MICHAEL HUFFINGTON, WASHINGTON POST – [Franklin Kameny] launched Washington’s gay rights movement in the early 1960s with no backing other than his own brains and lung power. He declared his homosexuality a God-given blessing. He provided legal assistance to gay servicemen and women. He insisted that gay people speak for themselves and resist being pathologized by psychiatrists and entrapped by police. To each battle he brought the sharp, critical eye of a Harvard-trained scientist.
He co-founded the Mattachine Society of Washington in 1961 and the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance in 1971. He led the first gay protest at the White House in 1965, fought employment discrimination in federal government service and helped persuade the American Psychological Association to stop classifying homosexuality as an illness in 1973. . .
LIBRARY OF CONGRESS – Banned from federal employment in 1957 solely because he was homosexual, Franklin Edward Kameny became an angry archivist. Not only did the Harvard Ph.D. astronomer protest his firing from the U.S. Army Map Service, but he also became the central figure in the confrontation against the federal government’s policies barring the employment of gays and lesbians, particularly in positions linked to national security. And Kameny saved every piece of paper documenting that struggle.
A self-described “pack rat,” Kameny collected thousands of pages of letters, government correspondence, testimony, photographs and other memorabilia. The collection is perhaps the most complete record of the gay-rights movement in America.
Kameny’s archives [now in the Library of Congress] document his own biography and his struggle to retain his civil service status after federal personnel officials found out he was gay; Kameny’s assistance to other individuals in similar situations; the early decades of the Mattachine Society of Washington, an early gay-rights organization; and the broader gay-rights movement, such as a national campaign to modify the American Psychiatric Association’s view that homosexuality was a manifestation of mental illness.
Kamany was fired in response to his 1957 arrest on charges of homosexuality and in compliance with a 1953 executive order banning homosexuals from the U.S. Army. His dossier entered FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover’s files for “sexual deviants.”
Because the federal government had cost him his job, Kameny sued the government in federal court. He lost and appealed all the way to the Supreme Court, which in 1961 refused to hear his case.
So Kameny formed the Mattachine Society of Washington, and began an organized campaign against federal employment laws he believed were unfair to gay men and lesbians. He stated his views in newsletters he sent to members of Congress and to the president, in position papers and in testimony before Congress.
Kameny waged a long campaign to get the American Psychiatric Association to change its equation of homosexuality with mental illness. Dudley Clendinen, a former New York Times columnist and co-author of “Out for Good: The Struggle to Build a Gay Rights Movement in America,” has told about a 1971 spring meeting of the association in the Shoreham Hotel off Connecticut Avenue. Thirty men ran up the aisle and hustled the guest speaker off the stage. Kameny, who was sitting in the front row, grabbed the microphone. “Psychiatry is the enemy incarnate,” roared the small man with the deep, booming voice.
Kameny carried picket signs in front of the White House and various federal agencies, ran for public office, and corresponded regularly with the U.S. Civil Service Commission.
On Feb. 25, 1966, U.S. Civil Service Commission Chairman John W. Macy Jr. responded in a letter addressed to the Mattachine Society. He made clear the commission’s position: “Persons about whom there is evidence that they have engaged in or solicited others to engage in homosexual or sexually perverted acts with them, without evidence of rehabilitation, are not suitable for Federal employment.”
Ever-persistent in his effort to have the rules changed, Kameny prevailed. One day in June 1975 he received a phone call from the Office of General Counsel at the Civil Service Commission: “The government has decided to change its policy to suit you,” Kameny was informed.
Kameny was subsequently invited to the commission to review its employment policy.
ADAM BERNSTEIN, WASHINGTON POST – The Key’s midnight weekend viewings of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” (1975) also brought in a steady audience. For years, “Rocky Horror” ticket buyers lined up in garish makeup and costumes, the customary attire to celebrate the cult film. French entertainer Yves Montand flew in from France to promote “Jean de Florette” and “Manon of the Spring.” Waters, the Baltimore-born filmmaker, came with his transvestite star Divine to the premiere of “Polyester” (1981), which was accompanied by a klieg light show. That caused some trouble. “We had traffic blocked on Wisconsin Avenue for two hours,” [owner David] Levy said. “And we got a call from National Airport telling us the lights were disturbing the airplanes coming in. Howard Stern was the DJ at [radio station DC] 101, and they did a live remote. And no one cared about Stern. Everyone was gaga for Divine and Waters.” . . . Both theaters were casualties of home video, rising real estate prices in tony Georgetown and competition from larger, corporately owned theaters for booking rights.
LOUIE ESTRADA WASHINGTON POST – Larry Krebs, 81, one of Washington’s last old-school gumshoe newshounds who was perhaps best known for being the only cameraman at the Tidal Basin the night a powerful congressman and a striptease artist landed in hot water, died Feb. 11 2004 at Sibley Memorial Hospital of complications after a stroke. He was a Washington resident. For more than a half-century, Mr. Krebs roamed the city streets as a television cameraman and radio reporter covering the night police beat for WMAL-AM radio and WJLA (Channel 7). He became an institution among the police officers and firefighters whom he befriended and the reporters of competitive media outlets he often scooped. . . He kept three police scanners humming next to the driver’s seat of his two-door 1976 Pontiac, which he habitually parked at a gas station on Wisconsin Avenue until he was off to the next story. In the trunk of his car were tape recorders, radios, more scanners, road flares and other equipment that he freely lent to police officers and firefighters. He also provided them with a thermos of coffee and boxes of doughnuts, said John Matthews, news director at WMAL.
JOSH MANKIEWICZ, NBC – Because of the hours he kept, Larry knew just about every cop in town, which frequently comes in handy when mayhem is your beat… Dawn was breaking in the nation’s capital, but it had been an unusually bloodless evening, and Larry had nothing to show for a night of cruising the streets. Just then, he heard on the scanner that the DC police had fished a floater out of the Potomac. Larry floored it, but he was too far away. He arrived at the scene seconds after the cops had dragged the body out of the water and onto the bank.
When Larry saw that, he practically began to weep. He told the cops how he was kicking himself, how he was all the way out on the outskirts of town when he got the call, how he ran all those red lights getting there, how he hadn’t shot any worthwhile film all night. Acccording to legend, Larry clutched his hands over his bald head as if he were in terrible pain. It may have been an act, but it worked.
The cops looked at Larry. The cops looked at each other. The cops looked at the sodden corpse at their feet. Then, without a word, they scooped up the body and threw it back into the Potomac. Larry whipped out his film camera and shot some grainy black and white film of the dramatic scene as DC’s Finest waded into the river and brought the body up onto the bank. We probably led with it at 6.
The last time I saw Larry was after I had been gone from Washington for several years. I had returned to visit my parents, and one day when I pulled into a gas station to fill up Dad’s car before I headed to the airport, I realized the station I had chosen had obviously just been robbed. A police cruiser was parked under the canopy, and two officers were interviewing the owner. Knowing this would take some time, I turned to leave, and suddenly before me stood Larry, in his black raincoat and matching hat.
“Josh, it was a Mutt and Jeff team,” said Larry, as if we’d spoken earlier that day and not five or six years ago. “The big one is six-four, two-twenty. The other guy’s smaller, maybe five-eight. The gun’s a nickel-plated thirty-eight.”
GARY GRIFFITH, WEST END GUIDE – Larry La, the owner of Meiwah, the upscale Chinese restaurant at 1200 New Hampshire Avenue in the West End, seems to know everyone. . . Half the U.S. Senate, including Hillary Clinton, seem to be here on the walls, shaking hands with La. “I’m a news junkie,” La says. “I can recognize about 90 members of the Senate by sight.”
Ethnically Chinese, but born in Vietnam, La came to the United States as a refugee in 1980. “You remember the Boat People?” he asks. “I was one of them.” He learned English in the small town of Erwin, Tennessee, and studied business administration at East Tennessee State University. . .
A businessman, not a cook, his first restaurant was the popular City Lights of China on Connecticut Avenue in Dupont Circle, which he opened in 1987. Located in a basement (one review said its decor looked like a bathroom), it wasn’t much to look at, but the food was cheap and good, and the place had a following.
La’s first major brush with celebrity came there, in 1994, when Mick Jagger and his entourage went to the restaurant while they were in town for the beginning of their world tour. La sold City Lights in 1998 and opened Meiwah in February 2000. In Chinese, Mei means America and Wah, China.
LANGSTON GOLF COURSE
GOLF COURSE SPECIALISTS – Langston Golf Course is significant for its symbolic association with the development and desegregation of public golfing and recreational facilities in the greater Washington, D.C. area and with the growth of golf as a popular recreational and professional sport for African Americans. It served as a focal point for efforts to encourage the development of golfing facilities for African American players during the first half of the 20th century, and subsequently, to ensure equal access to, and equal quality of recreational facilities operated by the National Park Service. Langston is the home course of the Royal Golf Club and the Wake Robin Golf Club, the nation’s first golf clubs for African American men and women, respectively. Among the many famous Americans that have played at Langston Golf Course are Joe Louis, Duke Ellington, and a host of other prominent individuals from the public and private sectors.
The seeds of discontent that forced Langston Golf Course into being can be traced at least back to the late 1880s when golf had a resurgence in the U.S. A new type of golf club emerged here; the private golf and country club as opposed to the public links found in Scotland. This had the interesting effect of producing many excellent black golfers who learned the game by caddying at these clubs and playing on Mondays when these clubs were traditionally closed so the ‘help’ could play golf. These caddies became teachers of the game to many white players, but had no place to play regularly.
The first American born golf professional was an Afro-American, John Shippen, born in Washington, D.C. (in the Hillsdale section of Anacostia) in 1879. John moved with his missionary parents to the Shinnecock Indian reservation on Long Island, New York. Young John Shippen was hired to help construct a new golf course next to the reservation around 1890. The newly formed United States Golf Association selected the Shinnecock Hills golf course as the site for the second U.S. Open. In between he served as golf instructor for the Citizens Golf Club in Washington, D.C. from 1921 to 1927. He was involved in the formation of the Capital City Golf Club along with his brother, Cyrus.
This club, which became the Royal Golf Club in 1930, pushed for a golf course for the black population in the District. A small, very unsatisfactory course was built in the area of the Lincoln Memorial, known as the “dust bowl.” Several attempts by club members at playing the East Potomac Park golf course were met with very negative results. Golfers from the men’s Royal golf club and the newly formed Wake Robin women’s golf club persuaded the Secretary of Interior, Harold Ickes, to “have constructed specifically for people of color” by the National Park Service the only golf course built with federal funds for this purpose. Langston Golf Course (named for John Mercer Langston, the first Afro-American to serve in the U.S. Congress for the state of Virginia ) opened its first nine holes in 1939 to great fanfare. When the golf course opened there were some 5,209 golf facilities in the United States; fewer than 20 were open to Blacks. Langston was built on a landfill, probably also a first. Unfortunately, the landfill operation continued until the second nine was built in the early 50’s and opened in 1954. The landfill has caused many problems over the years and continues to do so.
SAM SMITH, JUNE 2003 – Last weekend my lawyer, George la Roche, crossed over. I say ‘my lawyer’ despite the fact he only handled one case for me and I was just one of 20 clients in the matter. But when a guy sues Bill Clinton and the U.S. Congress for you and the case goes all the way to the Supreme Court, the attorney-client relationship gets pretty close.
George also taught philosophy for awhile, so when I was writing my book “Why Bother?” – in which I practiced some philosophy without a license – I ran it by George first and he told me just what was right and wrong. I could see he had been a good teacher, too and I wondered how many people get a lawyer and a philosopher in one package?
George had a rare blend of precision and passion. As the circumstances required, he could make you stop and think about it or stop thinking about it and actually do something.
The law suit was an example of the latter. George had discovered a new legal approach to the disgrace of our national capital’s colonial status and he went looking for some representative clients to press the case. Which is how I found myself in a marvelously variegated collection of plaintiffs suing the president and the Congress for a little common decency.
Because the case involved reapportioning the Congress, it was heard by a special three judge court, before whom George laid out a problem that no one had noticed before: approximately one-third of the land area of the United States is owned and administered by the United States under the same section of the Constitution that controls the District of Columbia. Only the residents of DC, one of 10,000 federal enclaves, are denied fully citizenship. Congress might have exclusive jurisdiction over such enclaves but that did not give it the right to discriminate against some of them. Argued LaRoche:
“When you look at the map you will see in Florida, in the panhandle of Florida, a place called Eglin Air Force Base. Eglin Air Force Base is a federal enclave. You can fit ten Districts of Columbia inside Eglin Air Force Base. At the height of the Vietnam war close to 150,000 people lived in Eglin Air Force Base, and they were not citizens of the state of Florida. They had no right to vote for anyone. Now the people who live there, if they choose, can be citizens of Florida. Under a federal statute they can keep their home state citizenship, but they are citizens of states one way or the other.
“Now, the federal government clearly has an interest in Eglin Air Force Base. They do very, very critical testing of weaponry there. The federal government has an interest in [the National Institutes of Health enclave.] They test for diseases there that threaten the entire country. But what interests does the federal government have in the church of [plaintiff] Anita O’Bryan, which is located six blocks from the Capitol? What interests does the federal government have in the living room of [plaintiff] Laurie Murray?
“One of the plaintiffs, Rehane Jenkins, lives on Southern Avenue. He can throw a hat across the street into Maryland where people have full rights of citizenship. If you were not familiar with the neighborhood and you were standing on this street and didn’t know where you were and somebody said, ‘the District of Columbia is on one side of you and Maryland is on the other,’ you couldn’t tell which side would be which.
“The federal government has no interests in saying Rehane Jenkins has no rights of citizenship, but the people who live 30 yards away can vote for members of Congress, can vote for governor of Maryland, can run for Congress, and can run for state government. Rehane Jenkins can run across the street to Maryland but he cannot run for congress.
“Our case presents the challenge that Congress can no longer maintain this status quo. The Congress must withdraw its hands from the District of Columbia, to free the District of Columbia to go wither it may.
