Archive for the ‘People’ category

Important Past Residents: Percussionist Barnett E. Williams

January 17, 2013

Image of Barnett Williams from Gazette.net, Photo credit: Christopher Anderson/The Gazette

Shortly after I started distributing the Park View Walking Trail brochure, I starting receiving emails informing me of notable persons and places connected to the neighborhood’s history. One of those individuals was percussionist Barnett E. Williams.

While I still have more research to do on Williams, I was told that he grew up on the 600 block of Rock Creek Church Road and confirmed that he lived at 634 Rock Creek Church Road by looking at DC Recorder of Deeds documents. The 2006 obituary from the Washington Post also provides the following:

Barnett Edward Williams, 61, a percussionist who lived his life to the beat of African drums and who loved sharing the drumming tradition with other enthusiasts, died March 4 of a heart attack at the home in the District where he was born. He was a District resident.

Mr. Williams, who was artist in residence for Fairfax County’s School Age Child Care Program, could be found on most Sunday afternoons in recent years in a drumming circle in the District’s Meridian Hill Park, also known as Malcolm X Park. Sweat-soaked on a summer afternoon, his palms callused from decades of drumming, he and fellow percussionists would pound out a seductive beat on squat West African djembes or maybe Senegalese kimbe drums or tall, sleek congas, as well as on maracas, bongos, cymbals and cowbells.

Considered one of the elders of the drumming circle, he started drumming at the historic park along 16th Street NW in 1967, when he was 11.

In addition, he was lead percussionist with Gil Scott-Heron and the Midnight Band and performed with Donald Byrd, Oscar Brown Jr., Candido, Dr. Billy Taylor and Donny Hathaway. Later, Williams founded the D.C. Percussion Society and formed the group Drums of Fire. With Melvin Deal, he founded the group African Heritage Dancers and Drummers.

The full obituary is really worth reading to understand just how accomplished Barnett E. Williams was.

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Park View Playground in 1938

January 11, 2013

I’ve been looking for a good photo of the old Park View Playground for a while now, and finally I’ve found one. While the scan below isn’t the best, at least I now know of another image I need a good scan of (future goal).

The photo dates to August 26, 1938, and shows the playground from the school. Princeton Place is in the background. This photo was taken a mere six years after the field house was built and wading pool installed. It also shows swings along Warder Street, teeter totters along Princeton to the east of the field house, and I believe a tennis court to the west of the field house.Park View playground 8 26 1938(Image: Star Collection, D.C. Public Library, (c) Washington Post)

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George Walker: Prominent Composer & Washingtonian Grew Up on Sherman Avenue

December 24, 2012
(ASSOCIATED PRESS) - A 1996 photograph of George Walker

(ASSOCIATED PRESS) – A 1996 photograph of George Walker

I truly hope folks read the article in Sunday’s Washington Post Magazine about composer George Walker. If not, Parlor piano inspired career is available online and you can catch up on your reading. I’m highlighting this not only because I find Walker’s life and accomplishments inspirational, but because he grew up in our community.

His childhood home is located at 3222 Sherman Avenue, NW. Walker was born in 1922 and according to the Post article, considered this his home until his farther died in 1954.

His father emigrated to the United States, where he became a physician after graduating from Temple University Medical School in Philadelphia.  George Walker’s mother, Rosa King, supervised her son’s first piano lessons that began when he was five years of age. His first teacher was Miss Mary L. Henry. Mrs. Lillian Mitchell Allen, who had earned a doctorate in music education, became his second piano teacher. There is a good overview of his career here.

George Walker grew up at 3222 Sherman Avenue, NW.

George Walker grew up at 3222 Sherman Avenue, NW.

In 1997, mayor Marion Barry proclaimed June 14 George Walker Day in the District of Columbia. The citation that accompanied that proclamation summed up Walker’s accomplishments as follows:

“A native Washingtonian and a product of D.C. public schools, . . . he was the first black graduate of the Curtis Institute, the first black to earn a doctorate degree from the Eastman School of Music, the first black pianist to play with the Philadelphia Orchestra and to obtain major management under the aegis of National Concert Artists and Columbia Artists Management; and in 1996, was the first black recipient of the Pulitzer Prize in Music.”

Walker is certainly someone all Washingtonians should be familiar with and proud of.

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Additional Renovations Coming to Park View Rec Center

October 26, 2012

At a meeting last night held at the Park View Recreation Center, DGS employee Jackie Stanley along with other DPR staff provided details on additional renovations headed for the main building. The upgrades will be far short of a new building, but until that is possible they will improve the building in the following areas. The plan is to give the building a facelift with upgrades to the flooring, cabinetry, paint, lighting in the bathrooms, and remove the upper (second floor) mezzanine area. The walls between the front area and the craft room will also be removed — opening up the space.

Additional interior improvements include new lighting and security & audio visual equipment. On the outside of the building the signage is to be replaced. Significantly, the raised planters in front of the building will be removed and replaced with grade level landscape areas.

