Wynn, Albert R. 1951–
Albert R. Wynn 1951–
The perfect representative of the new breed of black politician that came to power in the 1990s, Albert R. Wynn is competent, a master of policy nuts and bolts, often described as a “team player.” Preferring legislative give-and-take to impassioned speechmaking, he has emerged as a champion of the black entrepreneur, and has proven adept at defending the interests of that group in the sometimes hostile atmosphere fomented by the conservative Congresses of the 1990s. Wynn, representing Maryland’s Fourth District in Congress, speaks for the heartland of America’s black middle class—the suburban counties just to the east of Washington, D.C.
Wynn was born in Philadelphia on September 10, 1951, but grew up “inside the Beltway” —in the zone enclosed by Washington, D.C.’s freeway ring that is home to tens of thousands of U.S. government employees and to an African American population that in recent years has flourished economically in comparison with those in many other parts of the country. He was raised largely in Glenarden, Maryland after spending his first-grade year in North Carolina. In those years, schools in Maryland’s Prince George’s County were still racially segregated, and Wynn attended all-black schools through the eighth grade.
The following year, integration came to suburban Washington, and Wynn was sent to a junior high school in nearby Landover Hills. He was one of several dozen black students in an otherwise all-white environment, but he flourished academically and became involved in extracurricular activities, playing trombone in the band and becoming a star debater. Even at this early age Wynn’s political skills showed through: he emerged as something of an unofficial spokesman for the school’s African American student body.
Graduating from DuVal High School in Lanham, Maryland, Wynn attended the University of Pittsburgh on an unusual scholarship—one for debate. Graduating with a science degree in 1973, he studied Public Administration at Washington’s Howard University for a year, and then switched to law, moving across town to the top-flight program at Georgetown University. He earned his degree there in 1977.
Wynn would form his own law firm, Albert R. Wynn and Associates, in 1982, but by that time he had already taken several steps up the Maryland political
At a Glance…
Born September 10, 1951, in Philadelphia, PA; married but separated; children: Gabrielle. Education: Attended and graduated from high school in suburban Maryland; B.S., University of Pittsburgh, 1973; attended Howard University program in Public Administration, 1973…74; J.D., Georgetown University Law School 1977. Religion: Baptist.
Careen United States Representative, Fourth District of Maryland. Executive Director, Prince George’s County Consumer Protection Commission, 1977…81; Chairman, Metropolitan Washington Council of Consumer Agencies, 1930…81; founded law firm of Albert R. Wynn and Associates, 1981; practiced law, 1981…92; elected to Maryland House of Delegateci 982; elected to Maryland state senate, 1987; elected to U.S. Congress, 1992; served on Energy, Power, Telecommunications, and Trade & Consumer Protection committees.
Awards: Administrator’s leadership Award, Small Business Administration.
Addresses: Office—407 Cannon House Office Building, Washington, DC20515.
ladder. Fresh out of law school he became the Executive Director of the Prince George’s County Consumer Protection Division, holding that post until 1981. In the same year that he opened his law firm, he ran for and won election as a Democrat to the Maryland House of Delegates (the lower body of the state legislature), displacing the white representatives who had held power in the increasingly minority-dominated district.
In 1987, Wynn moved up to the Maryland State Senate. He served as Deputy Majority Whip (a party leadership post within the Democratic senate delegation), and won re-election to a second four-year term in 1990. In the wake of the 1990 U.S. census, the boundaries of Maryland’s congressional districts were redrawn, and the 58 percent black population of the new Fourth District, which included Prince George’s County, offered an opportunity that was spotted by numerous local politicians: no fewer than thirteen Democrats, along with seven Republicans, threw their hats into the ring for the seat.
In the summer primary, Wynn eked out a victory by only two percentage points over another local office holder; in this heavily Democratic district, the win virtually guaranteed that he would coast to election in the fall. Nevertheless, Wynn campaigned vigorously. A large, genial man, he enjoys pressing the flesh, although, as he told the Washington Post, “I see a lot of old friends this way I haven’t seen in years, people from high school. Sometimes I see law school classmates. Then I feel embarrassed. They’re going to downtown law firms, and their classmate is standing on a corner.”
Winning the fall election by a landslide, Wynn set about addressing the concerns of the African American businesspeople and government employees who made up his constituency. He campaigned against racial discrimination within several large federal bureaucracies, including the National Institutes of Health, the Library of Congress, and the Voice of America shortwave radio office. However, Wynn, a member of the moderate Democratic Leadership Council that has tried to direct the Democratic Party away from big-government solutions to social problems, also looked to small businesses as potential saviors of foundering urban communities.
“I want to develop incentives geared … toward small business and to take a look at their regulatory burden,” Wynn told Fortune. “You talk to small business guys and they say, ‘We’re inundated with paperwork.’” Early in his congressional career, Wynn pushed for a small-business counterpart to the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act, which required banks and other mortgage lenders to keep track of how many loans they were offering in minority communities. Although that bill had led to the revelation of substantial patterns of discrimination, Wynn’s bill went nowhere after the Republican House takeover in 1994.
Nevertheless, Wynn continued to push for the interests of small businesses. At the grassroots level, he sponsors a yearly job fair in his district, bringing more than 200 employers together with thousands of job-seekers. He has worked to increase the percentage of federal contracting directed toward small businesses from 20 to 23 percent, and has tried to restrict the process of “bundling,” or grouping contracts together, that often puts federal work out of the reach of smaller firms. The Small Business Administration rewarded Wynn’s efforts with a leadership award.
Wynn coasted to re-election every two years, despite the efforts of a 1996 opponent who claimed that he would pose naked for Playgirl magazine if voters moved over to his corner. Wynn found some of his initiatives stymied by the conservatives who controlled the House in the late 1990s. But he demonstrated an ability to work with members across the aisle, forging a Commerce Committee subcommittee compromise with a Republican counterpart that simplified the complaint process for those seeking redress from the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. A close associate not only of President Clinton, but also of Maryland Governor Parris Glendenning, Wynn was accumulating political favors and learning to travel easily in the halls of power as the 2000 elections approached, although he was rocked by accusations of delinquent child-support payments in late 1999. He seemed a potential candidate for higher office in the coming years.
Barone, Michael, and Grant Ujifusa, Almanac of
American Politics 2000, National Journal, 1999.
Black Enterprise, October 1994, p. 24.
Emerge, November 1997, p. 26.
Entrepreneur, April 1997, p. 102.
Fortune, January 25, 1993, p. 99.
Washington Post, October 25, 1992, p. B3; October 11, 1998, p. B10; December 9, 1999, p. B4.
Additional information was obtained from http://www.house.gov\wynn\
—James M. Manheim
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