“Now, by my reading of the Constitution there are two alternatives. The District of Columbia could become a state or it could become part of a state. Either of those would remove the problems that are presented in [our case].
“Those are both dramatically, pervasively, thoroughly fundamentally political questions. It is for the citizens of the District of Columbia to decide which of those alternatives they choose. But this court can decide one much more critical and initial thing. Can the status quo be maintained? We have shown the court in uncontroverted evidence that there is absolutely no reason whatsoever, much less a compelling governmental reason, for Congress to maintain the status quo. It must be restrained and its instruments which restrain it must be removed from the District.”
After George spoke, the judges had all of four questions, not one of them hostile.
But George was not the only lawyer in the federal courtroom that day, for the entire liberal legal establishment of the capital colony had not only declined to help in his case, key members had rushed to concoct a competing case that sought nothing more than representation in Congress – practically speaking one member of the House. It was a terribly weak case – essentially saying the current situation wasn’t fair, which was true enough but not much of a legal argument. Further, even if it were successful DC would still remain a colony.
The judges had conveniently combined the two cases. Further, someone had called the police and said our supporters were going to cause a disturbance. I walked into the courthouse that morning past a row of cops who looked like they were expecting the Black Bloc to show up and instead just got a few hundred local citizens coming to find out whether the American justice system would finally apply to them. With me was a black minister, the Reverend Graylan Hagler. As we walked past the cops and through the doors, a US Marshal approached. “Can I help you?” Graylan said we were looking for the cafeteria. The marshall pointed the way and then said, “Reverend, I’ve been to your church. In fact one of my men is on your vestry. Let’s go bless him.” The pair disappeared, and I headed for the coffee and my co-plaintiffs. We were shortly joined by the marshal who shook hands with everyone and asked if he could help. In such offbeat ways do the real politics of a colony sometimes reveal themselves: a bunch of liberal lawyers upstairs undermining freedom in the courtroom while a US Marshall downstairs in the cafeteria tries to give it a hand.
George did his best, but the court eventually ruled 2 to 1 against both cases. It took an inordinate amount of time doing so, suggesting that the judges had been thoroughly boggled by George’s arguments. They finally figured out what to do: they addressed only the trivialities of the representation case and said nothing at all about ours.
George took the matter to the Supreme Court, which – again because of the reapportionment of Congress issue – had to consider the matter, but not necessarily hear it. The Court turned us down as well. In a last note to one of the plaintiffs, Lea Adams, he wrote:
“The fight isn’t over yet, but I’m in no condition to take the lead right now. . . I got into this sort of work because of a deep religious conviction that it was my ‘calling’ and I will continue to answer that call until no voice is left in my throat and no wiggle is left in my typing fingers.”
UNIVERSITY OF MD ALUMNI ASSN – Munro Leaf, author and illustrator of dozens of children’s books, [who spent his childhoos in DC] is best remembered for his signature character, Ferdinand, the Spanish bull who preferred smelling flowers to fighting in a ring in Spain. One Sunday afternoon in 1935, Leaf decided to write a children’s story so that his close friend Robert Lawson (a relatively unknown illustrator) could show his talents. In less than one hour, Leaf composed the beloved 800-word story as it stands today, nearly 60 years later.
When published by Viking in 1936 as The Story of Ferdinand, the book sparked controversy. With the Spanish Civil War waging, political critics charged it was a satirical attack on aggression. In Germany, Hitler order the book burned while fellow dictator Stalin granted it privileged status as the only non-communist children’s book allowed in Poland. And India’s spiritual leader Ghandi called it his favorite book. In spite of the notoriety, the nation embraced the peaceable bull.
That same year, Leaf published his second most popular book, Manners Can Be Fun, illustrated with the notorious “watchbird” stick figures who observe the behavior of boys and girls. Since Leaf’s death in 1976 at age 71, Ferdinand continues to charm children worldwide as the simple story is retold in more than 60 language translations.
DC EXPRESS – In 1976, a car bombing in Sheridan Circle killed Allende’s foreign minister, Orlando Letelier, and Ronni Moffitt, his American assistant at the Institute for Policy Studies. Moffitt’s husband, Michael, survived the explosion. A small monument on the southeast side of the circle marks the spot where the two were killed. From the Transnational Institute’s Letelier archive on the car bombing:
“As the car passes the Chilean embassy, there is a buzzing sound inside. Then a flash. A tremendous explosion. Michael finds himself, dazed, outside the car as it crashes to a halt, colliding with a VW illegally parked in front of the Irish embassy. He assists his wife, Ronni, her face blackened. She walks a few steps. He assumes she is safe. Orlando is pinned under the car. Michael tries to pull the wreckage from him. The Executive Protection Service direct traffic. Michael sees that Orlando’s legs have been severed. He appears barely conscious and in great pain. More police and ambulances arrive. Much confusion ensues. A nurse is assisting Ronni. At the hospital Orlando dies quickly. Ronni’s carotid artery has been severed and she drowns in her own blood 20 minutes after Orlando dies.”
ADAM BERNSTEIN, WASHINGTON POST – S. David Levy, 67, who helped found the Biograph Theatre and was co-owner of the Key Theatre, which kept alternative cinema alive in Washington for decades, died Sept. 15 at Washington Hospital Center. He had chronic leukemia for more than 20 years. . . With his four partners, including two lawyers, he founded the Biograph at 2819 M St. NW in what was once an auto salesroom. The Biograph’s focus on classic and foreign films, often shown in repertory, made the business an instant favorite for cinephiles. For years, it was one of the few places where they could find films by Jean Renoir, Jean-Luc Godard and Francois Truffaut. The old Circle Theater was the only competition. . .
Mr. Levy, who handled booking at the Biograph, began scouting for an opportunity to work for himself. In late 1973, he and his wife bought the Key, a one-screen theater at 1222 Wisconsin Ave. NW. They eventually expanded the Key to four screens to show classics, early films by John Waters and first-run foreign fare. . .
The Key’s midnight weekend viewings of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” (1975) also brought in a steady audience. For years, “Rocky Horror” ticket buyers lined up in garish makeup and costumes, the customary attire to celebrate the cult film. French entertainer Yves Montand flew in from France to promote “Jean de Florette” and “Manon of the Spring.”
Waters, the Baltimore-born filmmaker, came with his transvestite star Divine to the premiere of “Polyester” (1981), which was accompanied by a klieg light show. That caused some trouble.
“We had traffic blocked on Wisconsin Avenue for two hours,” Mr. Levy said. “And we got a call from National Airport telling us the lights were disturbing the airplanes coming in. Howard Stern was the DJ at [radio station DC] 101, and they did a live remote. And no one cared about Stern. Everyone was gaga for Divine and Waters.” . . .
Both theaters were casualties of home video, rising real estate prices in tony Georgetown and competition from larger, corporately owned theaters for booking rights.
Mr. Levy also cited media influence, especially Washington Post editors who he said rarely seemed interested in what he was showing. “You have to fight to get covered,” he said. “If you can’t get the ink, it’s hard to get people to come to the movies.”
SINCLAIR LEWIS spent some time in DC after college as he described: “I drifted for two years after college as a journalist, as a newspaper reporter in Iowa and in San Francisco, as – incredibly – a junior editor on a magazine for teachers of the deaf, in Washington, D.C. The magazine was supported by Alexander Graham Bell, inventor of the telephone. What I did not know about teaching the deaf would have included the entire subject, but that did not vastly matter, as my position was so insignificant that it included typing hundreds of letters every week begging for funds for the magazine and, on days when the Negro janitress did not appear, sweeping out the office.”
BROTHERS JUDD – Sinclair Lewis was the great liberal critic of small town, bourgeois Middle America. His novels demonstrated the small-minded conformity of the conservative folk of the Midwest, content to wallow in smug self-righteous ignorance. . . The satire extends not just to the town folk of Gopher Prairie, but to the city folk of Washington too. Thus, when Carol Kennicott decides to return home, I did not see it as necessarily a surrender. She notes several times that no one in Washington cares about her, the way the townspeople back in Minnesota did. This seems to me to be the fundamental dilemma that Lewis sets up: Main Street requires conformity to tradition and social standards in exchange for recognition, respect and love from one’s neighbors, the City offers freedom and individuality precisely because there’s no one there who cares about you or what you do.
MONKEY NOTES – Carol finds employment in the Bureau of War Risk Insurance in Washington. It is not very elevating work but she feels that her contact with the anxieties of men and women all over the country was a part of vast affairs. She realizes that she can do the office work and her housework as well. She also feels that without interference housework, took very little time. She enjoys looking at the buildings in Washington. . .
Vida’s letter helps her to make the acquaintance of the Tincomb Methodist Church members. She finds the church to be another Main Street with the Sunday school, Sunday service and the church suppers of scalloped potatoes and gingerbread. They give advice just as the matrons did back home. Carol considers joining the militant suffrage organization and going to jail.
Guy Pollock’s cousin who is a temporary Army Captain takes Carol to tea dances. He introduces her to the secretary of a congressman. Through her Carol gets to meet commanders, newspapermen, fiscal experts and a teacher who knows the people in the suffrage movement headquarters. Through her, Carol gets the task of addressing envelopes of the suffrage movement and the friendly women include her in their group. They sometimes get mobbed and arrested. They also take dancing lessons and go for picnics and discuss politics when they are free. . .
She finds the young girls in Washington more fashionable and more knowledgeable than she was at their age. She admires the men who are very easy going and confidant. They accept the company of women naturally, without the embarrassed banter as the men did in Gopher Prairie.
She finds a group of ladies who think and feel like her. They too consider towns like Gopher Prairie to be boring and make a comfortable living in Washington. They even find time to read. Through them she learns about many prairie towns and realizes that in comparison Gopher Prairie appeared to be more colorful and intellectual.
Carol revels in the freedom she experiences in Washington. She finds housework to be less tedious when she is not interrupted. She enjoys free Sundays and also the freedom of not having to give an account to Kennicott At last she feels that she is “no longer one-half of a marriage but the whole of a human being”. She also discovers that the world outside Gopher Prairie did not need her inspiration. She finds her work of filing correspondence and dictating letters to be monotonous.
The buildings of Washington are beautiful and she loves walking past them trying to imagine the people they housed. She realizes that Gopher Prairie lacked this element of mystery. In her free time she finds Negro shanties turned into studios and marble houses with butlers and limousines. Her days pass very swiftly. In the midst of the big city she finds people seeking their own kind and bonding to retain their small town ideas intact. The members of the Tincomb Church are suspicious of flippant newspapermen and infidel scientists. She finds the same dullness of Gopher Prairie in many people of Washington. . . She is also lucky enough to find many people who do not confirm to the small town ideas. She considers herself to be fortunate to be in the company of the suffrage movement activists.
REGINA LEE, AP – [A] “trombone shout band,” similar to a gospel brass band, has staked out sidewalks across the District of Columbia for more than two decades. Noise complaints forced it to move from Georgetown to various street corners in Dupont Circle. The 32 musicians are from the United House of Prayer for All People in Northwest. A rotating group of about a dozen plays south of Dupont Circle in Northwest Washington each Monday, Tuesday and Friday night this summer. Though the members call their musical talent a “God-given gift,” few spectators realize the band’s religious mission. . . The sound of the Lively Stones has been compared to New Orleans jazz, but band members call it a unique and spontaneous mix of gospel, jazz, reggae and blues. . .
DC LIBRARY – Alain Locke played an influential role in identifying, nurturing, and publishing the works of young black artists during the New Negro Movement. His philosophy served as a strong motivating force in keeping the energy and passion of the Movement at the forefront. Ernest Mason explains that “much of the creative work of the period was guided by the ideal of the New Negro which signified a range of ethical ideals that often emphasized and intensified a higher sense of group and social cohesiveness. . . The writers. . . literally expected liberation. . . from their work and were perhaps the first group of Afro-American writers to believe that art could radically transform the artist and attitudes of other human beings.” . . .
Alain LeRoy Locke was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, as the only child of Pliny Ishmael Locke and Mary Hawkins Locke. . . After graduating from Harvard, he studied for three years (1907-1910) at Oxford University in England as the first black Rhodes Scholar. Upon his graduation from Oxford, he spent one year pursing advanced work in philosophy at the University of Berlin.
Alain Locke began his career at Howard University in 1912 as an Assistant Professor of English and Philosophy. His tenure was briefly broken in 1916 when he left to pursue his doctorate degree at Harvard University, eventually receiving that degree in 1918. Locke returned to Howard University in 1918 as Professor of Philosophy and remained at the University until he retired in 1952.
Locke’s involvement with the Renaissance touched a number of areas. Not only was he involved with the visual arts and literature, but he was directly involved with the theatre movement through his association with the Theatre Arts Monthly, the Howard University Players . . .
PETER SEFTON has a wonderful website memorializing DC’s lost of vanishing vintage buildings. Particularly striking are the photos of some of the buildings lost just last year. . . MAIN PAGE. . . DISAPPEARING DISTRICT. . . WHERE DC DRANK. . . BILLIE HOLIDAY IN DC
WIKIPEDIA – Ian MacKaye (b. April 16, 1962) is an American musician, probably best known as the singer for the highly influential bands Minor Threat, Embrace and Fugazi, and as one of the founders and owners (with drummer and artist Jeff Nelson) of Dischord Records, a Washington, D.C.-based hardcore label. . . MacKaye grew up in the Glover Park neighborhood of Washington and listened to mainstream hard rock before discovering punk music in 1976 when he saw The Cramps perform at nearby Georgetown University. . .
The song “Straight Edge” was written by MacKaye for his band, Minor Threat, and was released in 1981 on Minor Threat’s self-titled EP. It was a song that described a life free of the “drugs” part of the “sex, drugs and rock’n roll” banner originating as a rebellion in the 1960s – smoking, drinking, and drug use – to what wasn’t socially tolerated previously. It began to influence youth culture as Minor Threat gained popularity through numerous live shows and through sales of the song on their EP. Although to MacKaye the song did not represent a philosophy or a movement, over time people adopted the philosophy of the song and many bands began to label themselves straight edge, founding the straight edge movement.
