The DC Almanac is a collection of little known or suppressed facts about the colony of Washington DC. Additional entries are always welcome. Send to DC ALMANAC. Published by the Progressive Review
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NIH - The city's first and only public hospital, DC General Hospital closed in May 2001 after serving the residents for nearly two hundred years. The area once occupied by the DC General Hospital, defined by Independence Avenue, 19th Street, SE, and the Anacostia River, is now called the DC General Health Campus, consisting of a number of clinics such Women's Services, Detoxification Center, and Southeast Sexually Transmitted Diseases Clinic.
The Washington Infirmary, the first public hospital established in 1806, was moved to this site in 1846. By then it was called the Washington Asylum and housed the city's indigent patients. It also served as a work house for people convicted of minor crimes. Later, a smallpox hospital, quarantine station, disinfection plant, and crematory were also located in this area. With the construction of a new building, the health-care facility became the Gallinger Municipal Hospital in 1922, and was renamed District of Columbia General Hospital in 1953. The controversial closing of the public hospital in 2001 ended the inpatient services and the city's indigent health care system was transferred mostly to the Greater Southeast Community Hospital. The DC Jail is located to the south of this historic health-care complex.
Only a handful of restaurants, such as Anna Maria's on Connecticut Ave., the A.V. Ristorante on NY Ave, and spots along U Street stayed open after midnight in the 1950s. It was still illegal to drink standing up or to carry your drink from the bar to your table. My own late night choice was the DC Diner, which squatted in a parking lot near Vermont & L NW. The silver diner had a conventional counter filling about two thirds of its length, with a little paneled nook at one end just large enough for several tables and a display of race track photos. Into the DC Diner came cops, drunks, prostitutes and college students returning from dates or, on early Sunday mornings, from the midnight 'printers mass' at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception thoughtfully provided GPO workers and the Catholic young and restless
My routine was to order the steak and egg breakfast. A beefy cook would grab a couple of eggs and burst them on the grill. The steak followed. He then reached over for a handful of home fries from the foot-high pile that sat nearly cooked in a cool corner of the stove. Almost simultaneously the chef lunged for a fistful of salad from a five gallon potato chip can resting under the counter and plopped it into a side dish. During the whole procedure no kitchen utensil touched his hands, yet few meals have tasted as good. - Sam Smith, Multitudes
NEAL AUGENSTEIN, WTOP - The bathrooms stunk. The neighborhood at the corner of 7th and E Streets in Northwest was nearly deserted. Plaster would likely fall as you walked up rickety stairs to the second floor -- a floor that bounced like a trampoline as aging floor joists fought collapse from the weight of young people dancing to punk rock. d.c. space opened its doors in 1977. Thirty years later, and 16 years since the final guitar power chord faded, the spirit of the eclectic club that was part-restaurant, part-art gallery, part-movie theater will be celebrated. This Sunday there's a reunion at the 9:30 Club.
"The original name was 'district creative space,' but that didn't work. So we shortened it to 'd.c. space,' and later it just became known as 'the space,' says co-founder Bill Warrell. . .
"When we took over the lease for the building the subway had been under construction for a number of years. Seventh Street was completely torn up. Everything was boarded-up and closed."
Shortly after opening, with the help of a friends from art school, Warrell says, "It became a home for a whole lot of different musics -- avant garde jazz, including Sun Ra, punk rock, new wave -- all the stuff that was starting to happen, this became home base.". . .
The club closed in 1991, as development enveloped the neighborhood near the Gallery Place Metro station. Sunday's reunion at the 9:30 Club will include performance by bands that played at d.c. space, including 9353. Proceeds of the show will benefit Tom Terrell, the first house deejay at d.c. space. Terrell is fighting cancer.
GALLERY: DC TRANSIT STREETCARS NATIONAL TROLLEY MUSEUM
BART BARNES, HILL RAG - If you've lived on the Hill for any length of time, chances are you have a "Distad Story" or know someone who does. When I mentioned to a neighbor that I was writing a profile of John Distad and his business, she said, "Distad's! I wouldn't think of taking my car anywhere else. About 20 years ago, when I first came to the Hill, I went out one morning, turned on the car and as I pulled out I heard the most awful grinding sound. I slowly drove to the nearest service station which happened to be Distad's and left the car to be diagnosed. The next day I called to get the bad news, and was told, It's ready to be picked up. It was just a loose hose. That will be $4.00.' I couldn't believe it. That mechanic could have told me I needed a new carburetor or transmission, and I would have believed him. I was so impressed with their honesty."
That's the kind of "Distad Story" you hear over and over again. And that's why Consumer's Checkbook, a non-profit consumer information and service resource, gives Distad's its top rating for quality and price. In a 2005 Checkbook survey, 98% of 213 respondents rated Distad's adequate or superior for overall performance, and there were no complaints on file at the Better Business Bureau. . .
Since 1959 the Distad family has run the gas station and auto service operation at 9th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue S.E. For years it was Distad's Amoco. Now the gasoline pumps have BP logos and the diagnostic work for ailing automobiles is computer assisted, but everything else is pretty much the same. . .
John Distad joined his father in the business in 1973, after having received a business degree from Towson State University, and he took charge of the operation in 1974 when his father died. John Distad is one of eight children, four of whom work in the family auto service business. There's Donna Cranford, who does the bookkeeping; Roy Distad, who runs a Distad auto shop on Martin Luther King Avenue SE in Anacostia, where the specialties are front end alignment and brake work; and Richard Distad, who runs the shop at 14th St. and Maryland Ave. NE, where diagnostic work is done. But they are all managed as one business operation. "Roy is the workhorse, Rick is the technician and I'm just in the middle," says John Distad. . .
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
The city was named by the three commissioners charged with supervising the construction of the public buildings, at one of their then monthly meetings on September 8, 1791.. . Washington told Jefferson to assure the commissioners that they had complete freedom. Of course, everyone knew that the city would be named after Washington. One name bruited about Philadelphia before the meeting was "Washingtonople." . . . The commissioners named the city "Washington." They also had to name the ten mile square the city was in, mandated by the Constitution, in which in 1791 there were already two existing towns, Georgetown and Alexandria. They chose the name "Columbia." - Bob Arnebeck
[The following story appeared in the November 1970 edition of the DC Gazette, the former name of the Progressive Review]
DC GAZETTE, NOVEMBER 1970 - The Public Safety Committee of the DC City Council held two days of hearings this month to hear scientific and public testimony month to hear 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. Becked 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 Gilbert 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.
