; during his trip he earned money working at truck stops and slept at campsites throughout the country.

From 1975 until 1980, Curry worked in the Winfield Kelly administration. Kelly was the executive for Prince George’s County from 1974 until 1978. Curry’s career began as a staffer responsible for writing constituent reply mail; he later went on to serve as community affairs assistant, administrative assistant to the county’s chief administrative officer and senior assistant to the executive. While working for Kelly, Curry also attended law school at night, earning his law degree from the University of Maryland in 1980. From 1980 until 1983, he worked as a real estate and development lawyer for the Michael Companies. In 1984, Curry started his own law practice and became a well-known, successful corporate attorney.

In 1994, Curry returned to the county executive’s office and made history when he became the first African American to serve in that office. Curry served two terms as Prince George’s County Executive. Curry continued to practice law in the county throughout this time, and long after.

Curry passed way on July 2, 2014.

Accession Number

A2004.185

Sex

Male

Interview Date

9/29/2004

Last Name

Curry

Maker Category
Schools

Bladensburg High School

Cheverly-Tuxedo Elementary

McDaniel College

University of Maryland

First Name

Wayne

Birth City, State, Country

New York

HM ID

CUR03

Favorite Season

Fall

State

New York

Favorite Vacation Destination

Mountains, Lakes

Favorite Quote

It Is Hard, But It Is Fair.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

District of Columbia

Birth Date

1/6/1951

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Washington

Country

United States

Favorite Food

None

Death Date

7/2/2014

Short Description

Corporate lawyer and county government official Wayne Curry (1951 - 2014 ) served as the first African American County Executive of Prince George’s County. In addition to holding public office, Curry also has a successful law practice.

Employment

Child Daycare Center of Prince George’s County

Winfield Kelly Administration - Prince George's County

Michael Companies

Meyers, Billingsley, Shipley, Curry, Rodbell & Rosenbaum

Prince George's County Executive’s Office

Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Wayne Curry's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Wayne Curry lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Wayne Curry describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Wayne Curry describes his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Wayne Curry describes his extended family

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Wayne Curry describes his earliest childhood memory

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Wayne Curry describes his childhood routines growing up

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Wayne Curry remembers holiday celebrations from his childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Wayne Curry describes his childhood neighborhood in Cheverly, Maryland

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Wayne Curry describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Wayne Curry talks about his job working in a pet shop during junior high school in Cheverly, Maryland

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Wayne Curry reflects upon growing up during the Civil Rights Movement

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Wayne Curry recalls his experience desegregating Cheverly-Tuxedo Elementary School in Cheverly, Maryland

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Wayne Curry talks about his academic interests and influential teachers in elementary school

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Wayne Curry describes the social and academic challenges of integrating Cheverly-Tuxedo Elementary School in Cheverly, Maryland

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Wayne Curry recalls his neighborhood's response to his attending majority-white schools in Cheverly, Maryland

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Wayne Curry talks about his drive to succeed during his elementary and junior high school years

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Wayne Curry describes his social experience at Bladensburg Junior High School in Bladensburg, Maryland

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Wayne Curry describes his interests and pastimes during his years at Bladensburg Junior High School in Bladensburg, Maryland

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Wayne Curry recalls influential events and figures from his youth

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Wayne Curry describes his experiences at Bladensburg High School in Bladensburg, Maryland

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Wayne Curry describes his extracurricular interests while at Bladensburg High School in Bladensburg, Maryland

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Wayne Curry talks about his choice to attend Western Maryland College in Westminster, Maryland

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Wayne Curry describes his dissatisfaction with the community at Western Maryland College in Westminster, Maryland

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Wayne Curry recalls racist incidents at Western Maryland College in Westminster, Maryland

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Wayne Curry describes how he became interested in the study of psychology at Western Maryland College in Westminster, Maryland

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Wayne Curry recalls his initial jobs and travels after graduating Western Maryland College in Westminster, Maryland in 1972

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Wayne Curry recalls his travels throughout the United States during 1974

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Wayne Curry reflects upon the youth culture of the 1970s

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Wayne Curry talks about working for Winfield M. Kelly, Jr., County Executive of Prince George's County, Maryland

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Wayne Curry talks about his early experiences working on political campaigns in the 1960s and 1970s

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Wayne Curry describes his experiences at the University of Maryland School of Law in Baltimore, Maryland

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Wayne Curry talks about his hiring at NAI Michael Lanham, Maryland

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Wayne Curry talks about his working relationship with Kenneth H. Michael, principal of NAI Michael in Lanham, Maryland

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Wayne Curry describes his law career during the mid-1980s

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Wayne Curry talks about how and why he chose to run for the county executive of Prince George's County, Maryland in 1994

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Wayne Curry talks about how his background prepared him for political office in Prince George's County, Maryland in the 1990s

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Wayne Curry reflects on his election as the first African American county executive of Prince George's County, Maryland

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Wayne Curry talks about the negotiations to build Jack Kent Cooke Stadium in Landover, Maryland

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Wayne Curry talks about his contentious relationship with Governor Parris N. Glendening of Maryland during the 1990s, pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Wayne Curry talks about his contentious relationship with Governor Parris N. Glendening of Maryland during the 1990s, pt. 2

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Wayne Curry talks about his future political plans

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Wayne Curry describes how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Wayne Curry reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Wayne Curry narrates his photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

