Feature Image: William Pickrum leading the Drum and Bugle Corps at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy. Source: Facebook.

Former Kent County Commissioner William Pickrum died April 15, 2021. He was born in Kent County on January 8, 1948. He was 73.

Pickrum attended H. H. Garnett High School in Chestertown when Kent County schools were racially segregated.

He went on to graduate from the U.S. Coast Guard Academy and was among the first wave of African Americans to break the color barrier in the officer corps.

After serving in the U.S. Coast Guard for 22 years, he and his wife, Vita, returned to Kent County. Pickrum soon went to work as a project manager for the Renewable Energy Education Center at Delaware State University. He also worked there as an adjunct professor. Pickrum also worked for a time as a pilot for Florida Gulf Airlines, Inc.

He continued his education, graduating from Chapman College, M.A. (administration) and New York University, D.P.A. (public administration).

William Pickrum

He was elected in 2002 to the Kent County Board of Commissioners where he served four terms until losing re-election in 2018.

Pickrum represented Kent County at the Maryland Association of Counties where he rose to 1st Vice-President.

Kent County Commissioner Ron Fithian served alongside Pickrum for three terms. Aside from Fithian, Pickrum is the longest serving Kent County Commissioner.

“He was a big part of Kent County,” Fithian said during an interview. Fithian indicated that flags will be lowered to half-staff in his memory. “We never had a cross word with each other and I had a great deal of respect for Bill. We voted together on most major policy decisions.”

“He always would try to be fair and treat everybody the same,” Fithian recalled. “He was passionate about representing Kent County.”

One of the major initiatives Pickrum worked on was bringing high speed broadband to Kent County.

“We thought it was going to be helpful for economic development,” Fithian remarked. “We had no idea that a pandemic would force people to work and learn from home.”

Pickrum was also a stalwart advocate for maintaining a full-service hospital in Kent County; his efforts are finally coming to fruition.

“He was a giant in the community who cared deeply about the County,” said Margie Elsberg, a former Pickrum campaign organizer and the current communications coordinator for Save Our Hospital. “William’s death is a real loss for those who loved and admired him.”

Left to right: Commissioners William Pickrum, Ron Fithian and Billy Short. July 2013.

Pickrum was a founding member of the Democratic Club of Kent County. He was also a member of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association; National Naval Officers Association; American Legion; National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP); and the Kent County Chamber of Commerce. He was a past director of the Maryland Broadband Cooperative, Inc.

He worshipped at Mt. Olive African Methodist Episcopal Church, Worton, Maryland.

He is survived by his wife, Vita Pickrum, two children and three grandchildren.

Funeral arrangements are being made through Bennie Smith Funeral Home. Details on services had not been published at press time and the Kent Pilot will update this story.

Dan Menefee contributed to this story