HANAFI MUSLIM ATTACK
WASHINGTON POST – On March 9, 1977, 12 gunmen burst into city hall, then known as the District Building, and two other buildings. They shot and killed [WHUR reporter Maurice Williams] and injured several dozen others as they took 149 hostages, whom they held for 39 hours until surrendering to police. The siege was the work of Hanafi Muslims. Among those injured was then-council member Marion Barry. . . Barry (D) was hit above the heart by a ricocheted shotgun pellet. He was removed out a window and rushed to a hospital, where doctors said he had avoided death by inches. Williams was a 24-year-old reporter for WHUR-FM radio. He and reporter Stephen Coulter of the Washington Afro-American got off the elevator, saw two security guards inching toward the council office doors and heard a shotgun blast, according to a Washington Post account of the incident.
VSOP – Guitarist Bill Harris was one of the finest solo guitar players to take on classical guitar, jazz and blues. He was lead guitarist, composer/arranger and singer with The Clovers in the early 1950’s. He was also a professor of music at Howard
HECHT’S DEPARTMENT STORES
HECHT’S department stores, whose purchase by a conglomerate has just been announced, were the last of Washington’s dowdy shopping emporiums, places where the clerks exuded an under-compensated respectability, where nothing surprised, where nothing intruded on your mundane mission, and from which you departed with the assurance – both boring and comforting – that some things can still be relied upon.
Nordstrom’s is too grand, Macy’s too full of New York disorder and pretense, Target and Penny’s too indifferent, and Lord & Taylor gives off the impression it wishes it were somewhere else. Only Hecht’s seems to grow naturally out of the ground like goldenrod along the highway, a place that doesn’t shout at you, interrupt your consumptive reveries, or attempt to tell you how to look better than you really are.
We are losing a haven of magnificent, utterly reliable, absolutely unimaginative, completely non-judgmental and wonderfully ordinary satisfaction, the commercial equivalent of a rock, a woods or a field that we knew would never fail us by the simple act of always being there. – Sam Smith, 2005
DC HISTORY NET – Regulation of building heights in Washington dates back to the earliest days of the city–George Washington issued the first regulations in 1791, on Thomas Jefferson’s advice. Washington and Jefferson each temporarily suspended the regulations. The next landmark came in July 1894 when the Commissioners of the District of Columbia issued new height regulations. T.F. Schneider had begun construction of the Cairo Apartment building in Spring 1894, starting in February–a building originally reported to be 120 feet but actually built to 160 feet. In 1897 (reported on April 11) C.B. Hunt and Snowden Ashford were appointed as a committee “. . . . to investigate maximum height of buildings consistent with health, safety and comfort that should be permitted.” In 1899 Congress enacted them into statute. In 1910 this law was revised, providing the basis of current laws. In 1920 the Zoning Commission was created, which enacted height and bulk limits. In 1930 Congress enacted the Shipstead-Luce Act giving the Commission of Fine Arts jurisdiction over buildings adjacent to public buildings and land. Zoning regulations were revised in 1956. Note that the height of the Capitol and Washington Monument are not cited in any legislation or hearings.
MARC FISHER WASHINGTON POST, 2006 – It’s a sad week in Foggy Bottom and in all of Washington, a time to hoist one to the memory of the old German brewmaster Christian Heurich, to the glory days when scores of American cities boasted their own breweries, to the idea that each place deserved its own taste. The Olde Heurich Brewing Co. — successor to Washington’s last surviving local brewery and maker of Foggy Bottom, Old Georgetown and Senate beers — this week announced its demise. The last beers were shipped last week. Olde Heurich — unlike the original Heurich, which closed in 1956 and had a massive plant on the site of what is today the Kennedy Center — did not make its beers here in the District. Rather, the beer was brewed on contract by a company in upstate New York, using the old Heurich recipes. Throughout the 20 years in which he sold beer here, Gary Heurich — Christian’s grandson — hoped to build his company to the point that he could give the District a real live brewery right in the city once again. It never happened, but Foggy Bottom was as close to a Washington beer as existed in recent years.
The Heurich Mansion was built in 1892-1894 by German immigrant, American citizen, brewer, real estate magnate, and philanthropist, Christian Heurich. Nicknamed “The Brewmaster’s Castle” while Heurich lived there, it was the city’s first fireproof home, having been built of reinforced steel and poured concrete, a novel construction technique at the time, and unheard of for residential construction. To ensure its safety, none of the fireplaces were ever used, and the top of the tower features a salamander, in mythology, a creature that guards against fire.
When Tina Hobson gave Julius Hobson’s papers to the Martin Luther King Library, Sammie was at the reception. He looked frailer than the last time I had seen him and in the pleasure of reunion, I also felt sad. Then Sammie started to talk, softly at first, but soon, as he warmed up, leaning forward in his familiar lunge-like stance. Within two minutes he had launched into a full-fledged attack on the faults of Julius’s old opponent, the Rev. Walter Fauntroy, and I smiled and was happy that Sammie was still on the case.
Julius would have smiled, too, for he had been the one who had railed against “ministers, preachers, deacons, deaconesses, Eastern Stars, and other assorted heavenly bodies.” Throughout the years of Washington’s awakening, no one individual had changed the course and the psychology of DC more than ]ulius Hobson. In a city where it could be said that never had so many sold out for so little, Hobson refused to compromise. In a city where good causes were often victimized by the manipulations of hustlers, Hobson was a man of extraordinary integrity. In a city that tended to take a self-congratulatory respite following every step forward, Hobson kept pointing out the distance left to travel. And at the height of the era of black nationalism, Hobson married a white woman.
Julius Hobson was born in Alabama. His father ran a drug store and a cleaning plant; his mother was principal of a high school. They talked about education at the dinner table. Recalled Hobson: “Everybody who stayed in school learned to read. Learning to read was no big deal. Now, it was a lousy high school. They didn’t teach languages — no Spanish, no German, no French, no Latin, very little history except General Lee. But out of that high school still came a group of students who were able to function in that they could read, write, spell, and communicate.” After the Second World War, where Hobson flew dozens of missions and won three bronze stars along with other medals, he ended up at Howard. There he was introduced to Marxist and radical thought, some of it from professors who would subsequently be fired during the McCarthy era. After Howard, he got a job as a GS-5 junior professional in the Legislative Reference Service of the Library of Congress. Six years later, he went to work for the Social Security Administration. Slowly, Julius became more involved in civic activities. He started with the PTA, then the local civic association, then the Federation of Civic Associations, then the NAACP. But Julius was an angry man and the caution and propriety of such organizations could not contain his anger. As chairman of the local CORE branch, Hobson finally struck out on his own. To his detractors, his organization was just “six men and a telephone booth,” but Hobson would argue that was all he needed for a revolution. In fact, he seldom had more than ten people working with him. Once in a church with about 30 parishioners, he commented, “If I had that many people behind me, I’d be president.”
One by one old barriers began to fall. Between 1960 and 1964, Julius Hobson ran more than 80 picket lines on approximately 120 retail stores in downtown DC, resulting in employment for some 5,000 blacks. He initiated a campaign that resulted in the first hiring of black bus drivers by DC Transit. Hobson and CORE forced the hiring of the first black auto salesmen and dairy employees and started a campaign to combat job discrimination by the public utilities that led to a permanent court injunction to prevent Hobson from encouraging people to paste stickers over the holes in punch-card utility bills.