CULTURAL TOURISM DC - Todd Duncan (1903-1998), opera singer and actor, originated the role of Porgy in George Gershwin's famed opera Porgy and Bess. The baritone Duncan was also the first African American accepted into the New York City Opera. Duncan lived much of his life in Washington, DC, and taught voice on the faculty at Howard University as well as in his private studio. Duncan was born in Danville, Kentucky. He received his B.A. and M.A.degrees from Butler University and Columbia University Teachers College, respectively, before being appointed a professor of voice at Howard University in 1931. In 1935 he decided he couldn't perform Porgy and Bess at the National Theatre to a segregated audience. He worked with composer Gershwin, Ralph Bunche, and the Howard University Teachers Union to change this policy. The National Theatre backed down, and all were welcome to sit where they pleased for the production's brief run in 1935. The theater reverted to its policy of segregation immediately after, however, until citizen protests and ownership changes led to its desegregation in 1952. Porgy and Bess would later be criticized for its stereotypical depictions of African Americans. Duncan also had a successful career as a concert singer, performing in more than 50 countries. His singing style, called by one historian sweet, dreamy, aristocratic, was well known nationally and internationally, and its echoes occasionally were heard in the voices of his best students. Duncan retired from Howard University in 1945 and continued to teach students in his basement studio while he was well into his 90s.
S. J. ACKERMAN, WASHINGTON POST, 2007 - The first Eastern Market apparently was damaged by fire, along with the adjacent Navy Yard, during the British invasion of 1814. Half a century later, the Civil War disrupted the market's operations, especially after Southern Maryland suppliers set up shop across the Anacostia River. By 1871, the neglected market was, in the words of a local newspaper, a "disgraceful shed.". . .
In 1923, a newfangled chain supermarket opened right across the street. Its stiff competition forced the 1929 closure of the North Hall, which was degraded to a garage for surplus fire engines. The old Washington Times advocated modernizing Eastern Market or closing it, but District government planners already had secretly targeted the whole public market system. Their scheme -- to demolish Western Market in 1928, with Eastern next on their hit list -- ignited street protests.
Thwarted, District bureaucrats in 1943 proposed transforming Eastern Market into a streamlined supermarket. A decade later, a congressional bill envisioned turning a revamped market into a national children's theater. . .
By 1962, two stands remained, the Glasgow family meat and seafood businesses, but vendors displaced from a large private market that had closed soon filled the void.
In 1964, the D.C. health commissioner declared Eastern Market "a menace to public health" and suggested replacing it with a "huge supermarket center with plenty of parking." When vendors' leases expired in 1965, however, the District dithered. . .
[In 1981 the city had a] plan to transform Eastern Market into a quaint tourist bazaar. Neighborhood fury sent Mayor Marion Barry back to the drawing board. . . Eastern Market would be preserved basically as the food market it had always been.
EMANCIPATION FOR DC SLAVES
HISTORICAL SOCIETY OF WASHINGTON - On April 16, 1862, President Lincoln signed into law "An Act for the Release of Certain Persons held to Service or Labor in the District of Columbia." The Act decreed "that all persons held to service or labor within the District of Columbia by reason of African descent are hereby discharged and freed of and from all claim to such service or labor; and from and after the passage of this act neither slavery nor involuntary servitude shall hereafter exist in said District."
Under this law, which uses neither the word "slave" nor "emancipation", the enslaved residents of Washington, and the city itself, became the first freed from the burden of slavery by the U.S. government. The act also provides the sole instance of compensated emancipation in U.S. history.
Under the Act, Benjamin T. Thorn was paid $569.40 in compensation for the release of John H. Hawkins. For release of a "male infant", Margaret Loughborough received $21.90. "Henry Hatton, colored" received $1,839.60 in compensation for the emancipation of Martha, Henry, and George Hatton. George Washington Young received $17,771.85 upon the release of 69 of his slaves. Sarah Davis received nothing at all for the release of Hannah West, who was deemed to be of "no value."
WHEN IN DOUBT, FOLLOW THE LIMOS OUT OF TOWN
JOHN MCCASLIN, WASH TIMES - During the height of the Cold War in the 1950s, Wendel Allen represented the U.S. Air Force on a panel studying how the city of Washington could be evacuated in event of enemy attack. . . . During the Cold War, he tells this column, "it was suggested that flat railroad cars could be stationed near the 14th Street bridge, and when the siren went off, people could rush to them." Mr. Allen didn't think much of the idea. "After weeks of conferences, this is what was decided and voted upon," he says. "It passed with one abstention - Wendel Allen." In addition, he says, all major road arteries leading out of the nation's capital were to be designated "one-way," with no traffic crossings permitted along any of the escape routes.
"The panel fully believed that if there was absolutely no cross traffic, the cars could go right out of the city," Mr. Allen says. "We even had large maps printed showing the major arteries to be distributed to the public." But what about the evacuees' loved ones at home and school?
"Working men were not to attempt to go home to get their wives and children," Mr. Allen reveals. "The wives were also to get on one of those outgoing arteries and under no circumstances were they to attempt to go to the schools to get their children.
"It would be the teachers' responsibility to get the children out of town," he says. "I attempted to tell the committee that if they thought the mothers would drive merrily out of the city without their children, they truly believed in the tooth fairy."
Finally, Mr. Allen says he used to drive in a car pool with a "little old lady" who, in his expert opinion, "was the only person I knew who had a workable idea. She said if you wanted to get out of town and survive, you should buy a motor scooter ... keep it gasolined up and ready to go."
[In fact the fastest way to get a lot of people out of town is by bicycle]
AN EARLY PHOTO OF F STREET
Featherhead aka Jim Kapp lived in Mt Pleasant, where he was known as a colorful, pot pushing bike courier with what one acquaintance called "insousiance and charismatic style." He reportedly later became a teacher. A Googled glimpse:
"Featherhead I knew him. Shit, everyone knew him. Never knew him well. Always looked up to him, always questioned why. It seemed like he was taking a risky shortcut. He had the cards to play the straight game and play it well. But he opted to run his business out of the trunk of a car, in a back alley, with a cell phone and a beeper. He was out in the open. He was visible, super visible. I am sure that high school kids all over the suburbs said to each other...if you need a bag, head to Dupont Circle and look for the guy on a bicycle with an orange cycling helmet with a a large feather on top. What was a prop for a New Year's Eve party became his signature. What was a few dollars on the side became his main gig. What was his future became his end....or so it seemed. Last I heard he had MS. I wish him well. Hope that he alive, healthy and living the life he chooses. The image of him arriving at a Mount Pleasant group house party with his old school oakley shades and his roller blades is fresh in my eyes. It is hard to see that anything could slow this guy down or tear the smile from his face. Not the law...not MS.....I pray that nothing can break his spirit. For some reason I feel that he is alive and well on a beach somewhere dipping into a secret next egg that no one could find. - Gwadzilla
FEDERAL CITY COUNCIL
KATHRYN SINZINGER, COMMON DENOMINATOR, 1999 - An exclusive group of largely wealthy Washington area business people has for years been working behind the scenes with the city's political leaders to advance its own agenda for the nation's capital - often without D.C. residents' input and almost always without wide knowledge of its efforts. Legislative influence of the group, which has close ties to the Washington Post, extends from the D.C. City Council and the mayor's office to the halls of Congress and the White House, according to sources interviewed for this story. Since the Kennedy administration in the early 1960s, even the president's Cabinet and other key federal officials have been considered ex officio advisers.
