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haley G. douglass

first Mayor of Highland Beach

Haley George Douglass was just a child when he first came to Highland Beach. In fact, he may have been the first child to play on the beach of the newly established Highland Beach.

In 1892 his parents, Charles R. and Laura Douglass bought 26 and 2/3 acres of what was then farmland.

The following year his dad filed the plat with Anne Arundel County legally establishing Highland Beach.

In August of that year, young Haley Douglass wrote this letter to his grandfather Frederick Douglass.

Dear Grand Pa:

My father received a letter from Joe saying you would like to hear from me.

I am down on the Bay spending the summer. I go out fishing and crabbing almost every day.

I have learned to swim real well and I can swim over a hundred yards without stopping to rest.

Please remember me to Mrs. Douglass and Joe.

From your affectionate Grand Son,

Haley Geo. Douglass

Mr. Douglass would go on to attend Howard University and Harvard University. Mr. Douglass was a teacher. He taught science and history at Dunbar High School in Washington, D.C.

Upon his retirement his tenure and contributions to Dunbar High School were recognized in their yearbook of 1952. The yearbook team wrote in part, “Dunbar will miss the quiet presence of Mr. Douglass, but will always remember his admirable qualities and his helpful influence over the school. Mr. Douglass is a cultured gentleman who is also interested in better interracial understanding... For a number of years, he coached Dunbar’s football team and stressed among his men ideals of fair play.”

A page from the 1952 Dunbar High School Yearbook, photo courtesy of the Dunbar Alumni Federation

Mr. Douglass' involvement in his summer community of Highland Beach was also significant.

In 1911 at the age of 30 he purchased the lot that formerly was owned by Paul Laurence Dunbar. On the parcel at 3206 Wayman Avenue, he built a family home.

Ten years later, twenty-eight years after its founding, Highland Beach had become a community with over thirty cottages. And although the residents were informally able to satisfy their basic issues pertaining to growth and development, it was apparent that a more formal governance was needed.

A committee was formed to charter the community as an independent town. Led by Chairman Edwin B. Henderson, members included Haley Douglass, Milton Francis, Eula Ross Grey, and Mary C. Terrell.

The following year, on April 13, 1922, papers of incorporation were granted by the Maryland Legislature and signed by Edwin B. Henderson, Haley Douglass, Milton Francis, Eula Ross Gray, and Osborn T. Taylor. The act appointed them commissioners, who then selected Haley Douglass as their first mayor of Highland Beach. Thereafter, elections were held annually.

This year on February 23rd, a State Resolution was presented, recognizing the significance of the incorporation 100 years ago.

E. B. Henderson and Milton Francis are represented by direct descendants Shaina Solomon, Dena Sewell, and E. B. Henderson, II. Mary Church Terrell is represented by Jean and Monique Langston.

Mayor Douglass with residents on the pier.

As the first mayor, Mr. Douglass served two one-year terms.

After his time in office, E.B. Henderson and Milton Francis each served as mayor.

Mr. Douglass then ran again. He served as mayor again from 1928 until 1953.

In his final year as mayor, he wrote this letter to the Board of Commissioners:

“…. The population of the Chesapeake area is increasing, and we find those without improved beaches invading the better beaches. Beach parties from Arundel on the Bay and Bay Highlands are taking possession of our private beaches with complete assurance. Our problem is, how much can we stand. Bay Highlands actually has twenty-four hundred feet of waterfront on two beautiful lakes. They could develop bathing beaches, but it would cost something so it is cheaper to trespass. We have always had a simple rule that our facilities are for the exclusive use of our property owners and their house guests.”

Mayor Douglass ended his letter with this thought, “Nature has provided us with the most beautiful spot on the Atlantic Coast, but we could use a little more good will.”

Mr. Douglass on the Chesapeake Bay

Haley George Douglass was married to Evelyn Virginia "Mousie" Dulaney for 34 years. She died in 1952, two years prior to Mr. Douglass' death. The couple was survived by two children, a daughter Jean M. Douglass and a son, Joseph A. Douglass. Both children spent their summers in Highland Beach. In 1996 the family sold the Wayman Avenue house.

Sources and Additional Reading:

Henderson Family Files, courtesy Dena Sewell

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