Hobson directed campaigns against private apartment buildings that discriminated against blacks and led a demonstration by 4,500 people to the District Building that encouraged the District to end housing segregation. He conducted a lie-in at the Washington Hospital Center that produced a jail term for himself and helped to end segregation in the hospitals. His arrest in a sit-in at the Benjamin Franklin School in 1964 helped lead to the desegregation of private business schools. In 1967, Julius Hobson won, after a long and very lonely court battle that left him deeply in debt, a suit that outlawed the existing rigid track system, teacher segregation, and differential distribution of books and supplies. It also led, indirectly, to the resignation of the school ‘superintendent and first elections of a city school board. Beyond all this, Hobson was repeatedly involved in peace, police, and transportation issues; he filed a major suit in 1969 accusing the federal government of bias against blacks, women, and Mexican~Americans.
With such a record, one might have expected Julius Hobson to emerge as a national civil rights leader. His achievements were as impressive as the best of them and if he had wished to, he could have drifted into the more comfortable world of semi-acceptance enjoyed by James Farmer, Whitney Young, Roy Wilkins, and even Martin Luther King in his later years — a world achieved by exchanging effectiveness for respectability and progress for power.
But Hobson eschewed power and he refused acceptability. He was equally frank about his Marxist philosophy and his atheism. He had an innate distrust of leaders, black or white, and he spoke disparaging1y of the new leadership in the city government as “pasteurized Negroes.”
There was no let-up in the Hobson irascibility. When he ran for nonvoting delegate in 1971, he did so for the express purpose of being permitted to raise hell on behalf of the District in the United States Congress. And if Hobson had been e1ected, he might have made the greatest black congressional hell-raiser, Adam Clayton Powell, look like a moderate, Even prospect of an early death from multiple myeloma failed to chasten the man. He described the conversation he would have with the Lord, if there turned out to be one, as Hobson presenting a bi11 of particulars on behalf of the oppressed people still back on earth. And he concluded, “That’s what I’d have to say to the Maker. And if the Maker doesn’t like it, to hell with him.”
In his office was a poster quoting Frederick Douglass: “Those who profess to favor freedom, yet deprecate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing the ground; they want rain without thunder and lightning; they want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters.”
He might just as easily framed and set on the wall earlier words of William Lloyd Garrison: “Tell a man whose house is on fire to give moderate alarm; tel1 him to moderately rescue his wife from the hands of the ravisher; tell the mother to gradually extricate her babe from the fire into which it has fallen.”
It was Hobson’s unflagging distaste for moderation that led a city official to say in 1965, “He’s never satisfied. He’s never agreeable.You can’t compromise with him. He wants everything and refuses to barter or trade. When the hell will he quit?” But it was not just city officials and businessmen who were sent up the wall by Hobson. If the city’s black population appreciated Hobson’s years of work on their behalf, they were more disturbed by his refusal to let things be, his atheism, and his white wife. When he ran for delegate his strongest black support came from younger and more radical voters rather than from the older ones who had directly benefited from his efforts. One day during the campaign, Julius Hobson, on the back of a flat bed truck, passed a bus driven by a black driver. Through the loud-speaker, Hobson reminded the driver who had busted open DC Transit. The bus driver gave him the finger.
But Julius was used to being alone: his aloneness helped give him a perspective on the hustles and the hassles around him. He remained aloof from the wave of black nationalism that swept the city and the country in the latter part of the sixties. When people like Marion Barry adopted a dashiki, he stuck to his pipe and fedora, black tie, and conservative suits. When a white peace leader apologized for racism in the peace movement following a public attack by a number of local black politicians, Hobson said the man wasn’t a racist but a fool. And few things made him madder during the delegate campaign than the sniping references to his second wife, Tina, a woman of great force and strength and an activist in her own right. Once, when a black opponent gave out his home phone number, adding snidely, “where I sleep with my black wife,” staffers had to convince Hobson not to leave the podium.
Julius remained one of the few leaders in Washington who could lead an effective black-white coalition. Hobson knew that nationalism and militancy were not synonymous, and he preferred militancy. His coalitions, though never large, were given impact by Hobson’s flair for the dramatic and his sense of the media. He knew how to get a headline and how to frighten people. He threatened to capture rats in the poor sections of town and release them in Georgetown, but he knew that all he needed to do was ride around with a few rats in a cage on top of a Volkswagon to get the desired effect. And when the American Civil Liberties Union gave its annual award to Senator Joseph Tydings, Hobson copped the coverage by leading a picket line outside the dinner to protest an award to one who had played a leading part in passage of a repressive DC crime bill. The spirit of the man came out with every paragraph that he spoke. House District Committee Chairman John McMillan was a “rat.” Joe Rauh, ADA and local home rule leader, was a “milquetoast liberal,” and J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI were “a bunch of idiots.”
When picketed businessmen told Julius Hobson, “Bring in some people and we’ll hire them,” Hobson replied: “Baby, I ain’t no employment agency. But I’m going to take 70 percent of your business away from you.”
On delegate candidate Walter Fauntroy’s constant allusions to his work with Martin Luther King: “With all respect to Martin Luther King, he is dead. He is not running for this seat. He will not be the man who will be on the floor of the House.” He also accused Fauntroy of “running in the shadow of a dead man.”
On a provision of the DC crime bill permitting no-knock searches: “If anyone breaks down my door, I will meet him with whatever I’ve got.”
On Marxism: “Ideologically I consider myself a Marxist. . . . I believe in socialism; I believe what we’re fighting over is the distribution of goods and services and the production of them; and I believe that everybody on earth has the inalienable right to share in them.”
On what he would do if elected to Congress: “My position is that, if elected, they can’t isolate me from the House District Committee. I’ll break up their goddamn meetings. What’s going on up there anyway? Nothing but theft. I’d go to the floor of the House and speak until I’m tired. I wouldn’t honor any procedure about my being a junior Congressman or any of that bullshit. I think for a while they need a real man up there, and if they throw me out — all right. Because then, at least, the people of the District will be forced to realize that if somebody gives you your freedom at their pleasure, they can take it away from you at their pleasure.”
On democracy. “In this country, you don’t have any democracy really. You have the right to elect but not to select. For example, here’s two people: you get to vote for one of them. But you didn’t choose in the first place either of them. That’s not democracy from what I understand.”
On being a politician: “Let me explain something to you. I am not a politician. A politician is someone who does things to get elected. He is a guy who says things to please the public, that he thinks the public wants to hear, and his story changes with every passing day. I want to be elected, but I am not going to say a damn thing for your benefit, or that person’s benefit out there on the street, or anybody’s.”
On the nature of the struggle: “The struggle isn’t whether you like a nigger or a nigger likes a cracker or whitey is a pig or any of that stuff. I’ve called people whitey and pig and the FBI never said a word. All I have to do is put on a dashiki, get a wig, go out there on Fourteenth Street, and yell, ‘Whitey is a pig and I’m going to take care of him’ — the FBI will stand there and laugh at me. But the moment I start to discuss the way goods and services are distributed and I start talking about the nature of the political system and show that it’s a corollary of the economic system, that’s when the FBI comes in for harassment.”
On capitalism: “Can black people ever win the fight for freedom so long as they accept America’s exploitive capitalism as the economic system within which they must wage the battle? Black leaders have not confronted this question. Whether from a lack of understanding of our economic and political systems or from an unwillingness to challenge them, their silence is a betrayal of trust of the black people they purport to lead.”
On a local black minister: ”I was asked to speak at his church one Sunday. I went over there and when I went there I looked over the congregation. I would say the average person in there had on a pair of Tom McAn shoes, that their suits cost an average of $35 apiece, that their shirts were from Hecht’s basements, and they were very poor and very illiterate — almost illiterate — people who were emotionally shocked, just came to the church to let out this scream. [The minister] took up a love offering, he took up a minister’s travel offering and then he took up a regular — he took up five or six offerings. So when he got to me to speak, I got up and said, ‘God-damnit, if this is Christianity I want no part of it,’ and ‘This son of a bitch is stealing from you, and the thing is, he’s not just stealing your money, he’s stealing your minds. And I refuse to be a part of this.’ And I walked off.”
