She slipped out before the Temptations tribute band and the James Brown impersonator began performing, but House Speaker Adrienne A. Jones (D-Baltimore County) briefly occupied center stage at a Black History Month celebration at Maryland Live! Casino Thursday night.
Jones was one of several people to be given service awards at the Maryland-Washington Minority Contractors Association 7th annual Black History Month celebration. She was hailed by Morgan State University President David Wilson, who told the crowd that Jones, when she was chairwoman of the House Capital Budget Committee, taught him how Annapolis worked and how to request state funding.
“She gave me the most incredible advice that I have received as president of Morgan,” Wilson said. “She told me that [funding for the university] is an investment for the state, not an expenditure.”
Wilson said he was struck by Jones’ refusal to refer to herself as a politician. Instead, he said, she preferred the term elected official.
“That spoke volumes about your servant leadership,” Wilson told Jones. “It said you saw yourself as a representative of the people of Maryland.”
Jones explained her preference.
“I don’t like the term politician, because it connotes certain things,” she told the crowd. “I enjoy public service. I like getting things done.”
Jones described herself as “an accidental elected official.”
“My degree was in psychology,” she said. “I was going to save the world.”
Instead, she made history — as the first woman and the first African American to become House speaker in Maryland. Jones pointed out that she was only the third African American woman to serve as speaker of a state legislative body in U.S. history — name-checking her predecessors, Karen Bass of California, who now serves in Congress, and Sheila Oliver of New Jersey, who is now that state’s lieutenant governor.
Jones said being only the third trailblazer in that category shows how much progress still needs to be made. “We’ve got a lot to do in this country,” she said.
She also invited the audience to “visit our new visitors in the State House” — the recently-installed statues of Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman.
Also receiving awards from the business group: Wilson; Luther “Luke” Atkinson, a retired Negro League baseball star; David L. Gadis, CEO and general manager of D.C. Water; Roz Hamlett, communications director for the Anne Arundel County government; Bert J. Hash Jr., retired president and CEO of the Municipal Employees Credit Union; Janice Hayes-Williams, coordinator of cultural resources at the Anne Arundel County Department of Planning and Zoning; Joseph T. Jones Jr., president and CEO of the Center for Urban Families; Le Gretta Ross-Rawlins, Baltimore postmaster; and Warner H. Session, an attorney and member of the board of directors of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority.
Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman (D) was on hand, bragging that two key members of his staff represented had snagged awards.
The tribute acts were pretty good, too.