Former Md. Sen. Decatur W. Trotter Dies at 72

By Martin Weil and Hamil R. Harris
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, May 4, 2004; Page B06

Decatur W. "Bucky" Trotter, 72, who as a longtime Democratic state legislator and a member of the Metro board was one of Prince George's County's most prominent political figures, died May 3 at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore.

Family members said he was under treatment there for bone cancer.

Mr. Trotter was in the forefront of the black political leaders who came to prominence in the Washington region in the years after new opportunities were opened by the civil rights movement.

A member of the Maryland state Senate for 16 years, he spent four years in Annapolis in the House of Delegates. Earlier, he was mayor of Glenarden, where he lived, and he had served on its council.

He was a member of Metro's board of directors and served as the board's chairman in 2001. An athlete in high school in the District and in college at Virginia State University, he was an Army veteran and a patriarchal figure in his family, relatives said.

"It's a huge loss for Maryland and particularly for African Americans," said Wayne K. Curry, former county executive in Prince George's.

Regarded as an outspoken legislator who was forceful and eloquent on behalf of the causes he championed, Mr. Trotter, who once worked in corrections, was known as a firm foe of capital punishment. One measure he sponsored called for a study of racial disparities in imposing the death penalty.

Although blacks were gaining increasing political power in Prince George's during Mr. Trotter's time in public office, complaints persisted of improper treatment by police.

Mr. Trotter was known as a vigilant watchdog for misconduct by law enforcement as well as a determined advocate of judicial fairness and of equity in political redistricting. He also pushed for legislation to aid minority business development.

Curry said Mr. Trotter "had a distinguished career fighting for progress and equality." He lauded him as a politician characterized by both substance and style.

Sen. Nathaniel Exum (D-Prince George's), who won his seat from Mr. Trotter in 1998, called him "a great representative . . . a great person who represented the interest of people."

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) hailed Mr. Trotter's courage and determination. "He was a battler," Miller said. "He would stand up for what he believed in and what he felt was best for his community" and worked hard to meet constituents' needs.

Mr. Trotter became known in Annapolis as Zeus, after the foremost god in the Greek pantheon.

Sen. Ulysses Currie (D-Prince George's) said he was uncertain why the name was bestowed, but he suggested that it might have stemmed from his vigor and passion in floor debate.

Many others knew Mr. Trotter as "Bucky," a nickname said to have been given him by his mother when he was a child. Mr. Trotter was born in Washington, and after winning honors in football in high school, played on an undefeated team in college.

A daughter, Kathi Rayner, said that his interest in oratory and public affairs came early in life, as his family assembled around the radio during World War II to hear the news and speeches of such figures as Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt.

After college, he worked in the area of offender rehabilitation, and he continued that work while in politics, his daughter said. He was a prison guard at the District's Lorton Reformatory, was placed in charge of athletics there and later was involved in running a halfway house in the Shaw area of Northwest Washington.

Survivors include his wife, Lagreta, of Glenarden; a second daughter, Denise Williams; two sisters, Avis Hawkins and Norma Jernigan; five grandchildren; and a great-grandchild.

Staff writer Ovetta Wiggins contributed to this report.

© 2004 The Washington Post Company