A statistician, Hobson operated with a calculator and conviction. Sometimes the changes came almost coincidentally in the churning wake of his actions. When he filed suit against the school system to end unequal expenditures, the rigid track system, and other inequities, he aimed the action against the local city judges, since it was they, under a peculiar provision of DC law, who were responsible for appointing the school board. The case was consequently bounced up to the US Court of Appeals where Judge Skelley Wright issued an historic decision banning discriminatory disparities in educational funding and policy. It was not long after, in part because of the local judges’ reluctance to get involved in the increasingly political issue of DC schools, that Congress granted the District an elected school board, the first elected local body in almost a hundred years.
There was another, and more troubling side, of Hobson that wasn’t revealed until several years after his death, when Paul Valentine reported in the Washington Post:
The late D.C. City Council member Julius W. Hobson, one of Washington’s most widely known civil rights activists, maintained a confidential but ambiguous relationship with the FBI during the early and mid-1960s, providing agents with information about violence-prone groups and individuals as well as plans of his own organizations, according to FBI files. The files, obtained by The Washington Post, designated Hobson usually as a “confidential source” and once as a “confidential informant” and said he was paid once for his work, receiving $100 and possibly $300. But other portions of the files described him as an undependable leftist radical who should be kept under surveillance.
Hobson, who died in 1977, once told reporters that he received $200 from the FBI, but denied passing information in exchange for it. Members of Hobson’s family and activists close to Hobson interviewed over the past several weeks also disputed the characterization of Hobson as a “source” or “informant.” They said that Hobson either was “manipulating the FBI” with useless, false and exaggerated information or was negotiating openly with it and other law enforcement agencies about upcoming street demonstrations to minimize confrontation and violence. Such negotiations were common among some protect organizers at that time.
There is nothing in the file to indicate Hobson was an agent provocateur or that he betrayed the trust of activists organizing legal demonstrations. There are 29 specific reports over a five-year period of Hobson giving information to agents contained in the massive 1,575-page file obtained by The Post through the Freedom assembled the file on Hobson over a nearly 20-year period from the 1950s to the early 1970s. The file indicates, among other things, that Hobson gave the FBI information on advanced planning for the historic March on Washington led by Martin Luther King Jr. in 1963 and was paid $100 to $300 in expenses to monitor and report on civil rights demonstration plans at the 1964 Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City. . .
The Hobson file reflects the almost dual view the FBI maintained on him during that time. Some field agents in the Washington office viewed him as a helpful source and therefore a responsible citizen. But agents in other parts of the bureau was trying to establish that he was a radical firebrand bent on fomenting unrest and revolution. On the one hand, for instance, the files show that Hobson told agents in May 1966 that he opposed establishment in Washington of a Chicago-based organization called Deacons for Defense and Justice because “it advocates arming its members.” On the other hand, the files show an unnamed informant told agents that at a July 26, 1968, meeting at the old Hotel Manager-Hamilton here, Hobson urged creation of a secret “trained scientific army to combat military forces of the United States.”
The files are sprinkled with references to Hobson as a Marxist and communist. His public rhetoric ranged widely from calls for the overthrow of the capitalist system to administrations against mob action. Yet both his civil rights colleagues and FBI agents who knew him say that privately Hobson was opposed to violence and illegality. “Julius abhorred violence,” said retired FBI agent Elmer Lee Todd, who was one of Hobson’s principal contacts in the 1960s. “The only time we contacted him was about groups and individuals that might be violent. . . . We never tried to interfere with him or steer him.”. . .
In an interview with the Post two years before his death, Hobson acknowledged receiving $200 from the FBI, but denied giving any information to agents. But Todd, the agent who gave Hobson the money to go to the convention, says he spoke to Hobson “every day he was up there” and that Hobson tipped authorities off to a planned traffic tie-up and sit-in that local police then were able to avert. Todd said he met regularly with Hobson — sometimes as often as twice a month — from about 1961 to late 1964, mostly to discuss and assess potentially violent or disruptive demonstrations, organizations and individuals in the civil rights movement. “We’d visit him at HEW [where Hobson worked] and have a cup of coffee with him. . . He kept his eyes and ears open,” Todd said. “In a couple of instances, he was beneficial. We were able to defuse a couple of things.” Todd said the FBI initiated most contacts with Hobson, “but sometimes he called us.”
According to the file, Hobson was abruptly ordered dropped as a source or informant in June 1966 by then FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover after Hobson complained to the news media that FBI agents were badgering him for information about upcoming demonstrations. . .
None of the former colleagues and family members interviewed — except Tina Hobson — said they were aware of Hobson’s FBI relationship . . . They contended he was not a “source or “informant” in the conventional sense. All suggested that he deliberately cultivated the FBI in order to control information — and occasionally “disinformation,” as Tina Hobson put it — going to the bureau to protect his own organizations and projects and occasionally to denigrate others.
By the same token, Tina Hobson acknowledge that he may have provided the FBI serious information from time to time, such as a warning of potential violence, as in the Girard College protests. Much of what he told them also could be obtained from the press and other public sources, she said. Summing up Hobson’s dual FBI-activist role, retired agent Todd said: “I have the highest respect for Julius. He did not betray any body. . . . There’s no way he could have been a Communist. I knew him well, and he was a red-blooded American.”
While Julius Hobson was a man as important to Washington in his way as Martin Luther King and Malcolm X were to the nation, he differed markedly from other charismatic figures in that he never developed a mass following. One local activist who worked closely with Julius for a number of years said, “He’s a prophet; but he can’t organize shit.” Hobson’s inherent suspicion of the system and its faults also occasionally enveloped his friends and coworkers as well. Remarks dropped at meetings like, “Everyone in favor of this idea say aye, the rest get the hell out of here,” were only partly facetious and if you weren’t pretty tough, it was easy to leave one of Julius’ forays with hurt feelings. He got drummed out of CORE at one point in the midst of complaints against his dictatorial way of running the organization. He could be mercurial, be all in favor of an idea or a tactic one day, then dump on it the next. But his irascibility was not really a personal thing. He was a loner and the pressures, frustrations, and compromises demanded of one man creating a movement left him irritated, impatient to the point that he would make a rigid decision just to keep things moving. In less public and less pressured situations, Hobson was extremely receptive to both ideas and criticisms. He both gave and received advice with a generous spirit that contrasted with his public image as an enfant terrible.
And nothing cowed him. Not even death. Bill Raspberry was right in his column on Julius he said: “It’s hard to talk with a man and know he’s dying without feeling sorry for him. Unless the man is Julius Hobson.” When I visited him, the pain of what Julius was saying struck, but his own irreverence about his mortality, and about the dream of human immortality, applied a balm. Sure he was scared. And depressed. But the bastard was going to make them keep on paying right to the end; and he would try to enjoy it, too. The sanctimonious could pretend that they finally appreciated Julius and were sorry to see him go, only to find that he was still very much around making life difficult for them. And the pious could hope for a retreat from unpious convictions and all they would get is what Julius told Raspberry; “Death doesn’t frighten me the way it does a Christian. All it means to me is the end; 1 don’t have to contend with those two doors on the other side and wonder which one I’ll be going through.”