Membership in the private and generally secretive group, called the Federal City Council, is highly selective. Washington Post Publisher Donald E. Graham serves as nominating committee chairman for the organization, which was founded in 1954 by his father, the late Post Publisher Philip L. Graham. Seed money for the group's formation came from the Eugene and Agnes E. Meyer Foundation, named for the parents of Katharine Graham, chairman of the Washington Post Co. executive committee.
"They're controlling the city and it's a problem," said Sandra Seegars, a longtime Ward 8 activist and recent appointee to the D.C. Taxicab Commission. "It's a secret group that's in the background pushing buttons and pulling strings, but nobody knows who they are."
A spokesman for the Federal City Council declined to cooperate on this story, except to provide a copy of the group's 1999 annual report and a directory of the group's members, called "trustees," which was published in January 1999. . . "We don't seek publicity," said David Perry, the organization's deputy director. Files in the D.C. Public Library's Washingtoniana collection show the Federal City Council's founding and early projects received prominent coverage in both the Washington Post and the now-defunct Evening Star. However, except for newspaper clippings of the group's first 10 years of activities, the library's information about the Federal City Council is sparse. Librarian Matthew Gilmore noted with a chuckle that files about the Federal City Council "disappear" from the library's collection almost as soon as they get created.
WASHINGTON POST - In 1997, D.C. officials, bowing to inducements and pressure from the Clinton administration and its point man, Franklin D. Raines of the Office of Management and Budget, agreed to abandon the historical federal payment as a trade-off for the federal government's assumption of certain state functions then performed by the District. It was a bad deal for the city, and we said so at the time. The concept of a direct federal payment to the District was nearly as old as the city itself. Neither Democratic nor Republican administrations challenged the concept, because the federal presence in the city was acknowledged to be a unique -- and costly -- fact of life. A succession of presidents and Congresses agreed that immunizing federal property, foreign missions, several national organizations, the income of nonresidents, and goods and services sold to the federal government from District taxation placed an undue burden on city residents. Asking the city to host millions of tourists annually and protect countless others who come to the nation's capital to petition their government also comes with a high price. But in 1997 the Clinton administration induced a cash-strapped city to accept a deal that haunts the District still. The commuter tax, while politically popular in the city and a sensible policy option, was a political non-starter in Congress and thus a poor substitute for the federal payment. Now the commuter tax is off the table. D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D), who championed the Clinton administration proposal -- including abandonment of the federal payment -- is touting legislation that would give the city an annual $800 million federal appropriation. Her proposal falls just short of trying to put Humpty Dumpty together again, but it's worth the effort. Of course, as Ms. Norton, Mr. Raines and their colleagues must know, Humpty should never have been pushed off the wall in the first place.
The problems went back to the beginning of home rule in 1974. Congress gave the city limited freedom but denied it fiscal fairness. The city was refused the right to impose a reciprocal income tax on suburban commuters (a standard revenue source for many major cities). Congress set up pension plans without adequate funding. And it failed to compensate the city justly for the services it required and for land removed from the DC tax rolls. To give some sense of the impact of these decisions, an extremely conservative estimate of revenue lost -- say, $300 million annually -- would add up to $6 billion over the 20 years of home rule.
The problem was exacerbated by the administrations of Walter Washington and Marion Barry, which increased the size of the city's bureaucracy beyond reasonable justification. Both administrations also adopted extremely expensive but ineffective policies based on edifice economics -- e.g. building things like freeways, the subway and convention centers in the fruitless hope that they would provide fiscal salvation. Despite billions spent on such projects, sales tax revenue in DC barely kept up with inflation and employment of DC residents actually declined.
Contemporaneous with such policies has been a long-term indifference to, or destruction of, small business -- from the 1950s SW urban renewal (most of the 800 evicted businesses never recovered), to the disruption of the freeways and Metro construction, to forced emigration of small business to make way for downtown urban renewal, to the destruction of the semi-industrial core of the West End, to Georgetown waterfront rezoning (shortly followed by the deterioration of older commercial Georgetown), to over-regulation, to painfully inefficient and corrupt licensing procedures, to the most recent plan to install meters in taxi cabs, which will allow corporate monopolization of one of DC's oldest and most important means of upward economic mobility.
BARRY AND THE TAKEOVER
Following Marion Barry's reelection in 1994, the federal government took a fully manageable problem (an accumulated deficit in real dollars was less than Marion Barry faced when he first took office) and turned it into a faux crisis. In doing so, Congress, White House, local business interests and the Washington Post destroyed local democracy, damaged services, and demoralized the city. Long before this cynical coup, TPR had proposed a more rational approach to the city's fiscal and bureaucratic overload: first design the government you want and then move in an orderly fashion towards it. Well done, using retraining and flexible reassignment, this could have produced far less disruption and a far better result. Instead, the city found itself governed by slashism -- ad hoc budgetary cuts that reflected not reflected not rational decisions but the mal-distribution of power. Even chair Andrew Brimmer of the federal control board would have to admit that "the improvement of services is a place where we have fallen down."
In restoring colonialism to the city, Clinton, the US Congress, and the control board:
- Destroyed the federal payment, ending a more than century-old compact in which the federal government at least accepted the principle of paying for taxes foregone and services provided. This commitment no longer exists.
- Replaced the payment with an ad hoc collection of federal subsidies terminable at whim and heavily weighted towards those that lock up as many DC residents as possible.
- Weakened still further the city's control over its justice system including the creation of privatized gulags to which prisoners are being sent hundreds of miles from their home and the enforcement of still more draconian sentencing measures.
- Raided the city's pension funds in order to create the illusion that the federal government had taken full responsibility for these pensions when it had merely postponed the problem to when the city's pension kitty has been drained dry.
- Cooperated in creating a control board, undemocratic and corrupt in its procedures, that is a violation of international human rights conventions.
