Accokeek Foundation honors life, legacy of Proctor at dinner
The Accokeek Foundation hosted its second annual Taste of Fall Farm Dinner Sunday to honor the life and legacy of former Maryland Del. James E. Proctor, Jr. (D-Prince George’s, Charles) with the 2016 National Conservation Leadership Award during an exclusive ceremony at the National Colonial Farm at Piscataway Park in Accokeek.
Proctor’s surviving wife, Del. Elizabeth “Susie” Proctor (D-Prince George’s, Charles), was a keynote speaker and accepted the award on behalf of her late husband who was an advocate for improved educational resources in Prince George’s County and a strong supporter of the foundation’s work in land conservation, sustainable agriculture and education.
Other state leaders in attendance the event included Maryland Senate Pres. Thomas V. Mike Miller, Jr. (D-Charles, Prince George’s, Calvert), Maryland State Sen. Ulysses Currie (D-Prince George’s), Maryland Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary George Owings III, Maryland State Sen. Douglas J.J. Peters (D-Prince George’s) and Maryland House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel), master of ceremonies.
The Accokeek Foundation established the National Conservation Leadership Award in 2001 to recognize persons who have made major contributions in the conservation of natural, cultural and historic resources, while also supporting education and
research in those areas. This year’s award honors posthumously Proctor for his lifetime of work as an educator, legislator and volunteer on behalf of cultural heritage, the environment and the advancement of youth in Maryland, according to a press release.
“For 20-something years, we’ve been doing what we call ‘leadership salute’ where we award a National Conservation Leadership Award to a recipient who has deep, strong connections with the Accokeek Foundation and has exhibited, in the community, advocacy for education, conservation and preservation of our cultural heritage,” said Anjela Barnes, director of marketing at the foundation. “This year we are honoring the late Delegate James Proctor. He was a friend and supporter of the foundation and served on our board for several years. He passed away last year, so we thought it would just be fitting to award him with the National Conservation Leadership Award this year.”
Beginning with his first assignment on the House Environmental Matters Committee, Proctor was a strong supporter of the Accokeek Foundation and its work. He continued that support by co-sponsoring bond bills that helped construct the foundation’s education center and its Potomac River docking and educational facilities. In addition, Proctor served on the foundation’s board of trustees from 2006 to 2011, according to an information booklet.
“At this point, it’s definitely something that’s well deserved,” James E. Proctor III of Accokeek, one of Proctor’s surviving children, said in an interview. “I think anybody that knows my father … as a graduate of Dunbar High School in [Washington] D.C., his thing was perseverance is king. … His persistence is the reason why south county has some of the projects that it does. … That’s the most important thing he gave me — that persistence is key.”
Having previously lived in Brandywine, Proctor — a first cousin of former D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray who attended the dinner Sunday — moved to Accokeek in the later part of his life where he represented Prince George’s in the House of Delegates since May 1990 until his death in September 2015. He also represented Calvert and Charles counties during his career. He held a number of leadership positions in the legislature including vice chairman of both the county delegation and appropriations committee.
During his time in elected office, Proctor was a tireless advocate for education resources, including money for school construction and fields for high school athletics. He also served on the Maryland Rural Caucus, Maryland Veterans Caucus, Tri-County Council for Southern Maryland, Task Force on Education Funding Equity, Accountability and Partnerships, Maryland School for the Blind, Cheltenham Youth Facility Advisory Board and State Advisory Board for Juvenile Services, the booklet noted.
Susie Proctor said she is overjoyed by the support from fellow elected leaders and residents in the community who have all said wonderful things about her beloved husband of 55 years.
“I wish he could be here to receive the honor himself but I’m so pleased people are acknowledging and recognizing what he’s done,” she said. “Any program that would enhance children’s opportunity to participate in how farming is done, how you care for livestock, how you preserve and respect the environment, all of that was very important to him.”
“He was one of a kind,” Currie recalled. “What he believed, he believed, and he would follow through.”
Owings said what he will remember most about Proctor is his fairness and integrity.
“He was an honest man and dealt with all issues fairly,” Owings said. “I think it’s something that’s right in line with what he’s always done his whole life — public service, educator [and] elected member of the House of Delegates. He was just a tremendous individual.” “He’s the guy who passed the baton on to us so we need to keep moving forward and pass it to the next generation,” Peters said. “He was always helping people. He was helping either preserve land or move our historically black colleges and universities forward. He was just a worker and I really respect that.”
As one of Proctor’s best friends, Miller said he is proud to have served with him in helping to make the community a better place for residents in Prince George’s and Charles counties.
“It’s been a wonderful 25 years with him and now we’re able to get his wife, Susie, to finish the remaining part of his term,” Miller said. “This is about honoring him by providing funds for students and fighting to preserve and keep up this wonderful educational tool [here at the Accokeek Foundation].”
Proceeds from the dinner will benefit the foundation’s agriculture education programs including AgLab and the Agriculture Conservation Corps, a paid seven-week summer internship program for high school students that provides hands-on agricultural experience.
“More money means more resources,” said Agriculture and Agricultural Education Director Paul Lovelace. “This is an amazing program exposing young people to sustainable agriculture and all of the ideas and philosophies that are connected to that. … These young people are being reconnected to this amazing place and that’s really our mission here — to reconnect people to this amazing land.”