If there was going to be a premature wake, it was going to be done his way. He sat in bed picking at the shishkebob Tina had brought in from Adams Rib, because Julius was conducting a another boycott, this time against lousy hospital food. He worried about how best to break the news to people. He talked about Raspberry wanting to do a piece. I said I thought the Post ought to pay him for an article and that he ought to begin with the lead: “The only way I can get fair coverage in the Post is to be dying. ” He talked wryly about the black lady patient who had told him that she hoped he would die before he left the hospital because he had been nothing but trouble for blacks. And about the intern who delivered a cold and professional analysis of Hobson’s problem and then broke down as he started to leave. And about the hospital workers who came to see Mr. Hobson and how was he getting along. And about all the writing he wanted to do, perhaps, an autobiography.And about the goddam fascist appointments Nixon made to the Supreme Court as we watched on television. Things like that.
A few days later, Julius was out of the hospital and around the streets. Blasting the city’s proposed curfew regulations. Drumming up support for old friend Dick Brown who was running for School Board in Ward Six. Speaking at a rally at the Three Sisters Bridge. And if I had thought to make myself a promise never to get mad at Julius again, I would have had to renege shortly as the crazy SOB publicly, withdrew his support from Marion Barry at a critical junction in the campaign be- cause Marion was using some radio spots featuring the Rev. Fauntroy and Julius wasn’t about to get into bed with any preachers or machine politicans. So then those of us who like both Marion and Julius had to go around explaining to our friends what happened, feeling just a bit miffed that Hobson wouldn’t let things be for a little while. Of course, Julius wouldn’t let them be. “No, I’m not reordering any personal priorities. I’ll travel a little if I get the chance and can afford it, but otherwise nothing will change. I don’t intend to lie in bed and deteriorate and I don’t intend to traipse all over the world looking for a cure. I don’t want to be pillowed and bilked. I’ll just do my work and then I guess I’ll have to find myself a sunset to walk into. ”
When Washington learned of his fatal illness, it reacted with the sort of reevaluation of a man’s life that usually takes place after his death. The Washington Post ran a long interview series with Hobson. The Evening Star and News became solicitous. And a group of old friends and associates organized a testimonial evening that brought out 2,000 friends, enemies, and observers of Hobson from GOP City Council Chairman Jack Nevius to ex-student and still apostle Stokely Carmichael. Hobson was there, sitting in a lounge chair and smoking a cigar that helped quell the nausea created by the drugs he was taking. Although the evening, which Julius had earlier described as “his wake,” had moments of embarrassing schmaltz (Joan Baez sang “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot”), it was as moving and genuinely emotional a few hours as any of those present were likely to experience. Stokely Carmichael quoted Nkrumah: “Revolutions are made by men who think as men of action and act as men of thought,” a near perfect encapsulation of Hobson. Julius’ family was there, providing a dramatic reminder that he was one man who had not sacrificed his family on the altar of public service. His teacher mother, up from Alabama, ended a powerful speech with the benediction, “Go, son, go,” which brought the audience to its feet. Scattered throughout the crowd were people who were important just to Julius — those unknown people who had stood with him on picket lines or joined him in other protests and who had, unlike many who share the early rise of the important, retained the loyalty and friendship of the man who was being honored. And at the end, one old friend shook the hand of another and said, “Where do we go from here, baby?”
Julius, as usual, had his own ideas. He went into remission, was elected to the city council and lived for some years thereafter. – Sam Smith
PROGRESSIVE REVIEW, AUG 1997 – Holder has led a charmed life until recently. As US Attorney in DC, he was under the patronage of the Washington Post, which started boosting him as a suitably conservative black candidate for mayor. Unfortunately, despite Holder’s willingness to lock up any DC miscreant for as long as anyone who offered him a job wanted, no one could point to anything that Holder had really done other than to give comforting speeches to white business groups. The Post trial balloon burst before take-off.
Holder, however, soon was given the Web Hubbell chair at Justice. Everything was rolling along just fine until scandals erupted in the DC police department and other city agencies. Now it appears that Holder was just a little lackadaisical in following important leads that might have blown the cover on wrong-doings. Even the Washington Post quotes a senior prosecutor as saying that Holder’s office shelved an investigation into a $1-million-a-year corruption case in the DC Water and Sewer Authority.
One of Holder’s predecessors, Joseph DiGenova, says, “When you have corruption staring you in the face, and you fail to act, you should resign. You can’t worry about judgeships or your next job. And this from former city auditor Otis Troupe: “For years, in audit after audit, and in newspaper article after newspaper articles, we have established fact patterns that constitute crimes. And in all but a handful of case, nobody did anything in the prosecutor’s office.”
Nonetheless, Holder is still trying to stay in the establishment’s good graces by chairing a sentencing commission that is expected to recommend even more severe penalties for those convicted in DC, which already locks up its violent criminals longer than anywhere else in the country. He also remains active on the local scene, helping those politicians with a punishment fetish figure out nifty new tricks. One of the latest seems to have his fingerprints on it: a measure that would take away the right of protestors on federal property to a jury trial. The gimmick: reduce the maximum penalty for the offense so it falls below DC’s limit for jury trials. Then when protestors are arrested, hit them with multiple minor offenses. Result: long jail sentences but no need for a jury. Holder beta tested this constitutional assault on other sorts of cases while US Attorney. Sometimes ambition is not a pretty sight.
JERRY SEPER, WASHINGTON TIMES, MAY 2002 – Former White House Counsel Jack Quinn and former Deputy Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. sought to cut the Justice Department out of a decision by President Clinton to pardon fugitive financier Marc Rich, according to a congressional report. The 467-page report, to be released by the House Government Reform Committee, said Mr. Quinn and Mr. Holder “worked together” to ensure that department officials – particularly federal prosecutors in New York who handled the Rich case – “did not have the opportunity to express an opinion on the Rich pardon before it was granted . . . The evidence amassed by the committee indicates that Holder advised Quinn to file the Rich pardon petition with the White House, and leave the Justice Department out of the process,” the report said. ”
FANTASY JAZZ – Born August 24, 1953 in Washington, D.C., Holloway grew up listening to his father’s collection of 78s and LPs. Because his dad gravitated toward saxophone players, Holloway heard all the great tenors, including Coleman Hawkins, Lester Young, Ben Webster, Sonny Stitt, Gene Ammons, John Coltrane, and Sonny Rollins. “My parents were diligent listeners,” he says. “I can remember my father going to the record store each week and buying a new Blue Note or Prestige release. So when I first began to play the tenor saxophone in 1966, I felt I had a head start.”
Even though jazz was the sound he heard when he was home, Holloway also had his ears tuned to the radio where he was feasting on the pop sounds of the day, including tunes by James Brown, Little Richard, Wilson Pickett, the Beatles, and Stevie Wonder. . . It’s no surprise then that in addition to playing his tenor saxophone in his high school orchestra, Holloway was gigging in local R&B, rock, and funk bands. This led to playing with Root Boy Slim (aka Foster McKenzie III) in his Sex Change Band, which scored a couple of Seventies cult hits, “Boogie ‘Til You Puke” and “You Broke My Mood Ring.” Later Holloway forged a longstanding professional relationship with Scott-Heron, with whom he’s recorded and toured since 1982. Back on the jazz side of the tracks, Holloway met and sat in with several musicians, including Sonny Rollins and Freddie Hubbard. He also met Dizzy Gillespie in 1977 and performed in his band whenever he came to town. He became a permanent member of Diz’s quintet beginning in 1989 and continuing until the trumpeter’s death in 1993. His fiery soloing on Gillespie’s Symphony Sessions was singled out by Down Beat as “the hottest items of the album,” while another reviewer was also impressed, writing that Holloway “[preached] with the authority of a sanctified minister in the church of John Coltrane and Stanley Turrentine.” Holloway made his recording debut in 1994 with the Milestone disc Slanted, which was followed by Struttin’ (1995) and Scorcher (1996).