- Sold WDCU, the priceless public radio station owned by UDC, to CSPAN for a mere $13 million, losing the city a major local voice
WASHINGTON POST, 2005 - In 1997, D.C. officials, bowing to inducements and pressure from the Clinton administration and its point man, Franklin D. Raines of the Office of Management and Budget, agreed to abandon the historical federal payment as a trade-off for the federal government's assumption of certain state functions then performed by the District. It was a bad deal for the city, and we said so at the time. The concept of a direct federal payment to the District was nearly as old as the city itself. Neither Democratic nor Republican administrations challenged the concept, because the federal presence in the city was acknowledged to be a unique -- and costly -- fact of life. A succession of presidents and Congresses agreed that immunizing federal property, foreign missions, several national organizations, the income of nonresidents, and goods and services sold to the federal government from District taxation placed an undue burden on city residents. Asking the city to host millions of tourists annually and protect countless others who come to the nation's capital to petition their government also comes with a high price. But in 1997 the Clinton administration induced a cash-strapped city to accept a deal that haunts the District still. The commuter tax, while politically popular in the city and a sensible policy option, was a political non-starter in Congress and thus a poor substitute for the federal payment. Now the commuter tax is off the table. D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D), who championed the Clinton administration proposal -- including abandonment of the federal payment -- is touting legislation that would give the city an annual $800 million federal appropriation. Her proposal falls just short of trying to put Humpty Dumpty together again, but it's worth the effort. Of course, as Ms. Norton, Mr. Raines and their colleagues must know, Humpty should never have been pushed off the wall in the first place.
OLDEST FIRE COMPANY: Engine Compnay 3 in the 400 block of New Jersey Avenue NW is the city's oldest fire company. Starting in 1804 as a volunteer unit, it joined DC's new professional firefighting force in 1871. The British burned down the original firehouse in 1814 FIRE DEPARTMENT PHOTOS
Born in Asheville, North Carolina, and raised in Arlington,Virginia, Roberta Flack discovered her earliest musical influences from the church.. . . As she moved into her teens, Roberta's listening gravitated towards classical music, and her piano playing developed rapidly. At 13, she won second place honors with her performance of a Scarlatti sonata in a statewide contest for black students. At the same time, her scholastic excellence enabled Roberta to regularly skip grades, to the point that she had to be "left back" for a year to allow her physical and emotional development to catch up with her stellar academic advancement. Remarkably, by the age of 15, she enrolled at Howard University on a full music scholarship, making her one of the youngest students to ever enroll there. Within a year, she was conducting her sorority's vocal quartet, accompanying pop, jazz, and opera singers, and changed her major from piano to voice as she was assisting the school's choir conductor. To earn extra money, she also taught piano privately and played the organ at her parents' church - a job previously held by her mother.
Roberta next changed her major to music education, becoming the first black student teacher at an all-white school near Chevy Chase, Maryland. By the time she graduated, at 19, she'd already directed a production of Aida, earning her a standing ovation from the faculty after her final exam recital. She began graduate studies in music, but the sudden death of her father forced her to leave both school and home to take a teaching job out of the necessity to support herself.
Teaching in Farmville, North Carolina, was an immense change from Chevy Chase, Maryland. In this "very segregated, very backwards" town, Roberta was hired for $2,800 a year to teach English and music. The frustration of teaching basic grammar to high school students, some of whom were older than she, was barely outweighed by the small triumphs of exposing music to the school's 1,300 students. When the year was over, Roberta returned to Washington where she held teaching posts at several junior high schools over the next four years. At one school in particular, Banneker Junior High, she taught seventh graders termed "basic a-typical" (at the lowest educational level in the school ). Roberta remembers, "I found myself unable to teach music...how was I supposed to teach them to sing the National Anthem when they couldn't read it?"
It was during this period that Roberta's professional music career really began to take shape. At D.C.'s posh Tivoli Club, she served as accompanist to the opera singers who strolled the room. During intermissions, Roberta would sing and play blues and folk songs and pop standards on an old upright piano in the back. One thing led to another, and she started working two to three nights a week at the 1520 Club, playing solo piano and singing. When her voice teacher told Roberta that he saw a brighter future for her in pop music than the classics, she started reshaping her repertoire in her ensuing stints, and her reputation spread. At one famous night club on Capitol Hill, Mr. Henry's, the owners constructed an upstairs performance area especially for her, with its unforgettable church pew seating. People like Burt Bacharach, Al Hibbler, Carmen McRae, Kim Stanley, Eddie Harris, Woody Allen, Bill Cosby, Ramsey Lewis, and Johnny Mathis were in regular attendance, to name but a few. She would often share her stage and her piano stool with them, and even found herself playing with Liberace one night! . . .
With a repertoire of more than 600 songs, Roberta played 42 of them for Atlantic producer, Joel Dorn, in three hours. In November of 1968, she went into the studio and laid down some 39 song demos over nine hours. Three months later, she recorded "FIRST TAKE," her debut album, in a mere ten hours at Atlantic Studios. Among the songs she cut was "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face." Roberta recalls those studio sessions, remembering it as a "very naive and beautiful approach..
MR HENRY'S DURING THE 1968 RIOTS
The flag of Washington, D.C., was adopted in 1938. The design was based on the shield from George Washington's family's coat of arms.
VALENCIA MOHAMMED, AFRO AMERICAN - Known for its famous Southern cuisine, the Florida Avenue Grill celebrated its 60th anniversary [in 2004] with loyal patrons, friends and community. . . Lacey "Carl" Wilson Sr. and his wife, Bertha, founded the business. Wilson invested $5,000 in this small corner food stand that he shared with a shoeshine stand. Over the years, the shoeshine stand moved out and the Florida Avenue Grill expanded. . . Located at 13th and Clifton streets, Florida Avenue Grill served whites during the Jim-Crow era when blacks could not be served in white establishments. . . Lined across the top wall are hundreds of photos signed by the rich and famous, from Lena Horne, Martin Luther King Jr., Ron Brown, hip-hop art Ludacris, Jasmine Guy, Martha Reeves, of the Vandellas, and many other national and international celebrities. . . "I remember how the Platters would enter the restaurant singing a song a cappella. Yeah, those were the good old days," said Wilson.
FORER & REIN
[From comments at the 50th anniversary of the Thompson restaurant case victory]
FRED SOLOWEY - In the summer of 1946, 36-year old Joseph Forer and 32-year old David Rein - both Jewish Ivy League law school graduates - left government service to go into the private practice of law here in the District of Columbia. They practiced together for over 30 years.
Though progressives, Dave and Joe saw nothing wrong with having a lucrative law practice. That was their plan in 1946. It just never worked out that way.
Almost from the beginning they became embroiled in fighting on many fronts against the war on American liberty often called the McCarthy period, but known to them as the Truman, Hoover, Nixon period. Banning organizations, loyalty oaths, mass firings, Congressional witch hunts, jailing people for their ideas-these were all part of it.
