Ed Taylor left indelible mark on Wicomico County

In September 2016, former County Councilman Ed Taylor received adulation when a new bridge near Tyaskin was named in his honor.

Edward T. Taylor was, according to those who knew him, an avid fisherman. He caught the fish, he cleaned them himself and he would fry them in a big steamer pot in a screenhouse in his back yard. A man who was generous by nature, he frequently shared them with friends, neighbors and supporters.

They were, according to his friend and colleague Phil Tilghman, the best fried fish to be had anywhere.

As Tilghman recalls it, others agreed with him about the quality of the finished product.

“He would get a whole lot of perch or some other fish, clean and filet them, and have a fish fry,” Tilghman said. “He once held a fish fry to raise money for a campaign, and Mitzi Perdue was there. She told him it was the best fish she’d ever had, and Ed told her he’d caught it, cleaned it and fried it – just for her.”

Taylor was much more than a gracious host. He was a good friend and a man who loved to fish, drink beer and enjoy the company with his friends. He was a self-made man and prominent community leader.

Born in the tiny community of Wetipquin on the West Side of Wicomico County, Taylor lived the American dream of upward mobility. The title of his autobiography is a description of that journey: “Up From the Strawberry Patch.”

Taylor’s life story ended Sunday morning. He was 88.

“He was a man of wisdom,” said Delegate Sheree Sample-Hughes of Salisbury, who represents District 37A, which includes parts of Wicomico County and now serves as Speaker Pro Tempore of the Maryland House of Delegates. “He always had a lot of energy.”

Taylor served in the Korean War and, thanks to the G.I. Bill, went on to receive a bachelor’s degree in Education from Bowie State University and an Advanced Professional Certificate in Education and a master’s degree from Salisbury University in supervision and administration.

“He was very proud of his military service in Korea,” said Tony Sarbanes, who worked with Taylor in the school system, and later as fellow County Council member. “Always very professional, he also had a great sense of humor, a lighter side.”

“Ed was in the Army when President Truman desegregated the armed forces,” said Tilghman. “He fought  in Korea and was a decorated veteran, then he used the G.I. Bill to go to college.”

Taylor and his wife, Doretta, both educators, worked more than 30 years in the Wicomico County public school system, retiring together in 1994.

They raised three children – Yvette, Debbie and Ed Jr., all of whom have post-graduate degrees. Yvette is an attorney, while Debbie and Edward Jr. both work in higher education.

In 1970, he began teaching at the newly integrated Snow Hill Middle School. He later obtained employment closer to Salisbury and became Vice Principal at Mardela High School.

In 1988, he joined the Pupil Personnel Team at the Wicomico County Board of Education, where he served until 1994.

Immediately upon leaving the school system, Taylor turned his sights to public life, serving three terms on the Wicomico County Council. He was, according to Tilghman and Sarbanes, always pro-Wicomico and pro-education.

During his time on the council, Taylor was the Wicomico liaison to the Wor-Wic Community College Board of Regents. This was before the county adopted its current County Executive form of government.

“I thought the world of him,” said Wor-Wic President Dr. Ray Hoy. “Ed was our county liaison when I started at Wor-Wic. He was a wonderful supporter of the institution and just a great voice in our community.”

“He was a great colleague and a terrific guy,” Tilghman recalled. “He was very active in civil rights, stood up for the underdog all his life.” Tilghman served two terms together with Taylor, and they became friends.

Sample-Hughes, working with the Local Management Board, managed grants for after-school programs and public safety, which is when she and Taylor became friendly. At that time, Taylor operated a nonprofit after-school program called “100 Good Men.” When she first developed an interest in running for elected office, she turned to Taylor.

“I mentioned that I would like to serve on the council,” she said, “and he suggested I attend council meetings, which I did. We became good friends.”

Sample-Hughes would sit in the back of the room and listen, pretending she was making decisions and imagining herself as a council member.

“After the meeting,” she said, “Ed would give me background on why and how the council came to its decisions.”

It was excellent training for her work as a council member, which led to her subsequent election to the Maryland House of Delegates, taking her to the No. 2 position in the House.  

“Ironically, the first time (Mr. Taylor) ran, he won by 73 percent of the vote,” said Sample-Hughes. “the same as I did the first time, by 73 percent.”

Tilghman served two four-year terms on the council with Tilghman, who left office in 2002. Taylor served one additional term, this time with Sarbanes.

“Ed sat next to me on my left,” said Sarbanes, “He was good, he had more common sense than anybody you could ever find. He was not afraid to speak up if he had something on his mind, always reliable and conscientious both as an educator and as a councilman.”

Sample-Hughes still recalls her first big fundraiser for her County Council seat.

“It was a fish fry and bull roast at Billy Gene Jackson Park,” said Sample-Hughes. “That was in 2006. Ed caught all the fish, cleaned them himself and fried them to offset my expenses. The day of the fundraiser it was raining and storming. I worried all day and finally went to Ed’s house. He told me not to worry, that everything would be fine. And it was. I don’t know how he knew.”

Taylor remained a mentor and confidante to Sample-Hughes.

“One thing he used to do,” she said, “was to line his outdoor shed with his old campaign signs. He told me one day I would do the same.”

Years later, her son put up a big campaign banner and some signs from his mother’s earlier campaigns in a shed at the family home.

“I laughed because it’s exactly what Mr. Taylor told me I would do,” she said.

Taylor was a lifelong member of Friendship Methodist Church in Wetipquin and a member of the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign War.

He served as Secretary of the Board of Directors of SHORE UP! Inc., was a former President of the Wicomico County NAACP and served on the Board of Directors of Salisbury-Wicomico County Economic Development Inc.

Donations can be made to Lower Shore Bowie Alumni Scholarship, in care of Barbara D. Butler, Treasurer, 731 Shiloh St., Salisbury, MD 21804.

A viewing will be held on Saturday from 5 to 8 p.m. and on Sunday from 10 to 11 a.m. at Holloway Funeral Home in Salisbury.

The funeral service will be held on Sunday, beginning at 11 a.m. at Holloway Funeral Home.

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