Pastor Who Dropped Out of College Becomes the First Black Elected Official in the 344-Year History of Somerset County, Maryland

The city of Princess Anne is the seat of Somerset County, Maryland. It is home to the historically black University of Maryland Eastern Shore. The county is in far southeastern Maryland on the east side of Chesapeake Bay.

Somerset County was incorporated in 1666. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the rural economy was dominated by tobacco plantations. Today the county’s population is 42 percent black.

This past November, Craig N. Mathies Sr., pastor of the Zion Baptist Church in Cambridge, Maryland, became the first African American to win elective office in the 344-year history of Somerset County. He was sworn in as one of five county commissioners last month.

Mathies, who dropped out of the University of Maryland Eastern Shore to take a job at a car dealership, has been a longtime activist with the NAACP. He converted to Christianity in the early 1990s and became a pastor in 2002.