September 20, 2015

Del. Jim Proctor remembered as warm and gentle education advocate

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U.S. Rep. Steny Hoyer addreses the congregation at Del. Jim Proctor's funeral.

U.S. Rep. Steny Hoyer addreses the congregation at Del. Jim Proctor's funeral.

By Len Lazarick

Len@MarylandReporter.com

Del. Jim Proctor

Del. Jim Proctor

Saturday’s funeral for Del. Jim Proctor, 79, a 25-year veteran of the House of Delegates who was vice chair of the Appropriations Committee, was marked with the same good humor and easy smiles that marked Proctor’s service in the legislature.

The laughter started when the eulogists were told to keep their remarks to two minutes, and the lead speaker was U.S. House of Representatives Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, not known for his brevity.

“If I had 20 minutes, two hours or two days, I could not exhaust the things I have to say” about Proctor, said Hoyer. “He was my friend,” and they shared the same June 14 birthday, though Hoyer is three years younger.

“He was always a teacher” and a champion of education, said Hoyer.

32 years in PG schools

Proctor spent 32 years in the Prince George’s County school system, 17 of them as a principal, retiring in 1998.

Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford read a proclamation from Gov. Larry Hogan, who was in the hospital for another round of chemotherapy. Rutherford admitted he didn’t know Proctor well, but said he was “warm and friendly, a good man to work with a work for.”

Senate President Mike Miller was a longtime political ally and ticket mate of Proctor, both Democrats representing District 27 in southern Prince George’s County where Miller grew up. Miller recalled how Proctor was recognized as a “civil rights leader” when he was appointed to the seat in 1990, four years after he lost a Democratic primary.

The viewing, eulogies and funeral mass were held at historic St. Mary’s of Piscataway Catholic church, believed to be the site where the Piscataway Indian chief was baptized a Catholic by Jesuit Father Andrew White in 1640.

Miller recalled, “I used to be an altar boy at this church,” not the large new sanctuary that was filled by mourners but the old church still standing on the same grounds.

House Speaker Michael Busch followed Miller, leading several dozen members of the House who attended the service.

“I’m still trying to get my mind around the idea that Sen. Miller was an altar boy in any church,” said Busch to laughter.

Busch said that when he would meet with the District 27 delegation that included Miller, Proctor and House Judiciary Chairman Joe Vallario, Proctor was the “voice of reason.”

Watching out for HBCUs

Serving on the budget committee, Busch said, “Jim would want to know ‘what are we putting in for Bowie State University’ ” and the other historically black colleges and universities. Proctor got his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in education from Bowie.

The president of Bowie State, Mickey Burnim, said Proctor “represented the best in what a Bowie State graduate should be.” The school and all Maryland HBCUs are “better off” because of Proctor’s advocacy for their needs in the legislature, Burnim said.

Vallario, Proctor’s ticket mate till the last legislative redistricting, said, “We stood side by side. We didn’t do anything unless we did it together.”

“He was a gentle man and a gentleman,” said Vallario,78, who had already served four terms when Proctor was appointed. “When I grow up I want to be like Jim Proctor.”

In an aside, Vallario said to Proctor’s wife in the front pew, “Susie, you’ll do a good job in Annapolis.”

The Prince George’s County Democratic Central Committee will nominate  Democrats for Hogan to appoint to fill the vacancy. Miller and Vallario are backing Proctor’s wife for the job.