4$5

DAStory

3$1

DATitle
Wayne Curry talks about his early experiences working on political campaigns in the 1960s and 1970s
Wayne Curry reflects on his election as the first African American county executive of Prince George's County, Maryland
Transcript
I had become involved [in politics] once, in 1966 at the urging of these couple of buddies of mine, and I lasted two weeks, I mean, I'm not gonna be involved in this kinda mess, you know, and (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) What were you doing in 1966, what were you involved in?$$I think we were promoting, I can't remember the guy's name, but he [Spiro Agnew] was opposing some racist who was running here on the theme of, "Your Home is Your Castle, [Protect It]." George P.--$$--so it was a local--$$--Mahoney. That's who; George P. Mahoney was running for governor under the theme, "Your Home is Your Castle." And, I can't remember the gentleman who was opposing him but they dragged me into some campaign activity and subsequently they talked me into one more campaign with Joe Tydings [Joseph D. Tydings] who was running for U.S. Senate, and who did succeed at becoming a senator. But I really wasn't interested, didn't last long, you know, wasn't a good volunteer. But I've always been loyal and contentious so when I went to work for Winnie Kelly [Winfield M. Kelly, Jr.] and he was running for election and I was one of his guys, then I did what your guys do, you support the throne and you go down with the ship. And so that's when I became more interested in politics. At that time I had a girlfriend who was--who had also been a CETA [Comprehensive Employment and Training Act] employee and she worked in the [Prince George's County, Maryland] county executive's office and in the same election that Winnie lost, she was victorious and became the first black woman elected to our county council. So, you know, I was still covered (laughter) and we had done, you know, a good and fun job of maneuvering to get her in that position and she was a brilliant woman too, a lady by the name of Debbie Marshall [Deborah Marshall]. And, so Debbie won and then that's when it really began, in earnest, I spent a lot of time helping over the years, other people become politicians. And, learned a lot more about the synergy, the relationship between government and business, much more than I ever knew, much more than most citizens know.$So 1994 you're elected as county executive?$$Right.$$Prince George's County, Maryland.$$Right.$$The first African American county executive?$$Right.$$I just--I'm curious, what were your thoughts after you had gone to work as a constituent mail reply (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) As, as a grunt (laughter)--$$(Laughter).$$--yes.$$--in the '70s [1970s] for the county executive [Winfield M. Kelly, Jr.], here you were not only in the county executive's office, but making history as well?$$My feelings are actually indescribable, they were on the night of the election and they remain so. I can at least translate it a little bit into words now because it gave me an opportunity to do something that was unprecedented. At the time there were only two black elected county executives in the entire country of which there's three thousand plus counties. It was in my hometown [Cheverly, Maryland] with its checkered history of race relations and the personal sacrifices and battles which had been made from childhood forward through a lot of painful and anguishing stuff and through the election itself, which became rollicking because the traditional party fathers, when I decided to run, laughed and ignored this campaign until the first financial filing when they observed that I had a half a million dollars in the bank and at which point they decided then to destroy me, in essence, in political terms. And they invented opponents to run against me and things like that to split the black vote in predictable sorts of ways to influence the calculus, the metrics of the election, and it didn't work. And that--my father [Eugene Curry] had died in the year just before the election year and, you know, there were a lot of swirling sentiments and emotions going on all the way back to that decision he made about elementary school and the fulfillment. And as you observed, you know having worked up from the grunt level to this very eminent achievement in my hometown was overwhelming. And in a lot of ways, looking back at it, poetic in a sense, that I now believe that not my hand, but God's hand was at work in all of this and prominently, because in addition to all the things I thought about the campaign, and all the reasons that I postulated for doing it, once we had won and discovered that the jurisdiction was in far different shape than we had been told, that we were broke, that we confronted a structural deficit, that my predecessor [Parris N. Glendening] who had harvested 98 percent of the black vote had taken that vote, and used it and its future to mortgage his own and fuel his ascension to the governor's seat, all of those things then took on a different perspective in my own mind and had a different sort of prominence in my thinking. It's very rare, I think, to be granted an opportunity to be so influential in one's hometown. To actually stamp the future with the imprimatur of your service, to tattoo the future with the changes that you invoke as the leader of the jurisdiction and in a jurisdiction like this, highly political, highly publicized, on the threshold of Rome, the new Washington [D.C.] with the boys and a lifetime of political involvements here around this area. I'd be different if I was from Topeka [Kansas], I grew up around Washington and even the simple culture and climate of the community's different around here, and remains so. So the emotions are indescribable in a sense, I was very proud of the opportunity to elevate my hometown to make a difference. Everybody says it but not everybody does it nor does everybody get a chance to do it, and for innumerable reasons I got a chance to do it, we changed it, we completely reversed the direction of the place in economic terms. We changed its image, we contradicted expectation, we defied, obliterated stereotype. There were no big scandals; there were no economic and financial upheavals. There were no big mistakes in those terms. We ended a thirty-year-old bussing case that nobody else would touch. We demonstrated the courage to change the laws that had bankrupted us despite the opposition of unions who then totally and completely abandoned me as a Democratic leader. And over the objections of over the incumbent governor [William Donald Schaefer] and the Democratic Party that essentially abandoned me because I wasn't a good boy, but I was a right boy in the sense that we made this community better, and we've made it unprecedented and we've defied stereotype, we contradicted every adverse image that could be painted of a majority black political subdivision in ways that have never been replicated anywhere in this country including in those ascendant communities outside of Atlanta [Georgia]. So we're special, I had a significant role in that, the good Lord blessed me with opportunities I never dreamed of, we, the Washington Redskins play in Prince George's County because of the deal that we cut--