COURTLAND MILLOY, WASHINGTON POST, 1980 – The doorbell rang. Odessa Madre, 73, creaked slowly to the foyer and parked her walking stick at the door.
“Yes, ma’am, Miss Madre, I’m prepared to make you an offer,” he said. He was young and well-dressed. He carried a calculator and a Polaroid camera. He wanted the house. “Seventy-five thousand dollars — cash,” he offered for her spacious five-bedroom home in Northwest Washington.
“Please, come in. Have somep’n t’ eat,” the frail grandmotherly woman said kindly. Odessa Madre had just been released from prison and she was too tired to haggle much about money. Besides, she had left her teeth upstairs.
In the kitchen she mashed a panload of Jiffy muffins into two bowls of “stew.” She served one bowl to the real estate man. Then, to his obvious discomfort, she slid the other bowl across the floor to Hero, her dog.
“Now,” she said with a mischievous, toothless grin, “did you say $150,000 — or did you think I was born yesterday?”
It was vintage Madre — the disarming charming setup and biting quick wit that had made her one of the most prosperous and flamboyant hustlers who ever operated in the shadows of the nation’s Capitol.
“You don’ pull on Superman’s cape. You don’ spit into the wind,” Madre recited deftly. “You don’ tug the mask off the Lone Ranger and, baby, you don’ mess with Odessa, okay?” With that, the real estate man was gone.
“I may be old, and I may be ugly, but I ain’t dumb,” she said. “That’s why I was the ‘Queen.'”
Having spent much of her life in and out of Washington’s courtrooms and prisons for the last 48 years, Odessa Madre was finally back home — and singing. That was the one thing that the 1952 Senate Special Committee to Investigate Organized Crime in Interstate Commerce — headed by Sen. Estes Defauver — was unable to get her to do.
She had started at age 17, first swearing off men and calling herself a “black widow,” then spinning a web of jill joints, bawdy houses and numbers banks that eventually passed for “organized crime,” albeit in a down-home sort of way. She became the self-described queen of Washington’s underworld. . .
According to one police affidavit filed in U.S. District Court here in 1975, “She practices a resourceful and shrewd form of circumspection that has enabled her to survive and thrive in her illegal activities over the past 40 years.”. . .
Her arrest record dates back to 1932. She has been picked up 30 times on 57 charges since then, including a narcotics violation for which she spent seven years at the Federal Reformantory for Women in Alderson, W.Va.
When she was released from Alderson in 1968, she bought a $10,800 Lincoln Continental with “MADRE) license plates. Then, in 1977, she was again sentenced to prison for operating a $3,000-a-day numbers racket.
Released only a few months ago, she went out and bought a $21,000 Cadillac Seville — Pierre Cardin edition. . .
” In the close-knit neighborhood blacks and Irish played checkers for hours on end, exchanging laundry and midwives, and talking cows. Virtually all the Irishmen in Cowtown were city policemen — riding horses, walking and bicycling the beats of the District.
Odessa played with their children, friends like Tom Sweeney, Mac Mahoney, Pat O’Shea and James Barrett. And they would do battle together with the Italian and German children who lived on the other side of Georgia Avenue.
“Negroes and Irishmen got along real well,” Madre recalled. “They would fight amongst themselves, but we wouldn’t fight each other. If somebody outside Cowtown came to fight the Iris, the Negroes would chunk bricks at them. We were like a big happy family.”
Thus began a long and prosperous relationship with members of the Metropolitan Police Department. When Madre’s childhood friends grew up, they became captains, lieutenants and even superintendents in the police department, like their fathers. As the year passed and Madre became the notorious “Queen,” many of her childhood buddies couldn’t forget that she had once been their compatriot in the “Great Rock Chunkin’ Wars” against the Italian and German kids. . .
She was also friendly with the destitute of the Shaw neighborhood. Small kids playing on the street near her house often would be rewarded with cash for “being good children.” When the “boosters” — shoplifters — stopped by her house to sell their booty, she would sometimes put in a special order for children’s clothes. When the boosters returned, she had the clothes wrapped and sent out as gifts.
NAFEESA SYEED, GEORGETOWN HOYA – Unlike other eminent black Georgetown residents, such as scientist Benjamin Banneker and mathematician Thomas Fuller, the story of this once-famous former slave goes virtually untold. . . [Yarrow] Mamout was brought to the United States by way of the African slave trade. Some sources say Guinea was his homeland. Because he may have used a lunar calendar to count his age, he told [painter Charles Willson] Peale that he was 134 years old when they met in 1819, which meant he would have likely arrived at the Annapolis, Md., slave port at age 35.
Peale conferred with the widow of Mamout’s owner, known only as “Mr. Bell,” who said that a Captain Dow brought Mamout from Africa when he was about 14 years old. . . The widow remembered Mamout as always “an industrious hard working man” who had loyally served them for years at their plantation on the banks of the Potomac. According to David Warden, who wrote “A Chorographical and Statistical Description of the District of Columbia” in 1816 – a document in the Peabody collection – the young Mamout was “the best swimmer ever seen on the Potomac.”
When Bell decided to build a spacious house in Georgetown, he told Mamout that if he diligently made all the bricks he would be granted his freedom. After arduous work, Mamout made all the bricks. But his owner died before construction of the house began. In spite of this, Bell’s widow, “knowing the design of her husband,” decided to honor her husband’s word. . .
Working various roles, he managed to save $100, which he “considered a fortune” according to Warden. He entrusted the money to a merchant, who later died, and with no written claim he lost it all. Again, he toiled. By day he labored for fixed wages, and by night he weaved nets and baskets to sell. Again, he saved $100 within a few years. Again, he entrusted the money to a Georgetown merchant, who later went bankrupt. Again, he lost all that he accrued. He was steadfast.
Working different jobs and selling goods from a cart, he amassed another fortune, this time of $200. A friend described the banking system, and he signed on as one of the first shareholders of the Columbia Bank. Finally, his money and status were secure. . . Today the National Park Service’s tour of black Georgetown has his house location listed as site No. 9, along the block 3330-3332 of Dent Place.
The Historic Washington list has been discussing the city’s hidden manufacturing past. A few selections:
– The Washington Post was located at 13th & E Sts NW
– Ford built an automobile assembly plant on Pennsylvania Ave in 1915 This allowed for quicker delivery of automobiles in the spring and reduced potential for damage in shipping. [Matthew Gilmore]
– My favorite is the old White Cross bakery in the 600 block of S Street, NW that at one time in the 1940s produced 100,000 Hostess Cakes a day. The building remains (vacant since 1988), and is often incorrectly referred to as the Wonder bread factory. . . According to a Washington Star article on August 9, 1953, the 17 major bakeries in Washington provided jobs for 3,000 workers and were considered the largest processing industry in the city at the time. Washington residents then enjoyed approximately 300,000 pounds of bread each day. [Paul K Williams]
– DC’s first major manufacturing concern was the Columbia Foundry, established by Henry Foxall at the foot of Foundry Branch in Georgetown in 1800. [Jane Donovan]
– The former importance of printing (the GPO and private), which is a form of manufacturing. Don’t forget newspaper printing by the dailies.
– The Navy Yard [Sam Smith]
– Fleischmann’s yeast was manufactured on the 300 block of F Street NE. And steel for a time on the Potomac, to support the gun factories at the Navy Yard. . . . Cars were manufactured by the Donohoe Family on the 200 block of PA Ave. SE. [Richard Layman]
– “Business men of Washington, from the small merchant to the big capitalist, were enthusiastic over the future manufacturing possibilities of the District, when they read in The Post yesterday of the proposed establishment of the $5,000,000 plant of the Firth Sterling Steel Company, the largest private industrial concern ever located at the National Capital.” [Washington Post, Dec 24, 1905]
“As early as 1830, an omnibus line ran between Georgetown and the Navy Yard, connecting the city’s two waterfront communities. This east-west route through the city provided transportation for residents, particularly workers heading to the shipbuilding and later ordnance manufacturing center at the Navy Yard – the city’s largest employer throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries.” – [Historic Preservation Review Board]
DC GAZETTE, NOVEMBER 22, 1970 – The Public Safety Committee of the [DC] City Council held two days of hearings this month to hear scientific and public testimony about marijuana. Most of what it heard was expectable: scientifically, marijuana is a mild conscious-altering drug; it is not addictive, nor does it lead to the use of addicting drugs; it has been known and used and studied for literally thousands of years, and no physiological damage whatsoever has been discovered; instances of adverse mental effects from its use are extremely rare.
Most significant to the council’s hearing — and to a good number of kids who are in prison on pot convictions — was the fact, reiterated by Surgeon General Jesse L. Steinfeld, that “in the case of marijuana, legal penalties were originally assigned with total disregard for medical and scientific evidence of the properties of the drug or its effects. I know of no clearer instance in which the punishment for infraction of the law is more harmful than the crime.” . . .
[Activist Petey] Greene “testified” on behalf of his grandmother, whose opinions on marijuana are based on practical experience. She once told her grandson to quit: “Petey, you gotta stop smoking those reefers because they make you too hungry, and I can’t buy all that extra food. Later, on comparing its effects with those of alcohol, “She said she’d rather me smoke reefers and just sit and smile at people than drink that old wine and come in throwing chairs around. ” . . .
The testimony of representatives of the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs was notable for its meekness. Although the narcs still refer to marijuana as a killer drug before high school audiences, and still try to imply that pot inevitably and immediately leads to heroin, and still pass out 1930’s posters of marijuana as the Grim Reaper — they backed off under Council questioning. The narc’s Dr. Milton Joffe even allowed that although “legalizing simply for hedonistic purposes” was not warranted, “I’m not against pleasure. . .
Judge Charles Halleck recommended more realistic penalties, since present laws tend to cause the community “to lose faith in the entire system of justice.” James H. Heller of the National Capital Area Civil Liberties Union called for the legalization of pot. He said he saw no reason that it should be treated any different from alcohol. (He admitted to having tried grass once, “but it didn’t have any effect.” “Maybe you just didn’t know how to smoke it,” Councilwoman Polly Shackleton consoled him) . . .
Terry Becker, a Quicksilver Times reporter, surprised everyone by calling for more stringent penalties and stricter enforcement. Becker wanted “everyone to turn on everyone to get busted;” it would hasten the revolution, he said . . .
Noting that Surgeon General Steinfeld had referred to the famous Alice B. Toklas marijuana or hash brownies but claimed the recipe was not to be found Alice’s cookbook, [the Council’s Republican chairman] Hahn opened the second day of hearings by setting the record straight. You will find the recipe on page 273 of Alice B. Toklas, announced Hahn, and having fulfilled his public responsibility, he ordered the proceedings to proceed.
MICHAEL WASSERMAN, DC HISTORY NET – Based on my review of the statute applicable between 1901 and 1925, it seems to me that the reason was the combination of (1) the slight requirements for obtaining a marriage license; (2) the absence of any waiting period or residency requirement; (3) the apparent validity under D.C. law of even an unlicensed marriage; (4) the rather small penalty imposed on the officiant of an unlicensed marriage (up to a $500 fine, no possibility of jail); (5) the apparent absence of any penalty on the parties to an unlicensed marriage; (6) the low age of consent for a valid marriage (16 for males and 14 for females); (7) the absence of any requirement for witnesses. . .
Section 1291 specified the requirements for obtaining a license from the clerk of the court. All that was needed was for the parties to answer under oath a series of questions regarding their identity and capacity to marry each other: ages, consanguinity, prior marriage, parental consent if under age (21 for men, 18 for women). If the questions are answered correctly, the clerk must issue a license.
Section 1288 allowed marriages to be celebrated by any “minister of the gospel”–who needn’t be a resident of the District–“authorized by any justice of the supreme court of the District of Columbia,” which was the trial court with general jurisdiction. The 1904 amendment made provision for members of religious societies “which does not by its custom require the intervention of a minister for celebration of marriages.”
There doesn’t seem to have even been a requirement that the marriage be witnessed by anyone other than the officiant.
Moreover, if the boy were between 16 and 21 or the girl between 14 and 18, but didn’t have parental consent, they could still get married without a license as long as they found a “minister of the gospel” (previously authorized by a justice) who was willing to run the risk of a $500 fine, imposed by section 1290. (Of course, the minister was likely to be the only resident of the District who witnessed the “crime,” although even that wasn’t necessarily so.)
Sections 1283 and 1284 specify which marriages are absolutely void or merely voidable after judicial decree. Neither includes the absence of a license. Only purported marriages involving incest or bigamy were absolutely ineffectual. Marriages could be judicially declared void based only on mental or physical incapacity (i.e., inability to consent to or consummate a marriage) or if consent of a party was obtained by fraud. The fourth paragraph of section 1284 (added in 1902) specifically declares the age of consent to marriage to be 16 for males and 14 for females, and makes marriages in which one party is under age voidable at the suit of the party.
Section 1290 is the only section dealing with the consequence of the absence of a license. It provided: “No person authorized hereby to celebrate the rites of marriage shall do so in any case without first having delivered to him a license therefor addressed to him issued from the clerk’s office …, under a penalty of not more than five hundred dollars, in the discretion of the court, to be recovered upon information in the police court of the District.” In fact, it may have been possible for anyone to “celebrate” a valid marriage, because section 1289 provides that anyone without proper authorization under section 1288 was subject merely to a $500 fine as well. It does not address whether the marriage so celebrated was or was not otherwise valid.
So, if you wanted to get married quickly and with a minimum of fuss — and questions, D.C. was the place to be.
WILLIAM WRIGHT – Thanks to all of you who had information about what would have made DC the East Coast version of Las Vegas, and some additional research confirmed most of the suggestions you made. Though there were couples from Pennsylvania and elsewhere, including New York, the majority of those coming here seemed to be from Virginia; there was even what the Post called the “Cupid Special,” a train from Richmond that arrived every spring for more than twenty years. Most women on the train who were identified were under 21, but there were some exceptions.
