BY KIT SLACK
On a rainy Friday, the City of Hyattsville said goodbye to Mayor Kevin Louis “Scooter” Ward.
Ward died of an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound on Jan. 25, at the age of 44.
On Feb. 4, a celebration of Ward’s life took place in First United Methodist Church of Hyattsville, Ward’s church.
Ward’s cousin Tim Ward, of Dallas, Texas, gave the first reflection. He spoke of Kevin’s mother, who raised him alone, and of her hard work for her son. “Kevin never wanted for anything,” he said. He spoke of Kevin’s heartbreak at his mother’s death, nearly four years ago. He said Kevin embodied “the family creed of putting others before ourselves.” To Kevin’s sons, Tim said, “you should really be proud of your dad, he really loved you guys. . .you were his greatest joy. Call on us for anything you need.”
Mourners and friends shared stories. Jon Huber knew Ward from the Rotary Youth Leadership Association camp, which Ward attended as a teen and supported throughout his life. Huber remembered coming to Ward after he had lost a four-year football scholarship due to drug addiction. Like others, he recalled Ward’s big bear hug and unconditional love: “the you that you are,” he recalled Ward saying, “is better than the you that others want you to be.”
Tevera Stith, Ward’s colleague from KIPP DC, the district’s largest charter school system, offered the homily. “As Scooter’s friend, I found myself struggling with every piece of his passing and hoping that he was still here,” she said. His death left her “violently knocking at the door of heaven, fist raised, ready to ask how this could be” and “at the same time asking God to hold us tight.”
Like Huber, she said she drew strength from words of comfort that Ward had offered her. Stith, an only child like Ward, lost her own mother recently. She recounted a text she had gotten from Ward when he checked on her, on January 17: “Take your time. Feel your feelings. And acceptance and peace, don’t come or feel a certain way.”
“Like a man who grew up at the feet of Baptist preachers, he gave it in three points!” she said, to laughter from the crowd.
Former Hyattsville mayor Candace Hollingsworth, a close friend of Ward’s, gave the eulogy. She called Ward the master of details. She said he would “notice that you weren’t quite your usual self,” and that he was “attuned to the differences in a way that helped him still bring people together to a common purpose.” Ward’s life purpose, she said, was to welcome people into spaces where they might otherwise have been excluded. She remembered, too, his “ability to catch the subtle shade and throw it right back.” She said he lived loudly, and “made it easy for us to be our truest, softest selves with abandon.”
Ward moved to Hyattsville in 2014, and joined the city council in 2015. His colleagues elected him council president in 2019. He became interim mayor in 2021, taking over for Hollingsworth, and won a mayoral election last spring. He was Hyattsville’s second Black mayor, after Hollingsworth, and was the city’s first Black male mayor and first openly gay mayor.
Ward will be remembered for his mentorship and advocacy for youth. City Councilmember Danny Schaible (Ward 2), who is the parent of a special needs child, said that the mayor offered him support that arose from Ward’s own experience fostering children with high needs.
Professionally, Ward worked to use technology to help kids, at one time working as an information officer at the District’s child welfare agency, and, more recently, directing technology for KIPP DC.
City Administrator Tracey Douglas wrote in a Jan. 27 statement, “Mayor Ward was the bright center of our local government; a role model. . . for the whole Hyattsville community, especially young people of color. He could connect with everyone and truly listened. . . [H]is light was so bright I know he will continue to serve as an inspiration.”
In lieu of flowers, the family asks that gifts in Mayor Ward’s honor be made to Think of Us at donorbox.org/in-honor-of-mayor-kevin-ward. Think of Us is a child welfare reform organization that Ward supported, which seeks to close the gap between the goals of child welfare and its outcomes. According to Think of Us, in the child welfare system “more than 70% of siblings are separated, 20,000+ youth age out each year, and 36%+ of aged out youth experience homelessness.”
If you or someone you know is at risk of suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255, text TALK to 741741 or visit SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources.