One of the best ways to appreciate Laurel, Maryland, is by recognizing the people who have lived within its boundaries. The city has a history of notable individuals. While some were born and raised in Laurel, others have become residents either for a short period or permanently. They are known for a wide assortment of accomplishments ranging from athletic and academic successes to breaking social and racial barriers. The following list includes a few of the most recognized and accomplished individuals who’ve called Laurel home.
Ernest Lyon was born on October 22, 1820, in Belize City, British Honduras. Lyon immigrated to the U.S. in the mid-1870s, where he received an education and became a pastor. He is known for founding the Maryland Industrial and Agricultural Institute for Colored Youths in North Laurel in 1901; he also served as the school’s first president. He is also noted for his appointment as the U.S. minister and consul general to Liberia by President Theodore Roosevelt. Lyon served in this role from 1903 to 1910. He and his family moved to Laurel in 1915.
Melvin J. Berman
Melvin Berman was born in 1915. He was a founding board member of The Rouse Company, which was a developer of shopping centers. During his time with The Rouse Company, Berman played a key part in the founding of Columbia, Maryland. Berman also founded Berman Enterprises alongside his brother.
R. Orin Cornett
Over the course of Richard Orin Cornett’s life, he was an administrator, professor, physicist, and inventor. He is best known for creating the Cued Speech system for the deaf, which is a form of visual literacy. Although he created this system during his time at Gallaudet University, he continued his involvement with what has become an international Cued Speech community after moving to Laurel. At the age of 89, Cornett died in 2002.
Edith Mazie DeVoe has an important place in the history of African-American nurses serving in the Navy. In April of 1945, she became an ensign in the U.S. Navy Reserve, and she started active duty in June of that same year. At the time of her commission in April, she became only the second African-American woman to serve as a nurse in the U.S. Navy Nurse Corps, following Phyllis Mae Daley. Additionally, in 1948, she became the first African-American nurse to serve in the regular Navy. In 1950, DeVoe accomplished another first when she was assigned to Tripler Army Medical Center in Hawaii. The assignment was the first in which an African-American Navy nurse served outside of the continental U.S. She was active in both World War II and the Korean War. Although she was born in Washington, D.C., DeVoe eventually became a resident of Laurel, Maryland. She died in 2000 from lung cancer.
Andrew Maynard is a former boxer who was born in Laurel. He competed in the 1988 Summer Olympics, where he won a gold medal in light heavyweight boxing. Prior to his win in 1988, he won a bronze medal in the 1987 Pan American Games. Maynard retired from boxing in 2000.