RON HOLLOWAY SITE – “In June of ’89, while sitting in with Dizzy at Blues Alley, Dizzy’s manager told me Dizzy wants to see you in the dressing room. I went upstairs and Dizzy told me he needed a regular saxophone player, and asked me if I’d like to join his group! I responded with a question: When do I start?” I think you already have was Dizzy’s reply. Ron toured the world, performing for kings and dignitaries, and appeared with Dizzy on the Johnny Carson and Arsenio Hall television shows. He also recorded 2 CD’s with Dizzy. Ron was a member of Gillespie’s final quintet, until Dizzy’s passing on January 6th,1993. . . . Ron is the proud recipient of no less than forty-two Washington Area Music Awards. (Two of them for Musician of the Year.)
Sam Smith – Adrian Fenty’s cruel 2008 eviction of the homeless from the Franklin Shelter brought back an almost forgotten memory of a time when city officials were serious enough about the issue that they even briefly turned over some of their own turf to those without shelter.
One of the Wilson Building’s more honorable moments in its one hundred years currently being celebrated was the time in the late 1980s it was used as an emergency homeless shelter.
Tom Sherwood, then with the Post, described the situation in 1988:
When D.C. officials temporarily opened the District Building to the homeless during last week’s bitter cold weather, the compassionate move made national news. Mayor Marion Barry stood before television cameras last Tuesday and said, ‘While it’s cold, a warm building is better than a grate.’
Behind the scenes, however, the move came close to creating a public relations nightmare because city officials, citing logistical problems, later told advocates for the homeless that the building would be open only one night.
Advocate for the homeless Mitch Snyder threatened promptly to ‘march on the District Building’ in protest the next day, according to one city official. Barry then ordered aides to keep the building open two more nights-long enough to indicate that the symbolic move to help the homeless was also meaningful. . .
Aides to the mayor confirmed yesterday that some officials were concerned that the crowd of homeless people-about 50 to 60 each night-had created access problems for the officials who use the building. The District Building houses the mayor’s office, the D.C. Council and other high-level city offices.
“There were some concerns raised about the continued use of the building,” said John C. White, the mayor’s press secretary, “but the mayor overrode that because the mayor thought it was important . . . that the homeless were afforded shelter at the seat of government.”. . .
Homeless persons and families who cannot get into the city’s regular shelters, which often are full, are being taken to the Randall School at First and I streets SW, a converted school building used for government offices that can accommodate up to 200 persons, Streeter said. A bus has been stationed outside the District Building from 5 p.m. until 1 a.m. each night to take homeless people to other shelters.
Barry opened the public buildings to the homeless after the council enacted emergency legislation introduced by Council Chairman David A. Clarke, who had proposed that the city use the expansive D.C. Armory near RFK Stadium. Although Barry and his aides had initially been critical of Clarke’s idea, they moved quickly to have the mayor sign the bill and then take credit for opening up the city’s principal public building.
I can’t recall how many nights the District Building was used, but I do remember the stunning sight of the long first floor corridor off of 13 1/2 Street filled with bunks that were set up late in the day and removed the next morning. It wasn’t enough, but one can’t imagine Fenty or the current council doing anything remotely similar.
The beds came back the next winter and that was the end of it, as reported by the Post on Christmas Day, 1989:
The District Building will no longer be used as a women’s shelter, the result of a Superior Court judge’s order last week, city officials said. The building, which had been used to provide beds for 54 women, was closed as a shelter beginning last night.
Sue Marshall, the mayor’s coordinator for homeless services, said the women will be moved to the Crummel School shelter in Northeast Washington. She said the trailers at Crummel meet the standards of an eight-month-old court order decreeing that the District improve conditions in its shelters. Last Thursday, Superior Court Judge Harriet R. Taylor ruled that the city has ignored the order and should be fined $30,000 a day, beginning tomorrow.
THE HOMESTEAD GRAYS
BASEBALL IN DC – Fans were able to witness the Homestead Grays Negro League team when they played at Griffith Stadium in Washington, D.C. from the late 1930’s through 1948. The Grays, originally from Pennsylvania, won an unprecedented nine Negro League championships. How good of a team were they? Many baseball historians say the Grays during the 1940’s might have been the greatest baseball club ever assembled.
FROM 1937 TO 1945 they won nine straight league pennants. . . During World War II, the Grays played their home games at both Forbes Field (Pittsburgh) and Griffith Stadium (Washington, D.C.) when the white Major League clubs were on the road. The Grays traditionally outdrew their white counterparts, the cellar-dwelling Washington Senators
NEGRO LEAGUE BASEBALL – For almost 30 years Cool Papa Bell maintained his reputation as the fastest man in baseball. His tremendous speed on the base path and defensively in the outfield gave rise to numerous stories, mostly exaggerated. Satchel Paige often told a story about sharing a room with Bell while on the road with the Pittsburgh Crawfords. Bell, the story went, could turn out the light in the room and be in bed before the room got dark. Other stories highlighted his speed around the bases, such as the one that Jimmie Crutchfield often told. “Cool Papa was so fast that one time when we were playing with the Crawfords against the Birmingham team he hit a ground ball right past the pitcher and that ball hit Cool Papa as he slid into second base!”
Coupled with his hitting prowess (hitting over .400 in several seasons) and fielding talents Bell’s speed propelled him to one of the longest active careers in the Negro Leagues. . .
Former teammate Satchel Paige summed up Bell’s great career in his autobiography, Maybe I’ll Pitch Forever saying: “If Cool Papa had known about colleges or if colleges had known about Cool Papa, Jesse Owens would have looked like he was walking.”
COOL PAPA BELL
[Josh Gibson] won home run crowns in 1938 and 1939, and his first batting title in 1938 with a magnifying .440. Noted for his long distance drives, teammate Buck Leonard responded, “Nobody hit the ball as far as Gibson.” Leonard added, “I didn’t see the one he is supposed to have hit out of Yankee Stadium. But I saw him hit a ball one night in the Polo Grounds that went between the upper deck and lower deck and out of the stadium. Later the night watchman came in and said, ‘Who hit the damned ball out there?’ He said it landed on the El. It must have gone 600 feet.”. . . After becoming very ill in Mexico, he returned to the Grays in 1942. Despite intermittent health problems, Gibson won home runs crowns in 1942, 43 and 46, plus a batting title in 1943, hitting .521.
Gibson didn’t just destroy Negro League pitchers, he also beat up on white major leaguers. In a recorded 61 at bats against the likes of Dizzy and Daffy Dean, Johnny Vander Meer and others, Josh hit .426, including five home runs. His bat was an equal opportunity banger.
In 1943, Josh hit ten home runs out of spacious Griffith Stadium, a feat never duplicated by any major leaguer. In fact, his ten homers were more than all the bangers in the American League could hit in 77 games that year. And the back wall of the left field bleachers was cleared only three times. Mickey Mantle did it, with a tape measured 565 foot blast and Josh did it twice. Historian John Coates credits Gibson with 823 home runs in 22 years, including the pro winter leagues. . .
In late 1942, Gibson begun to suffer from recurring headaches and dizzy spells. On New Year’s Day of 1943, he was hospitalized for ten days, after doctors discovered a brain tumor. The man-child Josh refused to allow an operation. He returned to baseball, while the headaches and blackouts continued, eventually eroding his mythical skills. Gibson died at the age of 35. . . Gibson will be the eternal monarch of home run kings. He dominated the game with majestic power like none before him. Former Crawford teammate Judy Johnson boasted, “If Josh Gibson had been in the big leagues in his prime, Babe Ruth and Hank Aaron would still be chasing him for the home run record.”