GWU’s Marvin Center is named after the segregationist president of the university from 1927 to 1959, Lloyd Heck Marvin. In 1938 he declared that “students of any race or color perform their best” in a “homogenous group, and the University, in its tradition and social environment, has long preserved this policy.” He also made clear that “The George Washington University does not register colored students.”
SAM SMITH – Having Charlie Mason down at the District Building was a little like having John Quincy Adams roaming around the set of MTV’s Real World. By color, culture, class and couture, Charlie seemed a bit out of place until, that is, you realized how useful and important he was. Charlie was a walking Wikipedia of local and national knowledge, not the least of which could be found – in the days before Metro – in a shirt pocket stuffed with an amazing collection of bus schedules. He politely but firmly shared his information, including gently remonstrating my Wisconsin-born wife for not knowing that Maine had once been part of Massachusetts and, on another occasion, for putting too much postage on a package mailed to his councilmember wife, Hilda Mason. You should never use too much postage, he advised.
He was as diligent with his generosity as he was with his facts. Debbie Hanrahan remembers approaching Charlie with a friend to seek a contribution for a public interest legal matter that had run up fees of $5,000. Charlie wrote a check, folded it, and handed it over. It was only when the pair were in their car that they opened the check and read the amount: $5,000.
And for the UDC law school, the generosity of Charlie and Hilda added several digits.
It was rare that you mentioned Charlie without the ampersand for Hilda and Charlie were inevitably linked in conversation as in real life.
Charlie was well into his 90s before he started to slow down. Hamil Harris remembers him in his 80s being the last spectator at city council meetings that lasted until 2 am. I recall a meeting where Charlie dozed off only to be aroused by his pocket pill alarm. He fumbled about, took his pills, and then rejoined the discussion. On another occasion, at the UDC law school, a meeting ran so late that even the elevators shut down. At 2: am, Charlie had to be carried down five flights to his car.
In this town, there aren’t many people so many so respected. I was one of them. So I’ll go to his memorial service and won’t be at all surprised if Charlie has left us a few last suggestions and instructions.
HAMIL R. HARRIS, WASHINGTON POST, 1997 – It’s 7 p.m. and the John A. Wilson Building is almost empty of D.C. Council members, except for Hilda Mason, 80, who is making her way into the cold night with her constant companion. That would be Charlie Mason, 86, half of the hottest political couple — never mind Cora and Marion, never mind Hillary and Bill — in the city. . .
This romance — forged at the height of the civil rights movement, when interracial dating was a daring thing to do — needs no flower-driven holiday to find its expression. As they emerge from the Wilson Building, Hilda guides Charlie, whose health and vision haven’t been so good lately, toward their Mercedes-Benz for the drive home to Shepherd Park. One of several homeless men waiting to take shelter inside for the night breaks ranks to help him into the car. “They are looking out for one another,” remarked the man.
As they always have.
Hilda, an African American, grew up in Virginia and moved to the District in 1945, becoming a teacher and administrator. She received her bachelor’s degree from Miner Teachers College and her master’s from D.C. Teachers College. By the 1960s, she was a divorced mother of two and active in the movement to bring home rule to the District.
Charlie, a white native of Boston, received his undergraduate degree at Harvard University and worked for the U.S. Civil Service Commission before coming to Washington in the 1960s. . .
Hilda and Charlie met one day at All Souls Unitarian Church on 16th Street NW, one of the city’s first integrated churches, which was popular among activists in the 1960s. Charlie, a man of few words, said it isn’t hard to understand how he fell in love with Hilda. “We had similar interests,” he said. . .
They wed in 1965. In their first years of marriage, Hilda supported her husband while he attended Howard University’s law school. Contrary to popular rumor, Charlie said his family had no fortune. After his graduation from law school, Charlie chose to devote himself to being a quiet aide to his wife. . .
Her office offers proof of their partnership. Its many pictures show Hilda hugging and caressing Charlie’s face — though when a visitor asks about them, Charlie just flashes a coy smile.
Yesterday, the two sat in Hilda’s office, eating lunch. She laid out a blue place mat, napkins and a cup on her desk and served Charlie slices of turkey. “I have to take care of my baby,” she said. Charlie, sitting across from his wife with a big smile on his face, said, “She means everything to me.”
LEA ADAMS – A couple of days after I joined John Wilson’s staff as communications director in the early 90’s, I made my maiden voyage to use the copying machines shared by first floor Council offices. I was surprised to find Charlie Mason in the small cubicle, diligently collating documents for his beloved Hilda. The machines required a code, and were a bit quirky. I got confused and expressed my frustration under my breath, cursing the machines and DC government for not working as well as I thought they should. Charlie stopped what he was doing gradually, making certain of his own count before he turned and told me what I was doing wrong. I smiled and thanked him, then reiterated my critical comment linking the performance of the machine to that of the District. Before turning back to work that a different sort of octagenarian, Harvard-educated white man might have considered beneath him, Charlie reminded me that, “Most things do work, but you just have to take your time and stay with it if you want them to work well.” I learned an important lesson about patience and perseverance from this gentle warrior, and I will be eternally grateful that our paths crossed.
JOE LIBERTELLI – Betty-Chia and her husband Hank Gassner are both longtime DC residents and activists. She told a story about Charlie, then-treasurer of the local CORE, [who] was once awakened in the middle of the night to go down to the Greyhound station to provide a substitute check for the Freedom Riders whose out-of-state check was rejected by Greyhound. Years later, Marvin Rich, then President of the ADA, [said] that had it not been for Charlie, there would have been no Freedom Ride.
My own first encounter with Hilda and Charlie was in the summer of 1986. Now-disgraced TV actor Robert Blake (and my good friend Tim Carpenter) came to DC to raise money for the Great Peace March for Global Nuclear Disarmament, which had run out of funds in the Nevada desert and was in danger of total collapse. I recommended they contact All Souls Church and, indeed, Blake was invited to deliver a guest sermon. At the end of what was a very dramatic and emotional presentation, the audience was silent. Then, from up in the balcony, a voice was heard “So what can we do about this?” It was Hilda, with Charlie at her side. “Can we pass the hat? My husband and I will donate one thousand dollars each.” The hat was passed and in a few minutes more than $13,000 was raised and the Peace March was on its way to being saved. In my opinion, that March, while a tiny footnote in American history, set in motion a chain of events that may have had momentous consequences as many marchers continued to March from Western Europe into the Soviet Union. Their efforts and their origin in America was big news in Europe and in the Soviet Union at the time and served to undermine the Kremlin’s assertions of a monolithic American/Western threat.
[From a talk delivered at the 10th anniversary of the Stand Up for Democracy in DC Coalition, 2007]
When the late, great Statehood Party pioneer Josephine Butler was in her final year of life, she was admitted to Howard University Hospital. One day, a friend and I were visiting Jo in the hospital, as were Jo’s niece and grand niece, when Hilda came into the room. Jo mentioned to Hilda that her grand niece was going to Russia for three weeks over Christmas in a student exchange program. Hilda asked the young woman if she had a warm coat to wear in the bitterly cold Russian winter. When Jo’s relative said no, she really didn’t, Hilda said that wouldn’t do — and sat down and wrote her a check to cover the cost of a new down coat.
When Marion Barry was seriously wounded in 1977 in a shooting and hostage situation inside the District Building that resulted in the killings of a reporter and a security guard, Hilda and Charlie opened up their home for Barry to recuperate.
And there was the time when opponents of the building of the new convention center in Shaw needed money to file a lawsuit to try to stop the convention center from being built there. I went to the Masons’ house with Beth Solomon to see about getting a contribution toward a $5,000 matching grant someone else was offering us to help pay for the lawsuit. Hilda was out, but Charlie did what he and Hilda always did. He listened to our pitch and wrote a check for $5,000 to cover the entire matching grant.
Hilda can be tough, too. Lawrence Guyot told me about the time in 1965 that he came to All Souls Unitarian Church — Hilda and Charlie’s church — to ask to speak to the congregation on the activities of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party. Despite the church’s reputation for progressive politics, Guyot, surprisingly, was turned down. When Guyot told Hilda about it, she immediately went to the minister privately and said, “Lawrence Guyot will speak, or Charlie and I will leave this church.” . . . Needless to say, Lawrence Guyot got to speak at All Souls.
In addition to the numerous civil rights, civil liberties and peace organizations they helped legislatively, financially, and on the picket line, Hilda and Charlie would quietly help individuals get the training they needed for jobs, help people get into college, and do whatever they could for anyone they came across who needed help. . .
I came to know Hilda and Charlie Mason more than 30 years ago, primarily through the newly-formed D.C. Statehood Party. I had worked as Julius Hobson’s secretary for a time in the late 1960s, then later had worked on Hobson’s school board campaign and on Jo Butler’s campaign for the D.C. Council, so I became heavily involved in the D.C. Statehood Party. I met Hilda and Charlie when Hilda was on the school board sometime in the mid-1970s.
Later, when Hilda was on the D.C. Council, I worked for her as a receptionist and community outreach person for a year or so. I can’t say I worked for her. I ran behind her and Charlie. I couldn’t keep up with them. Throughout the 1970s, 1980s and early 1990s, I was in dozens of meetings with Hilda regarding Statehood Party activities, her election campaigns, and so many other issues of the time. In addition to the Statehood Party meetings, Hilda, like Jo Butler, seemed to be at three or four evening meetings every day of the week that took her to every neighborhood in the city. Additionally, like Julius Hobson and Jo Butler, Hilda had her eye not only on local matters, but on national and international issues, so Hilda might also be found at a Women’s Strike for Peace meeting or a nuclear freeze event on any given night or weekend.
Hilda grew up in Campbell County, Virginia – Klan country – and learned about social justice – and injustice – at an early age from her parents. Her great grandmother on her mother’s side had been a slave. Hilda’s mother Martha was a teacher. Her father ran a number of small businesses, including at one time a country store. Hilda recalled an incident in her early years when her father hurriedly arranged to have an African-American man get out of town to avoid a lynching.
Upon finishing high school at age 16, Hilda immediately went into teaching in Virginia. Later, in 1945, she moved to Washington, D.C. with Carolyn and Joyce, her two daughters from an unsuccessful marriage. While working several jobs, she also attended Miners Teachers College, from which she received her B.S. degree in 1952. She went on to get an M.A. from the old District of Columbia Teachers College in 1957.
From 1952 until 1971, Hilda held a number of public education posts throughout the city — teacher, counselor, assistant . . .
During that period as an educator, Hilda also became active in progressive causes. She helped organize the Washington Teachers Union in her school; she was involved in the successful effort to desegregate D.C.’s restaurants, and she was active in a wide variety of other civil rights activities. In 1957 she met Charles Mason, and they were married eight years later, thus beginning a unique partnership nurtured by love, family and social activism.
Hilda and Charlie during the 1960s worked through CORE and SNCC to help provide food, housing, clothing, medical care and transportation for people who came to Washington to demonstrate and to lobby for civil rights. Hilda worked with Julius Hobson on a number of matters, including his successful landmark lawsuit (Hobson v. Hansen) on the unequal treatment of African American students in the city’s public schools — and on the formation of the new D.C. Statehood Party.
In 1971, at Julius Hobson’s urging, Hilda ran for and was elected to the Board of Education where she served along with Hobson and another of tonight’s honorees, the future Mayor Marion Barry. Hilda was reelected in 1975.
An ailing Julius Hobson was elected to the D.C. Council as a Statehood Party candidate in 1974 and died in 1977, at which time the Statehood Party selected Hilda to replace him on the council. Later in the year she won an election to fill out the term, and was then reelected in 1978 and four elections thereafter, leaving office at the end of 1998.
Hilda holds the distinction of being the only person to defeat Marion Barry in a D.C. election. That happened in the 1990 election when Barry challenged Hilda for her council seat in the general election, but in that showdown the “grandmother to the world” beat the “mayor for life.”
And maybe some of you don’t know that Hilda has a police record. Yes, it’s true. Back in November 1984 during the almost daily protests against apartheid at the South African Embassy, Hilda, along with Congressman Ron Dellums and Mark Stepp of the United Auto Workers union, were arrested at the embassy when they refused to leave the front steps of the building after being denied a meeting with the South African ambassador. Dellums and Stepp were held overnight in jail, while Hilda was released on her own recognizance.. . .
Probably Hilda’s greatest accomplishment on the D.C. Council was to keep alive the University of the District of Columbia Law School — named the David A. Clarke School of Law, but seen by a lot of us as the David Clarke/Hilda Mason/Charlie Mason School of Law. . . The Hilda-Charlie-Dave Clarke effort to save the UDC law school was successful and how lucky we all are for it. For today, the David A. Clarke School of Law is the most diverse law school in the nation, with 51 percent of its students from minority groups and 64 per cent women. Of the 192 American Bar Association-accredited law schools, the UDC law school has the fifth highest percentage of African-American law students. The Princeton Review rated it first in the nation for most progressive students. The applicant pool has almost quadrupled in six years. The first-time bar passage rates of the law schools graduates has increased to over 60 per cent. . .
While working in Hilda’s office in the late 1970s-early 1980s, I had a chance to observe Hilda and Charlie close up. While citizen advocates for schools, civil rights, housing, tenants’ rights, and social justice were frequent visitors to her council office, I don’t recall any lobbyists for corporate interests even setting foot inside the door. It’s not that Hilda wouldn’t see them if they showed up, it’s just that they knew Hilda was always going to put citizens’ interests over business boondoggles.
And her door was always open. Constituents could just walk in and get an appointment on the spot, and they got to see Hilda — not a staff member — unlike today, when it’s often like pulling teeth to get appointments with the councilmember herself or himself — and then you might be limited to 10 or 15 minutes.
Once while I was working for Hilda, she and Charlie asked me to mail out contribution checks to the countless organizations and individuals to which they were contributing — civil rights organization, peace groups, social justice organizations of one type or another. When I asked Charlie if I should keep a list of recipients so Hilda could call upon them to hold little neighborhood campaign parties at election time, Charlie looked at me quizzically and said, “We don’t do that.” . . .
