Union Bridge Mayor Perry Jones wants to be sure others know their history, particularly Black history.
Jones, the first Black mayor and county commissioner in Carroll’s history, said the residents of Union Bridge and Carroll County are fortunate to not see as many issues regarding racial equality that larger counties across the state of Maryland face.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Carroll County had more than 168,440 residents in July 2019. Of that population, 91.7% are white, 3.9% are Black or African American.
February is Black History Month, also known as African American History Month, an annual observance that pays tribute to generations of African Americans who struggled with adversity to achieve full recognition and acceptance in American society. Jones was asked to reflect on the significance of the occasion and on the racial justice movement that gained momentum last year.
“I think back in the day, Martin Luther King would probably be a little disappointed with some of the riots and the killings we’ve had,” Jones said. “Martin Luther King [and his followers] would protest, but they never destroyed anybody’s property. They never burned things down. Those guys back in the day took beatings, some got killed and murdered, but they never retaliated or got destructive.
“They tried to get the lesson out that they were there to make peace and they wanted equality for everybody. I think that’s where we’re lacking a little bit on that.”
Jones, a 1970 graduate of Linganore High School in Frederick County, started working at his family’s business, Tuck’s Service Center, in Union Bridge when he was 13 years old. He volunteered at the Union Bridge Fire Company with his father, Perry Jones, Sr., and said the duo were the first Black volunteers to ever serve at the fire company.
Perry Jones, Sr. was elected to the Union Bridge Town Council in 1973 but died of a heart attack in 1980 at 49 years old.
After his father’s death, Perry Jones took his role on the town council for the remaining 11 months of his term and remained on the council for 11 years.
Jones first served as mayor of Union Bridge from 1991 to 2002 and served as a Carroll County commissioner from 2002 to 2006. He was unsuccessful in re-election, but ran for mayor again in 2010 and continues to serve Union Bridge as such.
“With a small community, you’re part of that community,” Jones said. “You’re accessible to the people of the town more or less 24/7 and you could get a phone call at 2 in the morning from somebody who wants to know if snow is being removed from the street or if there’s a busted water pipe.”
Jones was selected to serve as president of the Maryland Municipal League in June 2020 — the first Carroll countian in more than two decades to do so. He is the second Union Bridge mayor and sixth Carroll County mayor to hold the position, which represents 157 municipalities statewide.
As president, he lobbies with congressional members and representatives, packages bills that might affect the towns, and puts those bills together.
“To come from a little small town like Union Bridge with about 1,000 people and be the president of the Maryland Municipal League,” Jones said. “That’s an accomplishment.”
New Windsor Mayor Neal Roop has known Jones for more than 40 years and said he believes him to be the right person to continue to move the community forward in terms of racial equality and justice.
“He’s always treated everyone with fairness and respect,” Roop said.
Jones praised his town council members Donald Wilson, Amy Kalin, Edgar Wentz, Lou Ellen Cutsail, and Laura Conaway for working closely together to serve the best interests of Union Bridge on a daily basis.
In conjunction with Black History Month, Carroll County Public Schools, Carroll Community College, and McDaniel College are holding events, activities and assignments to highlight the contributions and efforts of African Americans. Jones said the Carroll County Board of Education has been implementing strategies to make more diversity hires within the school system as well.
“I think it’s very important that generations today get to know more about the African American community and what they went through growing up back in the early 1900s and during the days of slavery,” Jones said. “There’s a lot of things the younger people don’t understand.
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“I think if that was taught more in schools and they had more understanding, some of the problems we have today wouldn’t be happening.”