OUT OF THE SHADOWS – [Buck] Leonard hit pitchers like a tropical storm. . . Eastern booking agent, Eddie Gottlieb recalled, “Buck Leonard was as smooth a first baseman as I ever saw. In those days, the first baseman on a team in the Negro League often played the clown. They had a funny way of catching the ball so the fans would laugh, but Leonard was strictly baseball: a great glove, a hell of a hitter, and drove in runs.” The rock-steady, dependable, quiet, easy going Buck was named captain of the Grays team and served in that capacity until they folded in 1950. . .
At the time of the Grays’ demise, Leonard was earning $1,000 a month and $2.00 a day for meal money. Quite a ways from his initial salary of $125 a month and 60 cents a day for signing in 1934. . . When he retired, it was reported that he was the third highest paid player in Negro League history behind Satchel Paige and Gibson. The raiding of Negro League players by the majors caused the Grays to break up in 1950. . .
DICK HELLER, WASHINGTON TIMES – The best professional baseball team in the District’s history probably wasn’t the original Washington Senators, whose generally unfortunate 60-year history was punctuated by a World Series championship in 1924 and American League pennants in 1925 and 1933. Almost certainly, it was the Homestead Grays, who won 10 pennants in the Negro National League from 1937 to 1948 while splitting home games between Pittsburgh and Washington. Of the first 18 former Negro Leaguers inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, nine played for the Grays at Washington’s Griffith Stadium. Most prominent were catcher Josh Gibson and first baseman Buck Leonard, known respectively as “the black Babe Ruth” and “the black Lou Gehrig” during those days of almost total segregation in baseball and society.
[Clark] Griffith, who owned the Senators from 1920 to 1955, was a contradictory figure where race relations were concerned. He donated his ballpark frequently for events involving the black community, but when it came to integrating the Senators he was no more liberal than most other white Americans born in the 19th century. Despite pressure, notably from sports columnist Sam Lacy of the Afro-American newspapers, Griffith did not sign his first black player – a rather hapless Cuban outfielder named Carlos Paula – until 1954. That was seven years after Jackie Robinson joined the Brooklyn Dodgers and shattered Organized Baseball’s unofficial ban against blacks.
In 1863 General Meade replaced General Hooker three days before the Battle of Gettysburg. Meade only gets a fort named after him, while Hooker lends his name to a whole synonym. The following is from a report by the Smithsonian Institution on archeological work done near the site of the National Museum of the American Indian:
“With the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861, the sleepy town of Washington was dramatically transformed as its population swelled with newcomers. The new arrivals included many men who had signed up to fight for the Union. Throughout the war, thousands of soldiers were encamped throughout the city, either awaiting orders to fight, manning forts to protect the Union capital from Rebel attack, or languishing from disease or wounds in hospitals throughout the city. Along with the soldiers came government bureaucrats, freed and escaped slaves, businessmen, salesmen, and con men, as well as the camp followers and prostitutes who sought to profit from the increased demand for their services. The Army’s provost marshal, who kept a list of the city’s bawdy houses during the war ostensibly to keep them under surveillance, concluded that there were 450 registered houses in Washington in 1862.
While some prostitutes worked in brothels, the majority probably plied their trade as streetwalkers. By 1863, the Evening Star newspaper estimated that Washington had about 5,000 prostitutes . . . When the war came to a close, Washington remained overcrowded, and its roads, parks, and the canal were in shambles as a result of four years of overuse and neglect. The area between Pennsylvania Avenue and the Mall, which is presently occupied by the Federal Triangle complex, had become an infamous crime-ridden neighborhood rife with the stench of the nearby canal, which had become little more than an open sewer. Known for its rampant prostitution, the area was widely referred to as Hooker’s Division, a wry double entendre. Indeed many of its occupants were “hookers,” a term for prostitutes used since the early nineteenth century. Furthermore, the region was reported to have been visited frequently by the troops in Union General Joseph Hooker’s division, which was encamped nearby.”
BEN RATLIFF, NY TIMES, 2005 – Shirley Horn, a jazz singer and pianist who drew audiences close with a powerfully confidential, vibratoless delivery. . . was a unique singer, with one of the slowest deliveries in jazz and a very unusual way of phrasing, putting stress on certain words and letting others slip away. She cherished her repertory, making audiences feel that she was cutting through to the stark truths of songs like “Here’s to Life” and “You Won’t Forget Me.” She wanted things just so: she stuck with her drummer, Steve Williams, for 23 years, and her bassist, Charles Ables – who died in 2002 – for 33. She lived all her life in and around Washington, often performing close to home to be near her family. . . .
She recalled that at 17, while she was playing classical music at a restaurant in Washington, a man appeared in front of her with a four-foot-tall turquoise teddy bear. “If you sing ‘Melancholy Baby,’ ” he said, “I’ll give you this bear.” She did, and he did. At the time Ms. Horn was shy and largely focused on classical music, but she often cited this as the moment when it dawned on her that if she overcame her reluctance to sing and to play jazz in public, she might be able to make a living at it. About her transition from classical to jazz, she liked to say: “I loved Rachmaninoff, but then Oscar Peterson became my Rachmaninoff. And Ahmad Jamal became my Debussy.”
ADAM BERNSTEIN WASHINGTON POST – An uncompromising perfectionist, she worked hard to develop a personal, pensive sound. Her artistry had long depended on the interaction between voice and piano, but in 2001, Horn’s right foot was amputated because of her diabetes. As a result, it was difficult for her to use the elegant pedal work that marked her piano style.
Later, she would sometimes remove the shoe from her prosthetic foot and manipulate the piano’s sustain pedal with the force of her hip. In her final public appearance, at the Kennedy Center, she climbed from her wheelchair to the piano and performed what had become her signature song, “Here’s to Life.”. . .
Her first jazz record, in 1960, was on a minor label, and she remained forever mystified about how trumpeter Miles Davis found a copy. He appreciated the lingering silences of her music, similar to his own style at the time. . .
“I’ve never known anyone that could do a ballad that slowly and keep it musical, keep it happening,” pianist Marian McPartland told Down Beat magazine. Horn was a strong influence on many younger singers, including jazz pianist-vocalist Diana Krall.
RICHARD HARRINGTON WASHINGTON POST – Indicating the level of respect Davis had for Horn, the legend, then ailing, accompanied her on the title track of the 1990 album “You Won’t Forget Me,” the first time he’d recorded with a vocalist in four decades, and Davis did so in the long-abandoned lyrical style he’d defined in the ’50s, shortly before he first discovered her. The two were talking about collaborating on an all-ballad album when Davis died the following year. Horn won her only Grammy for 1998’s “I Remember Miles,” dedicated to Davis. . .
Horn never pursued a career with the single-mindedness of such peers as Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Carmen McRae or Betty Carter — she simply wasn’t as driven or hard-nosed or forceful. But Horn’s records drew stellar guests, and she performed around the world as her health allowed. In the end, Shirley Horn’s life was much like her song: She got as much music as possible out of every precious note, and in so doing made each note that much more precious.
DEC 2007 – THE HOTEL WASHINGTON is going to be euthanized by the Starwood chain that is now managing the site and plans to call it W Hotel when it reopens in 2009. Aside from pleasant evenings on the roof, our memories include the day when Walter Washington announced in 1974 that he was running for mayor after serving as appointed mayor-commissioner. It was an impressive announcement but it was already clear he was headed for trouble for as we left the hotel, we found it surrounded with double-parked cars of supporters attending the news conference. A dutiful cop was placing parking tickets on each of the cars.
FROM THE HOTEL’S HISTORY
– Even as the hotel’s steel framework rose in September of 1917, President Woodrow Wilson reviewed District of Columbia troops marching down Pennsylvania Avenue on their way to war. In the ensuing years, parade after parade has passed the hotel’s door.