Together, this two-man firm represented more witnesses called before witch-hunting congressional committees than any other, and they may have argued more cases before the Supreme Court than any firm in the country during the 1950s and 1960s.
Ostracized by many in the DC legal community, and often representing clients who could not pay them, they stood steadfast when many others ran.
The legal organization in which they were active, the National Lawyers Guild, had been founded here in Washington in 1937, with 600 lawyers present, to support the New Deal and become the first racially integrated bar organization. President Roosevelt sent a welcome message and many federal judges and Senators were among its 4000 members in 1938.
But the Lawyers Guild itself was branded a communist front, many of its members attacked. By the time of the Thompson Restaurant case, there were but four members remaining here in Washington, Forer & Rein and two others.
As the attacks heated up, nothing offered better proof to the inquisitors that a particular white activist was a communist than evidence of social and political interaction with African-Americans. Fighting for integration made you almost Stalin incarnate.
Forer and Rein-and their respective wives Flory and Selma-were in that sense guilty as charged. All of them participated in those weekly pickets. Flory helped start what may have been Washington's first racially integrated daycare center.
Thousands of government employees had already been fired here-often for nothing more than signing a petition or participating in the Washington Bookshop-which sold a wide range of books and was open to all, independent of their color-or the color of their politics.
During the 1950s Forer and Rein could not even afford to pay a legal secretary and Joe's widow Flory left her teaching job to be their mostly unpaid assistant. Many paying clients abandoned them, but they would not abandon their principles, or their commitment liberty and racial justice.
Their office was broken into, their trash searched, their telephones tapped. David Rein himself was called before congressional committees twice and there was an effort to disbar him. Even their weekly poker game was monitored by the FBI.
But they fought on, to defend the rights of immigrants, the right of free association, free speech and the right to think.
During an interview with me in the 1970s, David Rein told me of being approached by a colleague during the Red Scare period who said "You're a hero [for standing up to all of this]." David Rein replied, "I'm no hero. You're a stinker [for not standing up]. There are some thing that people are just supposed to do."
The July 11, 1864 Battle of Ft. Stevens, which not only was the only time the Confederates directly threatened Washington, was important in another regard: it was one of the few times in history where bureaucrats have played a significant military role, having been called out (along with lightly wounded troops in the hospital) to help defend the city.
In the summer of 1864, Confederate General Jubal Early pushed his way towards Maryland with 20,000 men. General Wallace, a Union recruit trainer in Baltimore, found himself faced with an invasion but was uncertain whether the target was Washington or Baltimore. Wallace chose Frederick, MD, to make his stand, with the help of troops sent by train from Baltimore. With only 6,000 troops to defend six miles of river, he found himself overwhelmed. On the afternoon of July 9, the Union force left some 1,800 casualties and retreated to Baltimore. The confederates lost 1,300 men.
Though his own force was battered, Early knew the immense coup that capturing Washington would be. Further he probably knew that Washington had only about 9,000 regular troops to guard the whole city, Grant having removed some 14,000 soldiers to help him battle Lee around Richmond and Petersburg. Early sent out sorties on July 11 toward Ft. Stevens, located at the north end of Washington. They found a battlement protected only by home guards, clerks, and recovering soldiers literally rousted from their hospital beds to help defend the city. a ragtag force of 2,300.
By light of the next day, however, Early found the fort manned by regular troops, reinforcements who had arrived from Virginia and who repulsed Early's sorties. By the end of the day, Early was in full retreat. There had been 874 casualties.
Among the spectators for the two days were Abraham Lincoln and his wife. One Ohio soldier would remember, "Lincoln got to the fort ahead of us. He was quiet and grave. He mounted the parapet so he could see better, and I saw him there in full view of the Johnnies, watching them and what went on inside. You can imagine what a target he made with tall form and stovepipe hat."
Lincoln became the only president ever to have come under direct fire and, according to legend, was told by a young soldier named Oliver Wendell Holmes to "get down, you damn fool." Another story has a colonel telling Lincoln, "Please come down to a safe place. If you do not, it will be my duty to call a file of men and make you." Lincoln replied, "And you would be quite right, my boy. You are in command of this fort. I should be the last man to set an example of disobedience."
The Union force held and Early gave up his invasion of Maryland and DC and returned to the upper Potomac at a crossing known as White's Ford, which would later become the home-port of perhaps the world's only ferry whose bridge consisted of an overstuffed armchair on the same deck as the cars. It was called the "Jubal Early."
Early admitted to his staff that "We didn't take Washington, but we scared Abe Lincoln like Hell."
ANDREA ROUDA, WASHINGTON POST - With architectural details reminiscent of merry old England -- leaded-style windows, coats of arms etched in stone above doorways, curved chimney pots and stone globes on the pediments -- there's an unmistakably historic feel to Washington's Foxhall Village, a 29-acre enclave of about 330 homes just west of Georgetown.
The resemblance to England is no accident. Legend has it that on a trip abroad, Washington builder Harry Boss was enamored with the architecture and returned home determined to replicate the stucco Tudor-style houses he had admired in England on his own turf. His firm, Boss and Phelps, began construction along Greenwich Parkway and Reservoir Road in 1925; their first house, with the date "1925" etched into the cornerstone, is plainly visible from the street.
By 1927, nearly 150 homes had been completed, and the community was named after an early influential resident of the area, wealthy Englishman and former Georgetown mayor Henry Foxall. (Eventually an "h" was added to the spelling.)
Foxhall Village is bordered to the east by Glover Archbold Park; to the west by Foxhall Road; to the north by Reservoir Road; and to the south by the intersection of MacArthur Boulevard, Foxhall Road and 44th Street.
NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF HEALTH - Forerunner of the Howard University Hospital, Freedmen's Hospital served the black community in the District of Columbia for more than a century. First established in 1862 on the grounds of the Camp Barker, 13th and R Streets, NW, Freedmen's Hospital and Asylum cared for freed, disabled, and aged blacks. In 1863, it was placed under Dr. Alexander Augusta, the first African-American to head a hospital. After the Civil War, it became the teaching hospital of Howard University Medical School, established in 1868, while remaining under federal control. Early in the 20th century, Congress authorized the construction of a new hospital which was completed in 1909. When Abraham Flexner visited the District of Columbia that year, he was impressed by the new, 278-bed Freedmen's Hospital and thought only Howard University Medical School in the city had a promising future. In 1967, Freedmen's Hospital was transferred to Howard University and used as a hospital until 1975. The University Hospital is now located in a modern facility at 2041 Georgia Avenue, NW.