Back in 1986, the D.C. Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild honored Hilda and Charlie with the David and Selma Rein Community Justice Award, named for two other great local champions of civil liberties. In the program for that event, Hilda was asked what had made her remain true to her principles over the years. She cited the example of her parents and the tragic death at age 13 of her grandson Nestor. And here I quote what Hilda said to the interviewer:
“It’s in the marrow of my bones, it is in my blood. Almost every step I take, I feel like I’m doing what my mother and father would have done. And my grandson, Nestor, I feel like I’m walking in his footsteps, too. I can’t forget where I came from. I can’t forget what my parents did to preserve their own lives. Although I’m living comfortably now, I’m not going to forget how it once was for me. And I’m not going to turn my back on people who aren’t as fortunate as I am.”
NY TIMES The doormen and bellhops in white gloves and dark brown suits at the soaring Mayflower Hotel have come to recognize the subtle signs: attractive women who carry no luggage, dressed tastefully but, in stilettos and lacy camisoles, seeming a touch too sensual to meet a chubby Commerce Committee lobbyist for cocktails. Sometimes they walk straight to the elevators. If it is after 10 p.m., a security guard might stop them, leading to an awkward conversation, but a discreet call upstairs usually sets minds at ease.
More often, these women, who earn $500 to $5,000 an hour attending to guests, slip onto a stool at the wood-paneled Town & Country Lounge in the lobby and order a club soda with lime; no elaborate drinks, because the client will appear within minutes to usher them to a handsomely appointed room. . .
“We are in the business of selling rooms,” said a former manager of the Mayflower, speaking on the condition of anonymity as he searches for another job in the clubby world of fancy hotels. “And the escort services are in the business of keeping our guests happy.”
The Mayflower is one of the dowager madams of Washington, whose curving facade, murals and extensive gold leaf suit a city of grandiose ambition. President Harry S. Truman called the hotel “Washington’s second-best address.” The White House is a five-minute walk from the front door.
J. Edgar Hoover lunched there every day for 20 years, taking a blandly predictable chicken soup, cottage cheese and grapefruit. Charles Lindbergh celebrated the first-ever solo trans-Atlantic flight in a Mayflower ballroom. Franklin Delano Roosevelt penned his first inaugural speech in Room 776.
Marion S. Barry Jr., the former mayor of Washington, was convicted in 1990 on a misdemeanor drug charge after being accused of using cocaine while staying at the Mayflower in 1989. Members of the House pursuing the impeachment of President Bill Clinton interviewed Monica Lewinsky in the hotel’s 10th-floor Presidential Suite a decade later. . .
“In March of 1933, a former New York governor, President Roosevelt, was composing a history-making speech in his room here thinking that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself,” Dan Ruskin, who has played at the piano bar since the Eisenhower administration, said in an e-mail message. “Now, almost to the day, 75 years later, another New York governor is making history. He’s in his room thinking the only thing we have to fear is – getting caught.”
Asked about the hotel’s reputation, John Wolf, a spokesman for Marriott International, which owns the Mayflower, declined to rebut the specifics. “It is our company’s policy to comply with all federal, state and local laws,” he said in an e-mail message. “We also respect the privacy of our guests, subject to the safety and security of other guests and the public.”. . .
The Town & Country is a favorite watering spot for an eclectic collection of Washington types: lobbyists, journalists, F.B.I. agents, diplomats and the occasional congressman or intelligence operative. The bartender, Sambonn Lek, stirs 101 varieties of martinis, including the Electric Lady and the Naughty Lady (he said he took the Ted Kennedy off the menu to “leave him alone”). . .
George Dasch, the German spy, turned himself in at the hotel in 1942. He demanded to speak with Hoover, who, as it happens, was eating downstairs. (Another noon, the FBI. chief looked up to see the No. 3 on the agency’s Most Wanted List. Hoover ordered the man arrested and returned to his soup.)
John F. Kennedy’s amour-de-mob-moll, Judith Exner, kept a room at the Mayflower and would slip over to the White House when the First Lady was out of town. (A Kennedy biography also details a presidential assignation with the actress Angie Dickinson in the Mayflower.). . .
Mayors of Washington City
Robert Brent 1802-1812
Daniel Rapine 1812-1813
James H. Blake 1813-1817
Benjamin G. Orr 1817-1819
Samuel N. Smallwood 1819-1822
Thomas Carbery 1822-1824
Samuel N. Smallwood 1824
Roger C. Weightman 1824-1827
Joseph Gales, Jr. 1827-1830
John P. Van Ness 1830-1834
William A. Bradley 1834-1836
Peter Force 1836-1840
William Winston Seaton 1840-1850
Walter Lenox 1850-1852
John W. Maury 1852-1854
John Thomas Towers 1854-1856
William B. Magruder 1856-1858
James G. Berret 1858-1861
Richard Wallach 1861-1868
Sayles J. Bowen 1868-1870
Matthew Gault Emery 1870-1871
Mayors of Georgetown
Robert Peter 1790
Thomas Beale 1791
Uriah Forrest 1792
John Threlkeld 1793
Peter Casenave 1794
Thomas Turner 1795
Daniel Reintzel 1796
Lloyd Beall 1797-1799
Daniel Reintzel 1799-1804
Thomas Corcoran 1805
Daniel Reintzel 1806-1807
Thomas Corcoran 1808-1810
David Wiley 1811
Thomas Corcoran 1812
John Peter 1813-1818
Henry Foxall 1819-1820
John Peter 1821-1822
John Cox 1823-1845
Henry Addison 1845-1857
Richard R. Crawford 1857-1861
Henry Addison 1861-1867
Charles D. Welch 1867-1869
Henry M. Sweeney 1869-1871
Governors of the District of Columbia
Henry Cooke 1871-1873
Alexander Shepherd 1873-1874
Post-home rule mayors of Washington
Walter Washington, 1975-1979
Marion Barry, 1979-1991
Sharon Pratt (Dixon) Kelly, 1991-1995
Marion Barry, 1995-1999
Anthony Williams, 1999-2007
Adrian Fenty, 2007-Present
Between 1875 and 1975, Washington was run by appointed commissioners. Source: Washingtoniana Division, DC Library
According to the DC Preservation League the towers at the 1905 McMillan Reservoir are part of a “Slow Sand Filtration Site,” which was once considered a “Washington public health milestone.” This innovative system of water purification, relied on sand rather than chemicals, and it is believed to have led to the elimination of epidemics of typhoid and other communicable diseases. The site consisted of regulator houses, sand bins, washers, and underground sand filtration beds.
REV. HORACE B. MCKENNA
COLMAN MCCARTHY, WASHINGTON POST, 2007 – Along with Edward and Kathleen Guinan at the Community for Creative Nonviolence, Pastor John Steinbruck of Luther Place Memorial Church, Veronica Maz of the House of Ruth, Sister Mary Ann Luby of Rachael’s Women’s Center and the Rev. Imagene Stewart of the Church of What’s Happening Now, Horace McKenna helped make homelessness a national public policy issue in the 1970s. In time, at least half a dozen programs for the homeless would operate in the two-mile stretch between the White House and Congress. It became America’s Homeless Belt, with Caesar at one end of Pennsylvania Avenue and grandees at the other — and the invisible poor in between.
Horace McKenna twinned his spiritual life with daily personal relations with the outcastes. The closeness came to light when a homeless man gave his legal address as “the back seat of Father McKenna’s car,” a beat-up Renault.
And he touched the lives not only of poor people but of the affluent, too. A student at Gonzaga College High School, which is next to the center [at St. Aloysius Catholic Church], recently recalled: “So you’d come in from the lily-white suburbs and you’d see the nation’s Capitol looming in front of you and then . . . you’d walk by the morning line of homeless and poor and jobless men who were waiting in line at Father Horace McKenna’s. That was not lost to many of us walking into school by that line every day: how lucky we were, how much we had.”
The schoolboy 30 years ago was Martin O’Malley, now governor of Maryland.
DC BLUES – In 1959, a D.C. club, the old Melody Inn, located at Bladensburg Road NE, became the “Gold Room”. The club featured a variety of live entertainment in blues and jazz. Blues/jazz singers like those named above were regularly featured at the Gold Room, particularly throughout the 1960s. During those years, the Gold Room might well have been the premier black nightspot. Such stalwart black performers as Redd Foxx, Al Hibler, Etta Jones, and Irene Reed have graced the Gold Room’s stage.
Since its establishment, the Gold Room was owned and operated by a jazz singer with a silkalene baritone named Jimmy McPhail. Any Washingtonian “of age” during that time ought to have heard of Jimmy. He worked at the club as a singer when it was called the Melody Inn. Jimmy won a talent show in 1950 that was held by a local radio station (WWDC) with host Jackson Lowe. Shirley Horn was a finalist in that same talent show but it was McPhail who was the victor. . . He appeared periodically with Duke Ellington’s band until Ellington’s death and with Mercer Ellington until just a few years ago. McPhail also appeared along with the great Billie Holliday, at Washington’s “Brown Derby”. McPhail has performed at New York’s Carnegie Hall and has done shows with Ella Fitzgerald and appeared with Josephine Baker here at the National Theater.
DUNCAN SPENCER, THE HILL, JANUARY 2006 – The death-by-negligence of New York Times editor David Rosenbaum [is] a perfect example of the ugly layers of Washington society, and particularly the structure of the high court of the new dukes and duchesses of that society, news reporters. Can one imagine the same case (elderly man clobbered and robbed of his wallet and cards by two thugs) happening in Wards 7 or 8, where the victim would almost surely have been black? The case would never have gotten beyond The Washington Post’s “Metro Briefs” and would have ended there.
But several layers of our unexamined and uncriticized social gradation separated Rosenbaum from the Ward 7 and 8 man. Rosenbaum was white. He was sober. He was walking in a Far Northwest neighborhood considered safe (i.e., almost all white). And he was a news reporter. Not only a news reporter but associated with the country’s only national daily, the Times.
It was this combination of social factors that triggered a deluge from the press corps (or better, the Press Court) to include high indignation from such luminaries as Maureen Dowd, John Tierney (both NYT), Marc Fisher and Cokie Roberts, to mention only the best known of the indignant. . .
The memorial service on the 13th was little less than a press royal occasion, homage being paid not only by those who knew the decedent but by those who wanted to be known as having known him, as well as by those most public senators, Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.)
Eulogist NYT bureau chief Philip Taubman called the crime “unfathomable, unthinkable, unspeakable.” Of course he was referring only to one (his own) social layer – in another part of town . . . such a crime would not only be fathomable, thinkable and speakable but an all-too-frequent experience. But the victim almost certainly would not have been a New York Times reporter. . .
This town’s media elite regard themselves as eminently important and amusing, while the public, ever yearning for a new example of that financial, social magic called celebrity, has eagerly embraced regular news columns on the media, the press reporting on itself. Regularly scheduled media columns ensure that stories are not written to report news but are written under the oldest whip in our business – finding something to fill that hole. What’s easier than another column about news royalty?. . .
As the press ascends to the level of social godhead, perhaps each scribbler should reread at least once a week Janet Malcolm’s shocking confession: “Every journalist who is not too stupid or too full of himself to notice what is going on knows that what he does is morally indefensible. He is a kind of confidence man, preying on people’s vanity, ignorance or loneliness, gaining their trust and betraying them without remorse.”
Too strong? Then read Washington Examiner writer Karen DeWitt: “I became a reporter like many in my generation, because I wanted to shine a light on wrongs and stand up for the little guy against the powerful.” The Press Court is now the powerful. It stands up not for the little guy but for its own.
SAM SMITH, WASH POST, 1986 – The original argument for Metro was that we needed a subway to meet the transit needs of Washington communities. But the facts did not support this argument. In the late 1970s, Metro was talking about a completed system that would have an annual rail ridership of 323 million, according to a U.S. Department of Transportation memorandum. With two-thirds of the system finished, the actual rail ridership is only one-third of the estimate. It now looks as if Metro will be at least 100 million riders short when the system is completed.
What is happening to Washington’s neighborhoods is not surprising to those few heretics such as myself who long argued that Metro was a Trojan transit system — a poor solution to the area’s transportation needs, vastly too expensive, and, in fact, a land-development scheme in disguise. We argued that Metro would not compete effectively with the automobile, that its ridership projections were greatly exaggerated, and that its operating and construction costs were greatly underestimated. Although we lost both the. battles and the war, on all these points Metro, the local politicians and the press were seriously wrong.
In 1991, Metro had a ridership of 147 million, less than half the amount projected in the 1970s.
In 2003, Metro reported 184 million riders, or 56% the number predicted in the 1970s.
In 2006 and 2007 Metro exceeded 200 million riders for the first time.
HOW METRO HIJACKED THE BUS SYSTEM
Metro was built on the backs and expense of four private area bus companies that together were losing only a half million dollars a year as of 1971. Using grossly inflated passenger projections (double the eventual figure) and grossly underestimated capital expenses (a quarter of what the system would end up costing), local Metro boosters hustled the public and the federal government into supporting a system that has so badly failed in its purpose that DC now has the second worst auto traffic in the country.
As early as 1968, we warned in the DC Gazette that subways “take years to build, require enormous appropriations, and almost invariably lag behind the city’s changing and growing transportation requirements.” In 1971, we urged that instead of a subway the city adopt a mixed-mode system including improved commuter rail, jitneys, buses running on reserved lanes, and streetcars. Just for starters, we could have had a 100 mile light rail system for one-tenth of the cost of building the subway.
Exclusive-lane buses would have been even more efficient. In Curitiba, Brazil, which uses them, buses move at an average speed of 20 mph, carrying three times as many passengers per hour as standard bus routes. The system, which uses raised boarding tubes (no climbing up bus steps) with advance payment of fares, took only six months to install at less than one percent the per-mile cost of building a subway. The system, which carries four times the number of riders as Rio’s subway, resulted in 28% of the city’s car drivers switching to mass transit. Curitiba’s transit planning also includes cycleways, pedestrian priority in downtown, concentrated development, and higher density near public transportation. As a result gasoline use per vehicle is 25% lower than in other Brazilian cities of its size.