– Many, such as Vice President John Nance Garner, Justice Frank Murphy and Speaker of the House John McCormack chose The Hotel Washington as their residence while in office. A former employee recalls a time when fifty congressmen and five senators called the hotel home.
– Convening Shriners cantered through the hotel’s lobby on horseback celebrating the repeal of Prohibition.
– The National Turkey resided at The Hotel Washington each year on the night before he visited the White House on Thanksgiving
WASHINGTON AFRO – The Howard Theatre opened its doors in 1910. It was the nation’s first full-sized theater for African-American audiences and entertainers. The 1,200 seat theater was the height of entertainment when blacks could perform in white theaters, but could not attend as guests. . . . The popularity of the theater brought thousands of theatergoers into the area. The 1929 stock-market crash caused the theater to close its doors along with other businesses on the corridor. The theater re-opened in 1931, and continued its prominence until the beginning of integration in the 70s, but again faced closing.
GW UNIVERSITY – The 1930’s through the 1950’s brought jazz to its most heightened plateau at the Howard. For only 40 cents, a person could enjoy a cartoon, a newsreel, a movie, and a live performance. Such stars as Count Basie, Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Lena Horne, Billie Holiday, Cab Calloway, Ethel Waters, Nat King Cole, “Moms” Mabley, and Duke Ellington often contributed. These such acts brought unparalleled fame and prestige to the Howard. Despite the segregation laws and racial hostilities many whites frequented the Howard as well. In fact approximately 25% of the audience was white. . ..
The 1960’s, brought such new flavors like Motown music and soul, but also brought desegregation to the Howard. When Washington D.C. was fully desegregated in the early 1960’s, venues such as the Howard Theater lost their prior status. Virginia Ali, who is the co-owner of Ben’s Chili Bowl (a local establishment on U Street), commented on this in saying, “This was like black Chinatown. This was a segregated city…but once we became integrated, the professionals and businesses moved out and it (integration) brought in a different kind of people.”
PROGRESSIVE REVIEW – In 1910 the largest theater catering to a black audience, built with black capital, opened in Washington DC nearly two decades before the Apollo began offering black entertainment. For decades, the Howard would feature such acts as Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Cab Calloway, Ella Fitzgerald, Billy Eckstine, Sarah Vaughan and Lionel Hampton.
So important was this institution to a community isolated in segregation that students from nearby high schools would periodically cut class to attend an afternoon performance. “After recess, there wasn’t anybody at the school,” recalls Lillian Gordon, once a dancer at the Howard. On at least two occasions, a principal or assistant principal showed up at the Howard, halted the show, turned up the lights and ordered their charges back to class – one without saying a word, just pointing to the exit.
But as Elissa Silverman reported in the Washington Post, “The 1968 riots spurred a decline in the U Street corridor known as Black Broadway, and the Howard Theatre closed its doors two years later. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974. Comedian Redd Foxx and others attempted revivals but, for years, the building has remained vacant and crumbling. Now that the area around the Howard has been revitalized with condominiums, restaurants, and retail shops, developer Chip Ellis wants the Howard to come back to life, too.” Ellis, a black Washingtonian, has enlisted the programming aid of Blues Alley, one of America’s clubs that musicians like the most.
Last weekend your editor enjoyed an event pulled together by his social historian wife – Kathryn Smith, who co-chairs the Historical Society of Washington – at which more than 200 people gathered to hear anecdotes from the Howard’s past.
While many of the names and some of the stories were familiar to one who had been among the young white guys who also went there in the fifties, I was reminded again of the theater’s role in holding the community together. The Howard was part of a self-sufficiency the U Street area developed that moved the neighborhood beyond survival towards pride and growth. The theater also provided a shared story that cut across class in the community. Once when the Mill Brothers performed, the crowds were so large, they had to make T Street one way. Decades later, it still is.
Bertell Knox – a longtime drummer in the house band and later backup for Charlie Byrd – recalled how important the Howard band’s leader had considered dress. If you weren’t in ‘full tux’ you would have to provide a bottle of whiskey for the other members of the band. The players would look around to see which of the group had left on their brown socks as they rushed to get dress. The musicians were also role models for the young; Saxophonist George Botts remembered that it was how well the performers were dressed that made him think as a young man that this was the path he should follow. He did and would evetnually accompany Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Dinah Washington, Sarah Vaughan, Jimmy Witherspoon, Etta Jones, Redd Foxx, Betty Carter, T-Bone Walker, Benny Goodman, Anita O’Day, and John Coltrane, just to mention a few.
In a revealing way, the program became somewhat anarchistic towards the end. As some members of the audience were telling their stories, other spectators got up and started socializing in the back. A nice confirmation not only of the importance of this story, but of the importance of people having a place to tell their stories. Everyone owned a piece of the history.
One of the reasons that history feels dull to many is because it is so often confined to the past. Among the prices of literacy has been to imprison history in a timeline. In cultures dependent upon oral tradition, however, the past often become a partner of the present just as it did last weekend. It occurred to me while headed to the event that we are all history; it’s just that some people got a head start on us. And as I watched the young members of a jazz quartet that played for the event talking with the panelists, I wondered what stories they would tell a few decades down the road.
HUBBARD, L RON
L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology was once a George Washington University engineering student. His science fiction stories appeared in the college paper.
ADRIENNE WASHINGTON, WASHINGTON TIMES, 2006 – Nearly 50 years ago, Helen Woods of Omaha, Neb., gave her a daughter a red transistor radio. Little did she know that the 8-year-old girl, Catherine Liggins, would turn that tiny gift into a multimillion-dollar, multimedia business. From its meager beginnings 25 years ago in a trailer and “the tweety-bird, 1,000-watt [radio] station,” struggling to make ends meet in the one-story brown building at the corner of Fourth and H streets Northeast, Almic Broadcasting mushroomed into Radio One Inc. Now Cathy Liggins Hughes’ Lanham-based company is the seventh-largest broadcasting company in the nation with 71 stations in 22 markets and an estimated 14 million listeners weekly. . . “All I wanted to be was the first black woman in radio; the female version of [syndicated host] Tom Joyner,” Ms. Hughes said. “I didn’t know that [actress] Hattie McDaniel had already done it.” However, Ms. Hughes is most proud that “we went from 14 employees to 2,200, most of whom are African-American and women.” . . . Ms. Hughes created the smooth urban contemporary sound known as the “Quiet Storm,” with the late Melvin Lindsay as host, when she was an executive with Howard University’s WHUR-FM. The adult format is still popular, especially on Radio One’s flagship station here, WMMJ-FM (102.3). It features the wildly popular “Tom Joyner Morning Show.”
PATRICK J. MICHAELS IN WASHINGTON POST – The modern wind speed champion for our area is 1954’s Hurricane Hazel, which hit the North Carolina-South Carolina border as a Category 4 (out of 5) storm. Thanks to a kick from the jet stream, Hazel took a mere four hours to cross the Virginia border. Sustained winds topped out at 78 mph at both National Airport and Norfolk, and 68 mph at Richmond.
Just as the force sustained by a tree is the square of its area, the force that the wind exerts is the square of the speed. In general terms, Hazel was three times more powerful than Isabel [in 2003]. There were of course fewer households then, but if we adjust for the population increase since the 1960 Census,
Hazel’s downed trees and branches deprived only one-quarter as many people of power as did Isabel’s. Forty-eight hours after Hazel, only 30,000 were without electricity in the Washington area , or about 20 percent of those initially affected. By contrast, 48 hours after Isabel struck, 600,000, or 60 percent, were still out. Obviously, what Hazel put down was a lot easier to clean up. And Hazel was mopped up after without the aid of pneumatic cherry pickers or cell phone communications. . .