PAUL WILLIAMS - In my experience, about half the homes are subject to [a] building line restriction, while the other half is a combination of no restriction, or only a portion, just as a front bay window, for example, extending over the building line (I've researched and pulled over 3,000 building permits, which were required beginning in 1877). Such appurtenances required a projection permit separate from a building permit; with the projection permit almost always applied for days or months in advance of the building permit; I don't know why. . . Curiously, this statement on permits also has had me puzzled for years: "After March 3, 1891, such projections had to have the approval of the 'Secretary of War of such occupation of the streets and avenues of said city.'"
Remember when the Intowner reported the police arresting the "chardonnay lady" for public drinking on her own front porch? They incorrectly assumed that everyone's front yard or porch was actually public property, when that is not the case. The only way to determine or prove if yours is, or is not, was to have your original building permit handy when the police came knocking. If it was on such public land, technically, then, your seating area (or bed) that is situated inside the bay window itself is actually on public land.
WIKIPEDIA - Fugazi is a rock music group formed in 1987. They are ranked number 95 on VH1's "100 Greatest Artists of Hard Rock". The band name alludes to a Vietnam-era GI slang acronym for a particularly bad combat situation, which stands for "Fucked Up, Got Ambushed, Zipped In". In Our Band Could Be Your Life, the group reported that they chose the name because of its ambiguous and vaguely exotic qualities.
Perhaps just as well known as Fugazi's music is their ethical stance and manner of business practice. They stand as a rare example of a band that have achieved a level of mainstream success while remaining loyal to independent recording and distribution values, following through in the spirit of the original "DIY punk ethic". They have rarely charged more than $5-10 admission to their live shows (and furthermore insist that their performances be open to persons of all ages; MacKaye in particular remembers the sting of being kept out of clubs during his teen years), have kept their album prices at about $10, and do not sell merchandise such as t-shirts or posters. In addition, the band has claimed that they will not conduct interviews with magazines featuring alcohol and nicotine advertisements. . .
Fugazi are currently on what the band describes as a "hiatus," partly brought on by the recent forays into fatherhood by Canty and Lally, and may or may not reunite in the future. - 2006
FUGH BERMAN, ALINE
ALINE FUGH BERMAN, who died at 76 in 2003, was an activist, including being one of twelve members of Women Strike for Peace who met with North Vietnamese women in Jakarta in 1965 to try to end the war. But she is also fondly remembered as one of the first women restaurateurs in Washington, the most famous of her places being the Court of the Mandarins, where one might find Misha Rostropovich, Elton John, Liv Ullmann, as well as various Supreme Court Justices and Senate leaders. Although she contracted Parkinson's disease almost 30 years before her death, she was typically indifferent to her physical problems, witness her daughter Adrienne Fugh Berman's recollection that she once got an emergency call saying that her mother had fallen down the Dupont Circle escalator, was lying at the bottom, and was refusing to get in an ambulance.
Aline Fugh Berman set high standards for the northern Chinese cooking she introduced to the capital. For example, she long refused to serve egg rolls, eventually relenting but insisting that her chefs not waste time on them. Thus anyone who ordered an egg roll would get a quickly fried commercially frozen version. She was similarly distasteful of soy sauce which on one occasion led a somewhat inebriated soy sauce aficionado to lunge at her repeatedly with her umbrella. the woman had haughtily told Aline Fugh Berman that other Chinese restaurants served soy sauce. "This is not other Chinese restaurants," was the reply. It took three waiters to eject the angry woman, but immediately thereafter Fugh Berman brushed herself off and was seen going over to a group of astonished businessmen to whom she inquired graciously, "And how is the lamb mandarin?"
[From a fine profile of former police chief Ike Fulwood in the Washington Post]
WIL HAYGOOD, WASHINGTON POST - Fulwood has been known to show up at area junior high and high schools with paroled inmates by his side. They'll riff about life, crime, reform. He believes in forgiveness.
His daily schedule is fairly consistent: Off to work in the morning. Home to his wife in the evening. Sometimes on the drive home, he'll stop at the store, the dry cleaners. And then there it comes -- Junior! Junior! -- voices from the past flying out to him across the pavement. Cats who've done prison time. Cats from the old neighborhood. Red-eyed dudes who say they think they know somebody who might know something about [Fulwood's brother] Teddy's murder. He beats it on home.
And every evening when he arrives, he gets a hearty hug from his 2-year-old grandson, Brayden. "This little boy has changed his life," says Angela Wood, Brayden's mother. "I think he has softened him."
"I look at this boy," Fulwood says, "and I say: 'I want you to be a good, decent person. Then get a good education. Then make a contribution to society.' " Fulwood says the boy has an excellent chance. "He is surrounded by black males who are not locked up."
GAINER WAS EXECUTIVE deputy chief of police from 1999 to 2002. He then became chief of the US Capitol Police.
PROGRESSIVE REVIEW,APRIL 18, 2000
Down the memory hole with the Washington Post
On September 22, 1997, Shirley Allen's brother, accompanied by a local sheriff, arrived at the door of her Roby, IL home to take her to a hospital for a mental evaluation. According to the brother, Byron Dugger, Allen had become depressed, paranoiac, and delusional since her husband died in 1989. Allen met the pair with a 12-guage shotgun and insisted that Dugger was not her brother.
There then began a 39-day stand-off during which, according to Lois Romano in the Washington Post, "state police officials tried to lure out Allen with tactics reminiscent of the government's botched assault in 1993 on a religious compound near Waco, Tex. -- they cut off her electricity and water, tossed in a tear-gas grenade, pelted her with bean bag bullets and blared Barry Manilow at all hours.
"Allen shot at the police twice, and her plight became a rallying point for national anti-government activists who charged that Allen's rights were being violated. The national media descended on the tiny farming village of Roby. Police estimated that the siege cost taxpayers upwards of $20,000 a day -- or about half a million dollars.
Among the techniques: police "threw canisters of pepper spray into the house and sent in a police dog carrying a listening device. Allen shot the dog through the nose."
She eventually came out on her porch, was captured and taken to a hospital. The donnybrook had cost the state police twice as much as providing protection for the Democratic National Convention the previous year.
In an earlier article, Romano recounted some of the reaction:
"Neighbors and outside observers question whether the police actions, designed to coax Allen out in her depressed state, might instead push her over the edge. 'The tactics are awful,' said John Snyder, a psychology professor at Southern Illinois University and a crisis-intervention expert. 'If she was paranoid before, she has a real reason to be paranoid now. You think people are out to get you, then you find out they really are. Whatever may have been wrong with her before is going to be more wrong now. They need to send in a mental health care professional -- not more police.'
"Don Jackson, the local talk show host who has taken up Allen's cause, said 99 percent of his callers are sympathetic to Allen. 'Many of these women say that at one time or another, they have done something that may have affected their ability to make a decision -- but should it come to this?"