But DC’s power-brokers — led then as now by real estate developers — weren’t really interested in transportation. They were more concerned with land speculation, with exploiting outer suburbia. Thus alternative suggestions were disregarded, even when the nudges came from the federal government itself. Government officials bought into Metro early and never seriously studied anything else. Before long a Fairfax County official would say, “My staff doesn’t have time to work on transportation. They’re too busy trying to figure out how to fund it.”
If the area’s leaders had actually studied subways they would have found that they do not compete with autos. They take no space from cars and they encourage massive new development whose occupants mostly arrive by car — thus ultimately increasing street congestion. When we tried to make this point in the 70s, many thought it absurd. Now the facts are in; Metro has made Washington’s traffic worse.
What subways do compete with — and very effectively — is bus service. The reason for this is that subways are built along the most successful bus routes. For example, in 1980, we examined the ten most popular bus routes in the city. They were carrying about the same number of daily passengers as all the remaining bus lines are today: about a quarter of a million riders. The subsidy for each rider on these ten lines was a minuscule seven cents.
Then came Metro. It siphoned riders off these lines and when they wouldn’t come voluntarily, it rerouted the busses to subway stations in order to force transfers to the underground. As ridership on the remaining lines declined, Metro used this as an excuse to cut service further. Metro even stopped printing a bus map or providing bus schedules as further incentive to give up on the system.
Now the buses — in reality victims of Metro– are being blamed for its woes and are under renewed attack. A recent Washington Post article stated that “the underused bus system has lost 25% of it riders during this decade. Because such a decline could bleed the area’s Metrorail system of millions of scarce dollars, transit officials have called a meeting [to] discuss what to do with the Metrobus system.”
Targeting Metrobus should be of particular concern to DC residents, about a third of whom don’t own cars. Further, DC deserves far better treatment at the hands of Metro than it has received. After all, it was $2 billion of our leftover highway money that made the thing possible in the first place. Instead we have been repeatedly short-changed.
At the core of the problem is a subway system that cost four times what it was supposed and produced half the riders predicted. Now it’s twenty years old and though it hasn’t even been completed yet, it needs significant repairs. Even selling off the bus system or doing away with bus service entirely won’t compensate for having planned area transit so poorly. 1/97
MONICA CAVANAUGH, HILL RAG – The place has been here a while and been through a lot. Before it was Mr. Henry’s, it was the 601 Club, a country-western bar with a loyal following. In 1966 a man named Henry Yaffee took it over.
He never closed the doors during his renovation, a complete overhaul from cowboy chic to Victorian pub. Instead, he went section by section, all the while introducing new people to his restaurant and convincing the salts to stay.
It was a jazz club for a short time, and a popular one at that. The bar’s greatest claim to fame is having been the home base for a young Roberta Flack, then just a schoolteacher with a trio on the side. Yaffee knocked out the upstairs apartments and created a performance space just for her. As her name grew bigger, so did her famous following. Burt Bachrach, Carmen McRae and Johnny Mathis filled the pews Yaffee bought from a local church, while acts like Jerry Butler and even Liberace joined Flack on stage. . .
Yaffee opened sister restaurants around the city, all of which eventually fell to the wayside. He gave the original up to Larry Quillian, still a force in the Capitol Hill real estate market, in 1970. . . The Hill may have changed, but Mr. Henry’s has stayed largely the same.
MR HENRY’S DURING THE 1968 RIOTS
CAPITOL EAST GAZETTE, FEB 1968 – A group of Eastern High School students, calling themselves the Modern Strivers, have begun a drive for increased academic and personal freedom at the school. Following a successful boycott of the Eastern cafeteria, the Strivers won an agreement from principal Madison Tignor to hold a referendum on a proposed student bill of rights drawn up by the group. Among the rights demanded were: freedom of dress, freedom to wear political buttons and to publish papers without censorship, freedom to organize groups, freedom to protest grievances, and freedom to listen to classroom speakers free of any prior censorship. The bill of rights also sought freedom for students to choose all their non-required courses. At a news conference last month, leaders of Strivers expressed dissatisfaction with the quality of education at Eastern and were particularly critical of the lack of a Negro history course at the school.
CAPITOL EAST GAZETTE, MAR 1968 – One by one the citizens stepped to the beef box at Hine Jr. High School on Feb. 7 to register their complaints, requests, and demands with an impassive school board. The meeting was one of a series of neighborhood sessions being held by the board. . . The Modern Strivers from Eastern High were there. . . Several groups called for a halt in school construction until citizen participation and facilities for new teaching techniques could be incorporated into the planning. (“Almost traitorous, ” snorted board member Benjamin Alexander at one such proposal.) . . . Several members of the Black Student Union hit “Negro History Week” (“The history taught at our schools is racist, ” said one) and complained that the school board “had gotten a honkie to run our school system. ” (One nearby spectator claims she heard school superintendent William Manning ask a board member “What’s a honkie?”) . . .
The Modern Strivers, in their testimony, argued that a committee of students under professional counseling should be permitted to recruit and hire teachers for Eastern. The four representatives of the group, led by junior Gregory Taylor, also urged that a board of parents, teachers and students be established to hire the successor to principal Madison W. Tignor, who retires this year. And they claimed to have the signatures of over 500 students “clearly stating that they are not getting the best education possible. ” In addition, the group presented a plan to establish a ‘Freedom School at Eastern, which would teach black history and black culture.
TESTIMONY OF GREGORY TAYLOR, MODERN STRIVERS – I am a student at Eastern High School. I’d like to read a caption from the Washington Post. This story appeared on January 13th and was about the Eastern student’s protest. Eastern’s principal, Madison W. Tignor, said in this article and I quote: “The students have no right to be disappointed in the school as a whole just because the reading scores are low. They don’t take into account the odds we’re working against. . . We have every kind of student at this school. Some come from fine professional homes, but we have many from other kinds of homes, you know.”
I, myself, come from one of the other homes, my parents are not professional so what do you do with me? Am I inferior because I am not from a professional background? I, myself, believe that it is because you do not want me to be a professional person. Last year I wrote a letter of protest to a faculty member. The faculty member responded to my letter by saying, “You need to go back to the first grade because of the misspelled words. A first grader could have presented it better than you presented it to me.”
My feeling about what she said was if I’m down and I want to get up, she is going to make it as difficult as possible for me to get up. I am a 19-year-old junior and too old to go back to elementary school, so what do you do? You give the so-called basic student, me,- anything – just enough to get me out of the way. I have been officially labelled basic since the first grade and I’m still unofficial basic now. As an example of this, I have been trying to go to college. But this is the program they gave me at the beginning of the year: 1st period, gym; 2nd period, applied math; 3rd period, lunch; 4th period, English; 5th period, U.S. history; 6th period, cooking; and 7th period, woodshop. I have had courses like cooking and woodwork all my life. In place of these courses, I could have taken a foreign language and a meaningful science course to help prepare me for college. But I know the answer now. I must depend on myself and not on the school system.
CAPITOL EAST GAZETTE, APR 1968 – Madison W. Tignor, principal of Eastern High School, went on extended leave last month following the revelation that he had written a Pennsylvania draft board requesting removal of the draft deferment of one of his teachers – “as a patriotic gesture.” Shirley O. Brown, who has been assistant principal at Eastern since 1963, was named acting principal in Tignor’s place. The school administration also wrote English teacher J. G. Lord Jr. ‘s draft board and requested that Lord’s deferment be reinstated. “What he did is contrary to school practice, ” said assistant superintendent George R. Rhodes, speaking of Tignor’s action. Tignor’s letter followed increased activity by a militant student group called the Modern Strivers, which Lord had been advising. The Strivers, who have demanded major reforms in both educational and administrative policies at Eastern, have been the subject of considerable publicity in recent weeks. They have pressed their fight in sit-ins, walkouts, news conferences, and testimony before the School Board. The Washington Teachers’ Union has demanded that Tignor be fired. Said Modern Strivers president Gregory Taylor of the principal’s letter to the draft board, it “wasn’t a very nice way to handle the situation.”
[Shortly after this story appeared, Washington erupted in major rioting following the death of Martin Luther King]
Longtime favorite restaurant on Capitol Hill. The Kennedys liked table 22 in the bar room. After the Kennedys were in the White House they still ordered meals from the Monocle.
JELLY ROLL MORTON
Jelly Roll Morton, the jazz composer and pianist, lived for three years in DC (1935-1938) and operated the Music Box nightclub at 1211 U Street NW, near the Lincoln Theatre. It was during this period that Jelly Roll recorded his famous reminiscences and piano solos for the Library of Congress.
CLOSED DC MOVIE THEATERS
Wisconsin Avenue Loews
[L Seftor, DC Watch, 2006]
DUNCAN SPENCER, HILL NEWS – Messy, in your face and everywhere, the mulberry is my vote to be D.C.’s “state” plant. The bushy tree and its dropping, staining fruit is considered a sidewalk anathema to today’s swish urbanite and his statement car. . .
Pliny the Elder (A.D. 23-79) remarked that no tree had been so neglected by the wit of man; Shakespeare had a mulberry in his garden. The leaves were found to be perfect food for silkworms; Vincent Van Gogh made a famous painting of one alone; British kings ordered them propagated; mulberries were honored in World War II, their name being given to the protective harbors at the Normandy landing in ’44. And today Mulberry is a popular e-mail program.
According to botanical authorities, the American variety, the red, is “quite tolerant of drought, pollution and poor soils.” Perhaps this is why they flourish so on the waste spaces of the city. . .
In this country of waste and excess, the many recipes for mulberry wine, preserves, etc., are ignored. In fact there are so many mulberries out there that even the birds can’t get them all and the ants aren’t quick enough. They themselves are excessive. But they are the essence of our tropical, troubling, charming spring.
The Sounds of G Street
SAM SMITH – While being interviewed for a Channel 9 special on old Washington at Reeves Bakery on G Street, I happened to meet a father and son who ran a nearby jewelry store, the father having been there since 1939. Great, I said. Maybe you can confirm something that’s been troubling me. I distinctly recall going to a second floor dance hall on G Street in the 1950s and hearing the Count Basie band. It wasn’t a big room and I thought I was going to be blasted out of it until my ears got used to the decibels. And there was no big sign outside, just some stairs between ground floor stores.Have I been imagining it? No, said the jewelry store owner, there was such a place near the corner of 13th & G. And that wasn’t the only music on G Street. From the 19th century on, the street has had an unusual and greatly underrated connection with American music history.
1205 G STREET NW
LIBRARY OF CONGRESS – During the early 1880s a contest developed between Thomas A. Edison on the one hand and the Volta Laboratory team of Chichester A. Bell and Charles Sumner Tainter on the other. The objective was to transform Edison’s 1877 tinfoil phonograph, or talking machine, into an instrument capable of taking its place alongside the typewriter as a business correspondence device. . . As the Edison versus Bell/Tainter contest was going on, Emile Berliner in Washington, D.C., began to take a great interest in the future of sound recording and reproduction. As he had done earlier with Bell’s telephone, he began by examining in detail both the phonograph and the graphophone in order to learn the advantages and disadvantages of each. He soon formed the following conclusions: the wax cylinder, while a vast improvement over the tinfoil cylinder, was too soft and fragile for making a permanent recording. A wax cylinder would wear out quickly so some more durable substance was required. The vertical cut (or hill-and-dale cut) grooves were often not deep enough to keep the stylus from skidding across the surface of the cylinder. To avoid this both the phonograph and the graphophone had the stylus attached to a feed screw that would carry it over the cylinder.
S GRAMOPHONE COMPANY BURNING
A constantly deep groove would enable the feed screw to be eliminated, but that would require the use of something different from the vertical cut. A soft wax cylinder could not be mass-produced, so if recordings were ever to be widely disseminated, some method of mass-producing exact facsimiles was required. All of this added up to the fact that there was a need in the sound recording and reproduction field for a different type of machine, one that did not use soft wax cylinders, one that did not use the vertical-cut groove that was alternately deep with loud sounds and shallow with soft sounds, and one that employed a relatively hard and permanent record that could be easily reproduced in vast numbers. . .
Then Berliner organized the United States Gramophone Company in Washington, D.C [1205 G Street NW] . . . . The organization of the United States Gramophone Company in Washington, D.C., in 1894 marked the true beginning of the enormous record industry, not only in the U.S., but in the world. A setback occurred on the night of September 29, 1897, when the powerhouse of the Washington Traction Company, where the laboratory of the gramophone company was located, [near 14th & Pennsylvania] burned to the ground. It was reported that the company lost at least one hundred zinc masters that had not been pressed, as well as all of its machines and equipment. Everything had to be replaced.
709 G STREET
INTERTIQUE – There was a time long ago when the entire phonograph industry in the United States was under the control of one man. This magnate wasn’t Thomas Edison – his name was Jesse Lippincott and when he went bankrupt in 1894 the men running his Washington, DC territorial franchise decided to make a go of it on their own. They spun the Columbia Phonograph Company-General out of Lippincott’s defunct North American Phonograph Company. Aggressive and talented, these men, led by Edward Easton, powered the Graphophone Company to industry prominence. . . . Unlike Edison or Eldridge Johnson they left behind almost no company history or personal memoirs. . .Shrewd, agressive and litigious, [Edward] Easton was the founder and president of Columbia. Educated in Paterson, New Jersey, at the age of 15 he became a stenographer for several New York newspapers. As a star stenographer in 1881 he sold his account of the trial of Guiteau, the assassin of President Garfield, for $25,000. Easton put himself through Georgetown law school and emerged in 1889 as a corporate lawyer in the District of Columbia. About this time he was seized with a vision of the phonograph altering stenography. . . When Lippincott went bankrupt in 1894 Easton the corporate lawyer figured out a way to make Columbia Phonograph the record end of the business and American Graphophone the machine end of the business. In 1895, in a stock swap deal, he became president of both. Of all the regional territories Columbia endured triumphant, independent and alone. . .
