First African American Woman Speaker Pro Tem Receives House’s Highest Award

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Speaker Pro Tem Adrienne A. Jones was recently presented with the Casper R. Taylor Jr. Founder’s Award. The award is given to sitting members of the House Delegates who serve with integrity and a focus on public service. It is the highest award given to a member of the House, and is named after Casper R. Taylor Jr., who served as Speaker of the Maryland House of Delegates from 1994–2003.

“I am humbled and honored to be the recipient of this award,” said Delegate Jones, noting Taylor’s effectiveness as House Speaker. “My focus has always been public service. I consider myself an elected official, and my emphasis has always been to do what’s best for those in the 10th Legislative District who have sent me to Annapolis to serve.

“I was quite surprised to receive the award. I don’t do things to be honored. I do things because it’s the right thing to do. But it’s nice when others recognize you for the work that you do.”

Delegate Jones has been a member of the Maryland General Assembly since 1997, representing the 10th Legislative District of Baltimore County. On January 9, 2019, she was once again unanimously elected by the full House of Delegates to serve as Speaker Pro Tem. This is the 17th time she has been selected to serve in this position.

Delegate Jones holds the distinction of being the first African American woman to serve as Speaker Pro Tem in the Maryland House of Delegates. There are 12 women in the country who serve as Speaker Pro Tem, and she is the longest serving woman in a State House Leadership position in the country.

“I became a delegate when Joan Neverdon Parker passed away in 1997,” recalled Delegate Jones. “I was encouraged to run for the remainder of her term. Prior to running for the seat, I served on several committees and helped out on political campaigns. Quite frankly, when I became a delegate, there were not many African American women— there were mostly white males.”

She added, “I didn’t think it would be the arena for me. I would see white males get up on the House Floor, and think of the James Brown song, ‘Talking Loud and Saying Nothing.’”

But a shift in political power would lead to a phone call.

“Bob Ehrlich would become the first Republican governor in 30 years, and Casper R. Taylor Jr. lost his seat as Speaker of the House of Delegates,” she said. “Michael Busch would become Speaker. He called me on November 20, 2002 at 8:30 p.m.— which was on my birthday, to ask if I would serve as Speaker Pro Tem. I told him I would do it.”

She added with a smile, “There was a trust factor Michael Busch had in me. I didn’t serve on Michael Busch’s committee, but he was observing me. I tell young people all the time, you never know who is observing you, and you never know when circumstances for opportunity will present themselves.”

Speaker Pro Tem Jones serves on the House Appropriations Committee, and is Chair of the Capital Budget and Education and Economic Development Subcommittees. She serves as the House Chair of the Joint Committee on Fair Practices and Personnel Oversight, and is a member of the Spending Affordability Committee, Legislative Policy Committee, House Rules and Executive Nominations Committee, and the past Chair of the Joint Committee on Legislative Ethics. She is also a member of the Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education and the 21st Century School Facilities Commission. She is also the Founder of the Annual Baltimore County African American Cultural Festival, which is now in its 21st year.

“I wear many hats,” she said. “In addition to being Speaker Pro Tem, I’m going to be honest and work with you. I’m not going to say something and do something else. I want everyone to be successful.”

Speaker Pro Tem Jones was born in Cowdensville, Maryland, a historic African American community located near Arbutus in Southwest Baltimore County. She attended Baltimore County Public Schools and received her Bachelor of Arts Degree in Psychology from the University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC) in 1976. She attended The National Security Seminar, U.S. Army War College in 2007. In 2008, she received an Honorary Doctor of Law Degree from Goucher College in Towson, Maryland.

The successful leader is the mother of two adult sons and grandmother of two grandchildren, Jalen and Janelle Jones.

“I want to make sure that no matter what profession you are in, you are doing something in which you are giving back,” said Delegate Jones. “It’s not about you. It’s about people who can use the talents you have. You get rewarded three-fold in terms of making a difference in someone else’s life.”