"Letters to the editor of the local paper, too, are running in Allen's favor. 'The state police need to realize the difference between a criminal and a depressed, lonely lady,' wrote Hope Stephenson of Springfield. 'I'm curious to know what proof was submitted to verify and substantiate Ms. Allen's mental state . . . ' wrote Anne Piani. 'Why not first a more dignified notice to appear in court to challenge those who made the alleged charges?'"
A month and a half later, the State Journal Register reported: "A hearing was held in the Christian County Circuit Court on December 16,1997, in the case of Shirley Allen. At that hearing, a report was received from Dr. Bruce A. Feldman, a psychiatrist associated with the Christian County Mental Health Center, stating that Ms. Allen does not present a danger to herself or anyone else at this time and, therefore should not be committed. Based upon Dr. Feldman's report and Illinois law which provides for a person to remain at his residence pending an examination and hearing, Ms. Allen's attorneys, Lindsey E. Reese and William Conroy, requested that she be released during the pendency of the case. This request was granted without objection and Ms. Allen has been released from McFarland Mental Health Center as of noon." The Post reported the story as well.
Almost precisely 5 months later, the Washington Post reported that DC's police chief, Charles Ramsey (a former Chicago deputy police commissioner) planned to hire the director of the Illinois State Police as his assistant police chief. There was no mention, however, of Terrance Gainer's leading role in what the Post itself had described only months earlier as "reminiscent of the government's botched assault" on Waco. Nor was the incident mentioned in the paper's pro-police hype concerning the recent Washington demonstrations. Nor has the Post explained why a former director of the Illinois State Police suddenly ended up working as a deputy to a police chief overseeing a city that is only 4% as large as Illinois. It's all just gone down the memory hole.
The Ramsey-Gainer police style -- based on the far cruder and more abusive traditions of Chicago, where one of the leading police histories is titled "To Serve and Collect," -- was unlike almost anything the capital has seen. There have been a few exceptions, such as notorious police riot of 1971, when local cops arrested 12,000 peaceful protesters in the largest mass arrest in American history. But on the whole, and especially under black police chiefs, the department has been more honestly and less abusively run than, say, those of Chicago, Philadelphia, New York and LA.
And it was not just demonstrators and blacks who noticed. The Washington Post eventually ran a story on Gainer under the headline "Ramsey's No. 2 Is Ranked No. 1 In Unpopularity: Police Resent Gainer's Role." Among the points the story makes:
- "All he did after he got here was hammer the department in the media," said Sgt. G.G. Neill, head of the DC branch of the Fraternal Order of Police. "I don't think he gave the public a correct picture of how things are handled in the department. And that crushes morale."
- Before an assemblage of top officers early in his tenure, Gainer told a district commander to "shut up," an outburst for which he apologized. "It shocked everyone in the meeting," said the commander, Lloyd Coward Jr., who has since left the department.
- Through its no-confidence vote, the FOP made clear that it wants Gainer out. An association representing lieutenants, captains and other top-rank officers has also denounced him, saying members have been "subjected to abusive and profane language, being belittled in public settings, being subjected to tirades when Assistant Chief Gainer was not pleased."
- Gainer is white; Ramsey and about 65 percent of the force are black. "What we have here is a black guy gets the job of chief of police, then he gets his white friend to go tell all the police officers what to do, and most of those police officers are black," said Ronald Hampton, president of the National Black Police Association and a former DC officer. 2/06
HISTORY OF ROCK - Marvin Pentz Gaye Jr. (the e was added later) was born April 2, 1939 in Washington D.C. His father was a preacher with the obscure House of God and the two often clashed. Gaye was three years old when he began singing in his father's church choir and was soon playing the organ and drums, too. Gaye returned to his hometown of Washington, D.C. and started signing in streetcorner doo wop group The Rainbows.. In 1957 he formed his own group the Marquees. Backed by Bo Diddley, they recorded "Wyatt Earp" for the Okeh label. In 1958, Harvey Fuqua hired the Marquees to be the latest version of the Moonglows, his backing group. However the group soon broke up and Fuqua moved to Detroit to form Tri-Phi Records with his girlfriend Gwen Gordy, bringing Marvin with them.
ARTHUR GODFREY began his Washington radio program in 1934, breaking the mold of formal radio announcing with a friendly personal approach. He also brought a more informal sound to advertising, including making fun of sponsors on the air. At least one of them, a furrier named Zlotnik, the man to see "when your wife is cold," became famous mainly as a result of Godfrey's comments about the dirty stuffed bear in front of his store. He also invented to the long-standing slogan, "Next to a new car, a Chernerized car is best." In 1945, Godfrey announced FDR's funeral on CBS, which hired him for a national show two weeks later. Arthur Godfrey's last program ended in 1972 after 27 years on the air.
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 . McPhail also appeared along with the great Billie Holliday, at Washington's "Brown Derby". McPhail performed at New York's Carnegie Hall and [did] shows with Ella Fitzgerald and appeared with Josephine Baker here at the National Theater.
Ulysses S. Grant was arrested for speeding while driving a horse and buggy in Washington, DC. He had to pay a fine of $20.00 and walk back to the White House.
RUTH SAMUELSON, WASH CITY PAPER - Back in the early 1990s, these dim train tunnels were a graffiti artist's utopia. Taggers came from all over the city, painting a river of electric pieces down the tunnels' flat, perfect concrete walls. The cops showed up sometimes, sure. But you could slip between the dividers separating the tunnels and get away. . . They called this space the "Art Under Pressure Tunnel" and the "Hall of Fame." Among writers (another name for graffiti artists), the place was a nationally known spot, says Cory Stowers, a 30-year-old who first visited the Hall in 1995. It's all still there, if you want to see it. Go to the corner of 14th and D Streets SW, just a stone's throw from the Holocaust Museum. Head toward Virginia and then peel off to the left just before the bridge. The graffiti starts by a ramp, leading up to the tunnel, and it stretches all the way down to the L'Enfant Plaza Metro station. . . Thanks to the hassles, the Hall of Fame's no longer the mecca for writers it once was. But these days, they're not catching a break anywhere else in the city. Besides "Big Brother" monitoring the streets, there are other forces at work. Gentrification, and its accomplices, are beating down the District's graffiti culture, say various artists
FELIX GRANT ARCHIVES - Felix Grant's distinctive voice was heard in Washington, D.C., for more than 45 years. He began his brilliant career on radio station WWDC-AM in 1945. Several years later, he joined the on-air staff of WMAL-AM, where he spent 30 years as host of The Album Sound and nurtured the careers of many young musicians by introducing their music to the Washington area. Mr. Grant moved to WRC-AM in 1984, and he joined WDCU-FM, Jazz 90, in 1987. He exhibited his trademark broadcast professionalism during his tenure with WDCU's World of Jazz show and introduced jazz, blues, and international music to yet another generation of listeners.