MENLO PARK RECORDINGS – One of the biggest money makers from the North American Phonograph Company was the District of Columbia Phonograph Company. In charge was Edward Easton who was bent on bringing the phonograph into the minds of people as an entertainment device. Under his direction, the company put music onto the cylinders rather than dictation. Music on cylinders was against the wishes of the Jessie Lippencott and Thomas Edison interests in the North American Phonograph Company. When the North American Phonograph Company went out of business in 1894, the Bell and Tainter interests formed a partnership. Edward Easton’s company and became the Columbia Graphophone Company. Edward Easton headed the new company. Improvements were to the Bell and Tainter graphophone and it was marketed as a musical device.
Thomas Edison decided to take back full rights to his invention from the failed North American Phonograph Company. In doing so he took on the liabilities of the failed empire and was involved in numerous lawsuits. During one of them, the court prohibited Edison from selling phonographs in the United States for a period of about three years. This gave Columbia the time it needed to become a major player in the market and made Thomas Edison resolve to keep future phonograph ventures in his own hands.
In a bold move in 1895, the Columbia Company put out the first inexpensive spring wound machine to play cylinders. Until then, every machine that had been on the market was cumbersome with batteries and prohibitively expensive. The low price brought Columbia to the forefront of the industry and assured the companies early success.
Columbia had used local Washington, DC talent to make cylinders for the steady demand they had. As demand grew because of the lower priced playback machine, everyone realized the need to design a method of mass-producing cylinders for the music-hungry public. . .
Columbia would remember these days as their earliest glory days. The Edison Company would enter the phonograph business again in 1896 with his new phonograph. Edison’s price would go down to $10.00 in 1897, which presented Columbia with some serious competition in the recording arena.
MILES AGO – In 1891 Columbia was the first company to offer a catalogue of its phonographs and cylinders. By 1895, Columbia was manufacturing hundreds of cylinders daily, and by the turn of the century it had a catalogue of more than 5,000 cylinders. However by 1901, Emile Berliner’s flat disc “Gram-O-Phone” had established itself as the primary consumer medium and the same year, Columbia marketed its first discs — 7-inchers for 50 cents, and 10-inchers for $1.00. One 1901 best-seller was a rush cover version of President McKinley’s last public speech at the opening of the Buffalo Exposition on September 6, the day he was assassinated.
1108 G STREET
DOUGLAS H. WHEELER, COSMOS CLUB – There was a certain threadbare charm to the [Patrick] Hayes office at the Campbell Music Company at 1108 G Street, where we planned the events of a season in a one-room, second-floor office with a picture window overlooking an airshaft. To reach the office, theatergoers passed through the room where Mr. Campbell displayed the Steinway pianos he sold to the public. On the first floor, the tiny box offices of the Hayes Bureau and the National Symphony faced the sheet music department. Campbell’s stood just five blocks from the White House, where, only a few years before, President Truman could be seen leaving for a daily stroll on downtown streets. The streets were filled with small stores and locally owned businesses: Garfinkel’s department store, where the tea room was still a fashionable meeting place; the Singer Sewing Machine store, where people lined up for 99-cent machines on George Washington’s birthday; M.S. Swing, where coffee was brewed daily for area distribution and the aroma filled the surrounding sidewalks; Raleighs and Lewis and Thomas Saltz, where generations of men bought their clothes; and Rich’s Shoe Store, family-owned and operated for decades.
The Hayes Concert Bureau seemed right at home in this small-town way of life. In fact, we affectionately referred to the ticket office as a “country store,” where we met and developed friendly relationships with the music and dance lovers of the city. My duties included selling tickets for 25 cents each to a line of customers stretching out the store and down the block for concerts presented by the Library of Congress. At least once a day, I collected the cash and checks from ticket sales and deposited the money next door at the bank. Our account was so depleted at times, that we made out multiple checks to vendors in hopes that one or two would be good the first time they were presented and the remainder, the second or third time around. . .
One of my assignments for the Hayes Concert Bureau was to meet pianist Artur Rubinstein at the residence of Mrs. Virginia M. Bacon at 1801 F Street, NW, where he stayed when he performed in Washington. I escorted him to DAR Constitution Hall, located several blocks away, for a rehearsal of his annual recital. We walked and chatted as he puffed away on a sizeable stogie. On top of his mane of white hair was his signature fedora, which he tipped to every lady we passed.
1330 G STREET NW
JORDAN KITTS – The Year was 1912. . . Arthur Jordan entered his first foray into the music business by opening the Arthur Jordan Piano Company at 13th and G Street in the Nation’s Capital. Soon after, he persuaded friend Homer L. Kitt to leave his music business in Chicago and become general manager of the Arthur Jordan Piano Company. By 1922, the two had become partners and decided to purchase the G Street building and another music storefront nearby. The Jordan Piano Company eventually occupied the location at the northeast corner of 13th & G Streets, N.W. And the Homer Kitt Piano Company opened at 1330 G Street, N.W.
Though it was a joint ownership of a single business and in fact had a single manager for both stores, each operated completely independently in an effort to corner the market on franchises. They sold different product, employed different personnel, and were fiercely competitive. Any connection between them was a complete mystery to the general public for decades.
At 5:32 am on September 14, 1938, firemen responded to the first of two alarms and found the building at 1330 G Street ablaze. Fires had started separately on three floors. When the smoke cleared, literally, the building had been ravaged to the tune of $50,000 in both fixtures and furnishings. Because of three minor fires in previous weeks, and the fact that the front door had been found unlocked and open, lead investigators suspected arson, as reported in the Evening Star the following day. The only casualty of the fire were Fireman Buck Wright’s false teeth, lost while battling the blaze. Fellow firefighters aided him in his search but at the end of the day, according to the Evening Star, it looked as if he would not be eating steaks for a while. In 1984, Washington’s oldest continuously operating music storefront closed.
613 G STREET
Home of WHAQ in the early 1920s, owned by the Semmes Motor Company
The beginnings of Atlantic Records
THE ATLANTIC RECORDS STORY – Ahmet Ertegun was born in 1923 in Turkey, and came to the United States at the age of 11 when his father was appointed the Turkish Ambassador to the United States. Ahmet fell in love with the United States, particularly the music. He and his older brother Nesuhi (born 1918) collected over 15,000 jazz and blues 78s. Ahmet went to St. Johns College to study philosophy, and did post graduate work at Georgetown in Washington, DC. During this period, Ahmet and Nesuhi hired halls and staged concerts by Lester Young, Sidney Bechet and other jazz giants. When Ahmet’s father died in 1944, his mother and sister returned to Turkey, and Nesuhi went to California. Ahmet stayed in Washington. and hung around the Waxie Maxie (Max Silverman’s) Quality Music Shop to learn as much as he could about the record business. Ahmet had an aspiration to make records.
HISTORY OF ROCK – Ahmet’s father Munir choose the surname Ertegun which means “living in a hopeful future.” His mother Hayrunisa Rustem was very musical and a terrific dancer. With a beautiful voice she played every instrument by ear. There was a lot of music in the Ertegun household with Hayrunsia buying the popular music of the day. Ahmet’s older brother Nesuhi introduced to many different artists and by age of five Ahmet had fallen in love with jazz. At night they would sneak records into their rooms and fall asleep listening to them. At the age of fourteen Ahmet’s mother brought him a record-cutting machine. Taking a Cootie Williams instrumental “West End Blues” he wrote lyrics to it. With the instrumental playing on a record player Ahmet turned recording machine and sang the lyrics into the microphone as the record played.
Ahmet and Nesuhi liked to go looking for old records by the great bands. . . As the brothers became friends with Duke Ellington, Lena Horne and Jelly Roll Morton the decided to put on the first integrated concert in Washington D.C. Having trouble finding a venue where they could hold the event they held at the Jewish Community Center, which was the only place that would allow a mixed audience and mixed band. Later they would be allowed to use the National Press Club’s auditorium. . .
While going to graduate school Ahmet discovered Quality Radio Repair Shop which besides selling new and used radios and repairing them sold records for 10 cents or three for a quarter. The store was owned by a man named Max Silverman. Eventually Max would phase out the radio repair business and concentrated on the record end. The name of the shop was changed Waxie Maxie. Soon Silverman got out of used end into the new record business. He as began a radio program where independent record owners came to get their records played. Ahmet became friends with him and it was here that he learned the record business. Understanding what people were buying and why.
In 1946 Ahmet became friends with Herb Abramson, a dental student and A&R man for National Records. Deciding to start a label together they talked Max Silverstein into backing them. There was to be two labels Jubilee for Gospel and Quality for jazz and R&B.
HISTORIC SURVEY OF SHAW EAST – The store at 608 Florida Avenue was built in 1923 at a cost of $3,000 for Newman Zarin. It was designed and built by Israel Diamond In 1937, the Waxie Maxie’s music shop opened at 1836 7th Street as the Quality Music Shop with such fanfare that police were needed to control the crowd that turned out for a celebration and jam session that ran from 3 p.m. Friday to 3 a.m. Saturday. It was opened by Max Silverman, a successful jukebox salesman, who had opened the business as an outlet for his used records. Live radio broadcasts fro the storefront featured performances by Sarah Vaughn, Margaret Whiting, and drummer Buddy Rich. Silverman recalled a young patron that “lived at my store” in the 1940s named Ahmet Ertegun, the youngest son of the Turkish Ambassador. In 1947, he founded the famed Atlantic records, and recorded his own composition by the local group coined The Clovers that was an instant success. Waxie Maxie’s success eventually led to the company going public in 1970 at $1 a share, and has added 27 stores to the chain since. In 1989, it sold a total of 33 stores for $11.75 million to LIVE Entertainment, Inc. of Los Angeles. The original location was razed to make way for the Metro entrance of the Shaw Howard University Metro station.
MP3 – Herb Abramson was the first president of pioneering jazz/R&B/pop label Atlantic Records. Born November 16, 1920, in Brooklyn, NY, Abramson, who was a blues, jazz. and gospel music enthusiast, began collecting records in his teens. Meeting fellow jazz record collectors brothers Ahmet and Nesuhi Ertegun in Washington, D.C., in the early ’40s, he began promoting jazz concerts in New York and neighboring D.C. Abramson would solicit the musicians. D.C. record store owner Max Silverman of Quality Music Store, aka Waxie Maxie, financed the Quality and Jubilee labels with Abramson and Ahmet Ertegun. After no commercial success, Silverman decided not to invest any more money in the venture and the labels folded.
While studying to be a dentist at New York University, Abramson produced records for Al Green’s — not the ’70s singer — National Records between 1944-1947 and cut sides on Billy Eckstine, Joe Turner, and the Ravens. Ahmet Ertegun, determined to get into the record business, talked his dentist, Vahdi Sabit, into investing 100,000 dollars into his startup label, Atlantic Records. Abramson joined him at the label, along with Nesuhi Ertegun. Atlantic hurriedly recorded sides before the American Federation of Musicians’ strike came into effect in late 1947.
More DC musical history
- BAILY, PEARL
- BETTS, KETER
- RUTH BROWN
- CHARLIE BYRD
- EVA CASSIDY
- COUNTRY GENTLEMEN
- JIMMY DEAN
- BO DIDDLEY
- TODD DUNCAN
- ELLINGTON, DUKE
- FLACK ROBERTA
- DANNY GATTON
- MARVIN GAYE
- FELIX GRANT
- GWALTNEY, TOMMY
- BILL HARRIS
- EMMYLOU HARRIS
- BILLIE HOLIDAY IN DC
- SHIRLEY HORN
- MISSISSIPPI JOHN HURT
- AL JOLSON
- JELLY ROLL MORTON
- PUNK IN DC
- RODGERS, JIMMY
- SOUSA, JOHN PHILLIP
- SWEET HONEY IN THE ROCK
- TAYLOR, BILLY
- TIBBS, LILLIAN EVANS
- TURNER, NAP
- BILL WHELAN
Top DC Myths
[Compiled by Matthew Gilmore and others on the local history bulletin board]
– Residents stopped construction of a subway stop in Georgetown
– Washington was built on a swamp
– DC’s original plan was reconstructed out of Benjamin Banneker’s memory after L’Enfant was fired
– The L’Enfant plan was copied from Versailles
– The city’s circles and avenues were for military purposes and crowd control
– The absence of a Jay Street was to slight John Jay or Thomas Jerfferson
– Blood expert Charles Drew died at a white hospital where doctors refused to treat the black medical scholar.
MOST POPULAR BOYS NAMES IN DC
MOST POPULAR GIRLS NAMES IN DC
Social Security 2004
A large brick building on Capitol Hill served as the Naval Hospital from 1866 to 1906. It sits on a triangular lot, between 9th and 10th Streets, defined by Pennsylvania Avenue on the north. The building faces south, with an entrance on E Street, and is within the vicinity of the current Marine Barracks and the Navy Yard. Prior to the construction of this building, the Navy had used as hospital a rented building near the Navy Yard (1811-1843); a facility within the confines of the Marine Barracks until the Civil War; and a portion of the Government Hospital for the Insane (St. Elizabeths Hospital) during the War. Designed to accommodate 50 patients, the new hospital had good ventilation and running water supplied by the city, and was furnished with gas for lighting. After serving the naval personnel for four decades, the hospital moved to its newly constructed facility at Observatory Hill, 23rd and E Streets, NW. In 1922, the building became the Temporary Home for Veterans of All Wars.