Forest ecologist D.R. Foster has studied the effect of hurricane winds on aging trees. By age 25, nearly 100 percent of all pines are knocked down, he found. . . In suburbia, our more widely spaced trees grow to unnaturally gargantuan proportions so that we can enjoy maximum shade. The math becomes obvious. A tree double its wild size will be felled by a wind of half the speed required to take one down in the woods. Consequently, the forests of Northern Virginia and suburban Maryland (and the even bigger trees in Richmond and the District) are pushovers, even for a weakling like Isabel.
HURSTON, ZORA NEALE Biography
Three major historic Irish neighborhoods were Georgtown, Foggy Bottom and Swampoodle. The Irish came early and worked mostly as laborers on projects such as the C&O Canal. A popular Georgetown neighborhood was called Wapping after the Dockland area of London. The Irish mainly lived below M Street, then called Bridge Street. Swampoodle, shanty town, was located around North Capitol Street including the area now occupied by two Irish bars, an Irish hotel and Gonzaga High School. There is still a notable Irish subculture in Capitol Hill as well. MORE
DUNCAN SPENCER, DC EXAMINER – Jack’s Boathouse, hidden from Water Street by leafy trees, clings to the banks of the Potomac below Key Bridge. It is forgotten and invisible to all but a few river rats and paddling enthusiasts, who know the owner, or the modest Web site or Terry Miller, the lady who helps out there. Or those who know that the damp little operation has been renting boats since 1945. Jack’s is now the only private boat business left on the Potomac in Washington – $15 an hour for a canoe or kayak, cash only please. . . [Frank] Baxter is a careful, friendly wisp of a man whose thin hair pokes out from beneath a worn baseball cap. He’s disinterested in plans for a “new” Georgetown waterfront. He used to go to planning meetings, he says, “but it was a waste of my time. . . These are not river people; they would rather be sitting at Clyde’s Bar than be out on the water.” As far as he’s concerned there is no pressure, not from the city and not from the U.S. Park Service which owns most of the land. “I’ve just got a sliver I got from my father, the rest is theirs,” he says. That “sliver,” the picnic area, may save him – or not. The Park Service offers only a month-to-month lease; it won’t negotiate for more.
AYLA KREMEN WASHINGTON TIMES August 8, 2006 – An alley in Dupont Circle is home to one of the biggest and largest natural monuments in the District — a 200-year-old American elm tree. The tree, which grows in an alley between Q and Corcoran streets off New Hampshire Avenue in Northwest, was planted more than 200 years ago behind a house owned by Andrew Jackson before he became president. It is about 90 inches in diameter and stands more than three stories tall. Now, the tree, known as the Jackson tree, is battling Dutch elm disease, a potentially fatal condition, and with the help and care of several nearby residents, the tree is beating the odds. The neighborhood spends nearly $3,000 a year managing and caring for the tree, said Earl Eutsler, an arborist for the D.C. Department of Transportation’s Urban Forestry Administration. During Jackson’s time, the area now known as Dupont Circle consisted mostly of farmland, a healthy environment for the tree to grow in. Today, the tree is rooted in an alley between two apartment buildings, so it is remarkable that it has lived for so long, Mr. Eutsler said. `. . Kathleen A. Lynch, president of the Corcoran Mews Condominium Association, said the tree is mainly taken care of by two residents. They pay for the pruning and the injections that the tree needs every other year to prevent the spread of Dutch elm disease. . . .Mr. Eutsler estimated that the tree has survived more than 100 hurricanes. Miss Lynch said the Jackson tree gets many visitors. “Sometimes you will look out of your window and you’ll see a whole crew standing underneath the tree lecturing,” she said. ”
MARC FISHER, WASHINGTON POST – [Hal] Jackson hungered to be on the radio. There were no broadcasts of Negro League games, so in 1939, Jackson went to WINX, then owned by The Washington Post, and made the case to the station manager for putting Grays games on the air. The manager told Jackson, matter-of-factly, “No [racial epithet] will ever go on this radio station.” Steaming, Jackson made his pitch to other stations in town, to no avail. He resolved to find a back door to his dream. Working incognito through a white advertising agency and a sponsor, Jackson bought the 11-11:15 p.m. slot on WINX for $35 a show. The station knew only that it was getting a news and sports interview show titled “The Bronze Review.” The white executives had no idea that “bronze” was then the classy term for “Negro.” On the show’s first night, Jackson and his guest, Mary McLeod Bethune, President Roosevelt’s director of Negro affairs, waited in a car outside the station until 15 minutes before airtime so management wouldn’t see who was coming. When Jackson and Bethune walked in, shocked staffers called the manager to stop the program. But he couldn’t be found, and the show, and many more, went on.
JAY STREET MYSTERY
MICHAEL FELDMAN’S Whad’ya Know may have solved a major local mystery: why DC doesn’t have a Jay Street. The guest was an author who had written about the history of letters and he pointed out that Noah Webster in 1828 was the first person to publish a dictionary with all 26 letters of the alphabet in it. The letter J was one of those that were frequently missing. Noah Webster came along several decades after Washington was laid out.
WIKIPEDIA – The letter J is the tenth of the Latin alphabet; it was the last to be added to that alphabet. . . . Only about .06% of letters in English, .22% in Spanish, and .29% in French on average are Js. It is the 24th-most frequent letter in English, the 23rd-most frequent in Spanish, and the 21st-most frequent in French. . . Some believe that Petrus Ramus (d. 1572) was the first to make a distinction between I and J. The differentiation was probably made first in Spanish though, where, from the very introduction of printing, we see j used for the consonant, and i only for the vowel. For the capitals, I had at first to stand for both (as it still does in German type, and in all varieties of Gothic or Black Letter); but before 1600 a capital J consonant began to appear in Spanish. . .
In England, individual attempts to differentiate i and j were made already in the 16th century, as by Richard Day, who printed books in London after 1578, and George Bishop, who printed the translation of La Primaudaye’s French Academie in 1586, with i, j, u, v, differentiated as in modern use, but had no capital J or U. The J j types are not used in the Bible of 1611, nor in the text of the Shakespeare Folio of 1623; these have I i for both values; but the latter has a capital Italic J in headlines in the proper names ohn, uliet, ulius, and in the colophon, list of actors, etc., thus showing a tendency to use this (in its origin merely an ornamental variety of I) as a J. . . .
But though the differentiation of I and J, in form and value, was thus completed before 1640, the feeling that they were, notwithstanding, merely forms of the same letter continued for many generations. . . In dictionaries, the I and J words continued to be intermingled in one series down to the 19th century. Dr. Johnson, indeed, under the letter I, says “I is in English considered both as a vowel and consonant; though, since the vowel and consonant differ in their form as well as sound, they may be more properly accounted two letters”. . . .
SO FORGET ABOUT the Pierre L’Enfant hating John Jay myth; it’s more J was just a letter too few people knew or cared about.
JOLSON – The man we know as Al Jolson, was born Asa Yoelson in the 1880s. (There were no birth certificates in those days although the year is generally accepted to have been 1885. He chose May 26th as his birthday because he liked the idea of being born in spring). He emigrated with his family from their native villlage of Srednik in Russian Lithuania and settled in Washington DC [in Southwest on 4 1/2 Street]. His mother died when he was nine, an event which haunted him throughout the rest of his life, and he and his elder brother defied their cantor father and ran away from home to seek their fortunes on the fringes of show business. . . During the last years of the Spanish-American War, Al Jolson and his brother Harry, who had been performing as singing waiters on Potomac excursion boats, performed for the soldiers at Fort Meyer, among other military camps in the Capitol area.
We are the Joy Boys of radio,
We chase electrons to and fro. .