This radio pioneer played a pivotal role in promoting Brazilian and Jamaican culture in the United States by introducing bossa nova and reggae music to American audiences. It was for this reason that Mr. Grant was dubbed the Ambassador of Music. His honors included Brazil's highest award, the Order of the Southern Cross and the naming for him of a music-radio library at the University of Jamaica.
DICK HELLER, WASHINGTON TIMES - The best professional baseball team in the District's history probably wasn't the original Washington Senators, whose generally unfortunate 60-year history was punctuated by a World Series championship in 1924 and American League pennants in 1925 and 1933. Almost certainly, it was the Homestead Grays, who won 10 pennants in the Negro National League from 1937 to 1948 while splitting home games between Pittsburgh and Washington. Of the first 18 former Negro Leaguers inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, nine played for the Grays at Washington's Griffith Stadium. Most prominent were catcher Josh Gibson and first baseman Buck Leonard, known respectively as "the black Babe Ruth" and "the black Lou Gehrig" during those days of almost total segregation in baseball and society.
[Clark] Griffith, who owned the Senators from 1920 to 1955, was a contradictory figure where race relations were concerned. He donated his ballpark frequently for events involving the black community, but when it came to integrating the Senators he was no more liberal than most other white Americans born in the 19th century. Despite pressure, notably from sports columnist Sam Lacy of the Afro-American newspapers, Griffith did not sign his first black player - a rather hapless Cuban outfielder named Carlos Paula - until 1954. That was seven years after Jackie Robinson joined the Brooklyn Dodgers and shattered Organized Baseball's unofficial ban against blacks.
KATHRYN SINZINGER, COMMON DENOMINATOR - Twenty years after his death from cancer at age 53, broadcast personality and community activist Ralph "Petey" Greene [was] resurrected as a Washington folk hero in his long-awaited "life story" by writer Lurma Rackley. "His story kind of reads like a novel," says Rackley, who was selected by Greene in early 1982 to tell the story of how he grew up poor in Georgetown of the 1930s and rose from the depths of "being a wine-head bum" and Lorton Reformatory convict to become an award-winning broadcaster, comedian and champion of the poor.
"Laugh If You Like, Aint a Damn Thing Funny," self-published by Rackley via Xlibris, was officially released Jan. 31 during a book-signing fund-raiser sponsored by the Greater Washington Urban League ~~
At his death, "Petey Greenes Washington" was broadcast locally on Channel 20 and nationwide to 5.5 million homes in 53 cities by Black Entertainment Television. During his show, Greene offered non-scripted streetwise advice and commentary, and talked with guests about life in non-official Washington from his perch in a huge rattan chair. Similar to his signature ending, Greene began his shows with a monologue and a trademark lead-in:
"Well, lets cool it now. Slide on in, adjust the color of your television, hole up and get ready to groove with Petey Greenes Washington." ~~
ADRIENNE WASHINGTON, WASHINGTON TIMES - "[Petey] was in a class by himself, because he came from deep poverty, he was able to talk to poor people in a way no else could," Miss Rackley said. One of his passions was seeing poor people play a role in uplifting themselves, and he pushed them to register to vote, to go to PTA meeting to support their children, to engage in job training ~~
Underpinning the entire tale is the loving relationship he had with his grandmother, Maggie "A'nt Pig" Floyd, who raised him from infancy and steered him to a straighter path. Follow the young Petey through his mischievous childhood in the back alleys of Foggy Bottom and Georgetown to his military service in Korea to his days "stylin' and profilin'" on U Street during Washington's era as the black entertainment mecca. Go down with him to becoming "a wine head bum," to his prison time in Lorton Reformatory where he schmoozed with the guards to get special privileges and positions. Come back up with him when he became a popular talk-show host with fans including Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey and former Maryland congressman Michael Barnes ~~
WASHINGTON POST - After growing up in the District, Rose Greenhow traveled in Washington's privileged circles, a fact that allowed her to become an effective spy for the Confederacy during the Civil War. Among other feats, Greenhow is credited -- or discredited, depending on whose side you're on -- with passing a secret message to Gen. Pierre G.T. Beauregard that helped him win the First Battle of Bull Run in 1861. After home confinement and a stint at the Old Capitol Prison, she finally was sent packing to the South, where she was welcomed with open arms. Greenhow published her memoirs and toured Europe, rubbing elbows with the elite and stoking support for the Confederates wherever she could. Upon her return to the United States in 1864, she drowned when a small boat she was in capsized after being pursued by a Union gunship.
JOHN WARREN, VIRGINIAN-PILOT - Tommy Gwaltney once called it "the everlasting gig." It was 1959, and he was loading a set of big, silver vibraphones into his station wagon, headed for another club date, in another town. The everlasting gig, the life of the professional musician. "You finish a date after midnight, jump in a car with some other guys and try to get some sleep," he told a newspaper reporter. "The big worry was whether the one at the wheel was sober enough to drive."
In his long jazz career, he was respected by the biggest names in the business. . . He studied journalism at New York University but decided he didn't have the "chops" for writing. . . Clarinet was his instrument, but he played vibraphone for a few years because of a collapsed lung.
He had just teamed with jazz guitar legend Charlie Byrd when Gwaltney's father fell gravely ill. Gwaltney returned to Tidewater to run the family feed business for seven years. "I dug it a little, made some bucks," he said.
But he returned to music in 1955, charcoal-black clarinet in hand, alongside then-famous names such as Bobby Hackett, Billy Butterfield and Pee Wee Russell. He appeared on the CBS "Good Morning Show" and on "The Steve Allen Show." He put on a Virginia Beach jazz festival for several years.
By the mid-1960s, he'd purchased Blues Alley in Washington. It became arguably the hottest jazz club in the nation. . . Gwaltney was manager, emcee and performer. Often, while on stage, a kitchen worker would creep up behind Gwaltney and tug on his sleeve. The cook had just quit, or some such crisis. . .
Unlike other jazz clubs driven by profit, Blues Alley was a musician's club first. Too much talk, too much clattering of dishes, and Gwaltney would politely ask the crowd to quiet down. He could be less than polite, if he had to. . . "Tommy could take whatever was said, turn it around and shoot them down, to the delight of the customers," said Louis Hubbard, a jazz writer who played with him. . .
With a young son and an aging mother in Tidewater, he sold Blues Alley in 1969 and returned to the area. With his quartet, Gwaltney mostly played local country clubs, wedding receptions and college reunions. "That kind of music goes better with booze and cigarette smoke," he lamented to a reporter.