1. Adams Morgan
2. American University Park
4. Barnaby Woods
5. Barney Circle
5. Barry Farms
8. Benning Heights
9. Brentwood Village
11. Brightwood Park
13. Buena Vista
16. Capitol Hill
17. Capitol View
19. Cathedral Heights
20. Chevy Chase
21. Children’s Hospital
23. Cleveland Park
24. Colonial Village
25. Columbia Heights
26. Congress Heights
31. Dupont Circle
32. East End
33. Eastland Gardens
36. Fairfax Village
37. Fairmont Heights
38. Farragut Circle
39. Floral Hills
40. Foggy Bottom (Hamburg)
41. Forest Hills
42. Fort Davis Park
43. Fort Dupont Park
44. Franklin McPhearson Square
45. Friendship Heights
46. Garfield Heights
48. Glover Park
49. Good Hope
50. Grant Park
55. Ivy City
56. Judiciary Square
57. Kalorama Heights
59. Kingman Park
60. Knox Hill
63. Lanier Heights
64. LeDroit Park
65. Lincoln Heights
66. Lincoln Park
67. Logan Circle
68. Mahaning Heights
69. Manor Park
70. Marshall Heights
71. Massachusetts Heights
72. McLean Gardens
73. Michigan Park
74. Mount Pleasant
75. Mt. Vernon Square
76. Naylor Gardens
77. North Cleveland Park
78. Northwest Triangle
79. NW Urban Renewal
80. Park View
82. Pinehurst Circle
83. Potomac Palisades
84. Randle Highlands
85. Rock Creek Gardens
86. Scott Circle
88. Shepherd Park
89. Shipley Terrace
92. Spring Valley
93. Stanton Park
94. Summit Park
96. Tenley Town
97. Thomas Circle
99. Truxton Circle
101. Union Station
102. University Heights
103. Washington Circle
104. Washington Highlands
105. Wesley Heights
106. West End
109. Woodley Park
This is a more recent list compiled by Mark David Richards: in 2001
Adams Morgan American University Park Anacostia, Historic Arboretum Barnaby Woods Barney Circle Barry Farms Bellview Benning Benning Heights Bloommingdale Brentwood Village Brightwood Brightwood Park Brookland Buena Vista Burleith/Hillandale Burrville Buzzard Point Capitol Hill Capitol View Carrollsburg Carver Langston Cathedral Heights Chevy Chase Chillum Chinatown Cleveland Park Colonial Village Columbia Heights Congress Heights Connecticut Avenue/K Street Crestwood Deanewood Douglass Downtown Dupont Circle East End Eastland Gardens Eckington Edgewood Embassy Row Fairfax Village Fairmont Heights Farragut Square Forest Hills
Foggy Bottom (Funkstown, Hamburg) Forest Hills Fort Davis Park Fort Dupont Park Fort Lincoln Fort McNair Fort Totten Foxhall-Georgetown Reservoir Gateway Franklin/McPhearson Square Friendship Heights Garfield Heights (Parklands, Hunter Pines, Ridgecrest, Manor Gardens) Georgetown Glover Park Good Hope Grant Park Greenway Hawthorne Hillbrook Hillcrest Howard University Ivy City Judiciary Square Kalorama Kalorama Heights Kenilworth Kingman Park Knox Hill Lamond-Riggs Langdon Lanier Heights LeDroit Park L’Enfant Plaza Lincoln Heights Lincoln Park Logan Circle Mahaning Heights Manor Park Marshall Heights Massachusetts Heights Mayfair McLean Gardens
Michigan Park Mount Pleasant Mt. Vernon Square Navy Yard Naylor Gardens North Capitol North Cleveland Park North Michigan Park Northwest Triangle Park View Penn Branch Penn Quarters Petworth Pinehurst Circle Potomac Palisades Queens Chapel Randle Highlands River Park River Terrace Rock Creek Gardens Scott Circle Shaw/U St./Cardozo Shepherd Park Sheridan Shipley Terrace Southeast Southwest Spring Valley Stanton Park Summit Park SW Waterfront Takoma Tenleytown Thomas Circle Trinidad Truxton Circle Twining Union Station University Heights Washington Circle Washington Highlands Wesley Heights West End Westminister Woodland Woodley Park Woodridge
LYNN EDEN, BULLETIN OF ATOMIC SCIENTISTS – For more than 50 years, the U.S. government has seriously underestimated damage from nuclear attacks. The earliest schemes to predict damage from atomic bombs, devised in 1947 and 1948, focused only on blast damage and ignored damage from fire, which can be far more devastating than blast effects.
The failure to include damage from fire in nuclear war plans continues today. Because fire damage has been ignored for the past half-century, high-level U.S. decision makers have been poorly informed, if informed at all, about the extent of damage that nuclear weapons would actually cause. . .
To visualize the destructiveness of a nuclear bomb, imagine a powerful strategic nuclear weapon detonated above the Pentagon, a short distance from the center of Washington, D.C. Imagine it is a “near-surface” burst—about 1,500 feet above the ground—which is how a military planner might choose to wreak blast damage on a massive structure like the Pentagon. Let us say that it is an ordinary, clear day with visibility at 10 miles, and that the weapon’s explosive power is 300 kilotons—the approximate yield of most modern strategic nuclear weapons. This would be far more destructive than the 15-kiloton bomb detonated at Hiroshima or the 21-kiloton bomb detonated at Nagasaki. . .
The detonation of a 300-kiloton nuclear bomb would release an extraordinary amount of energy in an instant—about 300 trillion calories within about a millionth of a second. More than 95 percent of the energy initially released would be in the form of intense light. This light would be absorbed by the air around the weapon, superheating the air to very high temperatures and creating a ball of intense heat—a fireball.
Because this fireball would be so hot, it would expand rapidly. Almost all of the air that originally occupied the volume within and around the fireball would be compressed into a thin shell of superheated, glowing, high-pressure gas. This shell of gas would compress the surrounding air, forming a steeply fronted, luminous shockwave of enormous extent and power—the blast wave.
By the time the fireball approached its maximum size, it would be more than a mile in diameter. It would very briefly produce temperatures at its center of more than 200 million degrees Fahrenheit (about 100 million degrees Celsius)—about four to five times the temperature at the center of the sun. . .
Within minutes of a detonation, fire would be everywhere. Numerous fires and firebrands—burning materials that set more fires—would coalesce into a mass fire. (Scientists prefer this term to “firestorm,” but I will use them interchangeably here.). . .
At Pentagon City, a shopping and office complex about seven-tenths of a mile from ground zero, light from the fireball would melt asphalt in the streets, burn paint off walls, and melt metal surfaces within a half second of the detonation. The interiors of vehicles and buildings in line of sight of the fireball would explode into flames.
Roughly one second later, the blast wave and 750-mile-per-hour winds would arrive, tossing burning cars into the air like leaves in a windstorm. At this distance, the blast wave and thermal radiation would be more powerful and destructive than at ground zero in Hiroshima. . .
At the Capitol, the fireball would be as bright as a thousand suns and would deliver nearly three times the thermal energy deposited at the perimeter of the mass fire at Hiroshima. The Capitol is well constructed to resist fire and stands in an open space at a distance from other buildings, but it would probably suffer heavy fire damage. Light from the fireball shining through its windows would ignite papers, curtains, light fabrics, and some upholstery. The House and Senate office buildings would suffer greater damage—their interiors would probably burn, as would the area’s adjacent residential buildings and trees.
Fire would be virtually everywhere within three miles of ground zero. Clothes worn by people in the direct line of sight of the fireball would burst into flames or melt, and uncovered skin would be scorched, charring flesh and causing third-degree burns.
It would take the blast wave 12–14 seconds after the fireball’s light flash to travel three miles. At this distance, the blast wave would persist for well over two seconds and be accompanied by near-hurricane winds of 100 miles per hour. Buildings of heavy construction on Capitol Hill would suffer little or no structural damage, but all exterior windows would be shattered, and nonsupporting interior walls and doors would be severely damaged or blown down. . .
At Union Station, not quite 3.5 miles from the Pentagon, the majestic front facade of glass would be smashed into razor-sharp projectiles. Curtains, table cloths, and other combustibles would ignite on the upper decks. Blast damage would not be nearly as severe as it would be closer to the point of detonation, but streets would be blocked with fallen debris. The scouring effects of the high winds accompanying the shockwave would loft dust into the air. Fires would be everywhere. Dust and smoke would create a dense, low-visibility, foglike environment, impeding the ability of individuals and emergency response teams to move about. .
Only a few mass fires have occurred in human history: those created by British and U.S. conventional incendiary weapons and by U.S. atomic bombs in World War II. These include fires that destroyed Hamburg, Dresden, Kassel, Darmstadt, and Stuttgart in Germany, and Tokyo, Hiroshima, and Nagasaki in Japan. History’s first mass fire began on the night of July 27, 1943, in Hamburg—created by allied incendiary raids. Within 20 minutes, two-thirds of the buildings within an area of 4.5 square miles were on fire. It took fewer than six hours for the fire to completely burn an area of more than five square miles. Damage analysts called it the “Dead City.” Wind speeds were of hurricane force; air temperatures were 400–500 degrees Fahrenheit. Between 60,000 and 100,000 people were killed in the attack. . .
Average air temperatures in the burning areas after the attack would be well above the boiling point of water; winds generated by the fire would be hurricane force; and the fire would burn everywhere at this intensity for three to six hours. Even after the fire burned out, street pavement would be so hot that even tracked vehicles could not pass over it for days, and buried, unburned material from collapsed buildings could burst into flames if exposed to air even weeks after the fire.
Those who sought shelter in basements of strongly constructed buildings could be poisoned by carbon monoxide seeping in, or killed by the ovenlike conditions. Those who tried to escape through the streets would be incinerated by the hurricane-force winds laden with firebrands and flames. Even those able to find shelter in the lower-level sub-basements of massive buildings would likely die of eventual heat prostration, poisoning from fire-generated gases, or lack of water. The firestorm would eliminate all life in the fire zone.
PLANNED ROUTES FOR NUCLEAR WASTE – 2OO2
OLD WASHINGTON HEBREW CONGREGATION
GOETHE INSTITUTE – Washington Hebrew Congregation, Washington’s oldest Jewish congregation, was formed in 1852 and is associated with Reform Judaism. The congregation, originally essentially German, dedicated its 8th Street temple in 1898. President William McKinley attended the ground-breaking ceremonies. . . The building has been home to Greater New Hope Baptist Church since 1954, the church having been organized in 1933.
OLYMPICS & DC
ROSES TO MIKE PANETTA for reviving an idea your editor unsuccessfully pushed 11 years ago: a DC Olympic Committee. Writes Panetta:
Like many good ideas, this one started over a few beers at the Adams Mill Bar. I was watching the 2004 Olympic opening ceremonies and said to myself, ‘That looks cool, I wish I could march in the opening ceremonies.” Being way past my prime athletically to make any U.S. team, I began to think about what developing countries would be open to me sliding them a few bucks to make me a winter athlete – after all whose job would I be taking?
Then something weird happened. The U.S. Men’s Basketball Team lost to the Puerto Rican Olympic team in a stunning upset. Like many Americans, my biggest questions were: ‘Why the hell does Puerto Rico have a team? Aren’t they part of the United States?’ I did a little looking around and found out that not only does Puerto Rico have a team, but so does Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands – all part of the United States.
The wheels started turning in my head. I knew that Puerto Rico, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, while parts of the United States, each only have one, non-voting delegate in the U.S. House of Representatives. The District of Columbia also only has one, non-voting delegate in the U.S. House. However, unlike those other American territories DC lacks its own Olympic committee. That is until now. Together with some friends and co-workers who live in the District we’ve started a movement called the District of Columbia Olympic Committee (DCOC).
If the District is going to be lumped in with the other red-headed stepchildren of American representative democracy, we should at least be able to compete with our own Olympic teams like other territories. The first team we are organizing is curling, but we are looking for athletes for other sports for both the winter and summer games. – 2/06
WASHINGTON CITY PAPER, 1994: To most spectators of the Lillehammer Olympic opening ceremony, the things that stood out were the skiing fiddlers, unruly reindeer, and kings swathed in Goretex. But as the parade of nations passed the reviewing stand, Sam Smith, die-hard statehood advocate, full-time rabble rouser, and sometime editor of the Progressive Review, noted that something was amiss. Athletes from American Samoa, the US Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico strode proudly behind their territorial flags. While these semi-independent US colonies have their own Olympic teams, Washington does not. Once again, Smith realized, the nonvoting citizens of DC had been denied adequate representation.
“Not only are we not part of the Union, we’re not even allowed to play with the colonies. We’re even discriminated among the non-self-governing territories of the US,” Smith growls. “It’s all part of the colonial mentality, of accepting things the way they are.” . . . The oversight so enraged Smith that, by Monday morning, he had already founded and designed letterhead for the DC Olympic Organizing Committee (quickly renamed the Committee for a DC Team in the Olympics to avoid sounding too official), and appointed himself the “very interim chair.” Armed with the slogan “Give Us Liberty or Give Us the Gold,” Smith warmed up his fax and fired off a manifesto to local pols and industry bigwigs. . .
Smith hopes parochial power brokers like [hardware magnate] John Hechinger, Jesse Jackson, and perhaps even [Redskins owner] Jack Kent Cooke will petition the International Olympic Committee to permit DC to compete in the next games. “Tonya Harding’s lawyers got the Olympic Committee to roll over — can you imagine Jesse Jackson and Jack Kent Cooke working in concert? You talk about the morality of Tonya Harding being allowed to compete in the Olympics, how about the immorality of DC not being allowed to compete?” he asks.
EPILOGUE: Jack Kent Cooke never came aboard, but Jesse Jackson did after being button holed by your editor in National Airport — long enough to write a supporting letter to Dr. Leroy Walker, President of the US Olympic Committee, right in the middle of the games. Dave Clarke, chair of the city council, also endorsed the idea. Unfortunately, Jackson’s attention deficit disorder soon took over and nothing more was heard from him. Even more distressing was the failure of DC activists who, rather than rushing to the cause, bombarded your editor with requests to be on the team — based on unsubstantiated and archaic claims of athletic prowess.
ONE STEP DOWN
WILLIAM TRIPPLET, WASHINGTONIAN – The 1968 riots destroyed Black Broadway along with a chunk of downtown DC; the Howard Theater had already fallen into disrepair, a state in which it remains today. New clubs tried to take up the slack. One of the more successful was One Step Down, which opened in Georgetown as a biker joint, then moved in the ’70s to 25th and Pennsylvania, where it became a charming hole-in-the-wall presenting live jazz. The One Step showcased a variety of musicians, many of whom had played backup to big-name artists and were now making it on their own. Its weekend jam sessions gave local artists valuable opportunities to develop their chops. But despite attempts to keep the club going after owner Joe Cohen’s death in 1997, the One Step, too, passed from the scene