In addition to the newly described work, a few items yet undone during the field renovations were also listed as coming and not forgotten. They were chiefly the metal ridges for the top of the wall at Princeton Place and Warder Street, the interpretive history sign, and the message board for the front of the building. In fact, DPR already has the message board. They’ve been waiting to install it pending the removal of the raised planters.

The work has a budget of about $400,000 and will begin in about three weeks (after the November elections). Once work begins, the main building will be closed for about eight weeks.

Plan of coming renovations showing areas where demo will occur.

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Film About White House Butler Eugene Allen Due for 2013 Release

October 23, 2012

In case readers missed Sunday’s Washington Post Style section, I wanted to point out the article Labor of love becomes A-list film. It describes what it took to make the film “The Butler“, a film about Park View resident Eugene Allen set to be released in 2013. Allen worked at the white house from 1952 to 1986 starting as a pantry man and working up to maitre d’ in 1980. During this time, he served eight presidents.

The home of Eugene Allen, on the 700 block of Otis Place, will also be a stop on the Historic Park View walking trail. The brochure has just gone to the printers and should be available in the coming weeks. Details about the brochure and where to pick up a copy will be posted once the details are worked out. But as a preview, and in honor of Eugene Allen, below is the page featuring his house on the tour.


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Washington Post Features “The Avenue” Residents in Series That “Explores the District, Street Corner by Street Corner”

October 19, 2012

If you didn’t happen to read yesterday’s Washington Post, the latest in Robert Samuels’ weekly series Intersections focused on two residents who now live in the newly opened Avenue. If you missed it, I encourage  you to read the full article featuring Kenny Newsome, 65, and Maurice Gilliard, 53, who are friends and Vietnam veterans. They talk about the community and their views of the changes occurring on Georgia Avenue. You can also watch the accompanying video by clicking the image below.


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Past Residents: John Wesley Franklin (ca. 1888-1972)

August 30, 2012

Here’s one of our former Park View residents that I thought was interesting — John Wesley Franklin. He lived at 3108 Park Place, NW, from around 1946 until his death in 1972.

According to his obituaries in the Evening Star and Washington Post, he retired from the Navy in 1928. During World War I he served on a number of warships as a chief steward, and after the war was a personal steward on the Presidential Yacht USS Mayflower — where he served under Presidents Wilson, Harding, Coolidge and Hoover.

After retiring from the Navy, Franklin became a civilian employee of the Washington Navy Yard, where he remained for 30 years.

Franklin was a founder of the James E. Reese Post of the American Legion and was also a founder of the Sailors Association Post No. 1 of Washington.

To better understand the context of what it was like for an African American to serve in the US Navy during the first half of the 20th century, I have included the following excerpt from a brief history written by Rudi Williams.

After the Civil War, African Americans served in unlimited roles among the Navy’s enlisted ranks. However, that’s when the custom started that “encouraged” blacks and other men of color to become officers’ stewards and cooks.

The first decades of the 20th century brought increasing restrictions on the role of African Americans in society and in the Navy, according to naval historians. The enlisted rates remained open to all men, but African Americans were pushed into servant roles.

The Navy’s racial segregation policies limited African Americans’ participation in World War I and, after the war, barred black enlistments altogether from 1919 to 1932. The only black sailors in uniform during that period were the ones aboard in 1919 who were allowed to stay to retire.

Even with its distinct policy of racial segregation, the Navy permitted mixed racial crews. Records show that while African Americans saw limited naval action during World War I, one of them, Edward Donohue Pierson, earned the French Croix de Guerre for valor when he was wounded aboard the USS Mount Vernon when it was torpedoed off the coast of France.

In 1917, John Henry (“Dick”) Turpin became the first African American chief petty officer, the Navy’s highest enlisted rank at the time. Turpin enlisted in 1896 and survived the sinking of the battleship USS Maine in Havana harbor in February 1898. A chief gunner’s mate, he was one of the blacks allowed to stay in 1919 and retired in 1925.

When African Americans were allowed into the Navy again in 1932, it was as stewards and mess attendants.

You can continue reading the above article here>>

Franklin served as a personal steward on the USS Mayflower for 10 years, retiring in 1928

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Planning Reopening Events for Park View Recreation Center Continues

May 25, 2012

The second in a series of weekly meetings to plan community events at the Park View Recreation Center was held last night. The meeting’s focus was on the coming Ribbon Cutting Ceremony and a later event to celebrate the Park View Family.

The ribbon cutting that will officially reopen the renovated and newly constructed basketball court, playground, athletic field, and adult exercise area is hoped to occur at the end of June, possibly on either June 23 or June 30. In any event, those at the meeting are striving to have the event on a Saturday. A lot will depend upon when the renovation work is completed but that could be as early as June 18.

Those at the meeting agreed that the ribbon cutting event should be used to launch an afternoon of smaller events that focus on food, community, and games that emphasize the features of the outdoor recreation area. While the main recreation center will close at its normal 4 p.m. Saturday time, the outdoor area will remain open to at least 7 p.m.

It is not too late to participate. The next meeting will be at the Park View Rec Center on Thursday, May 31st, at 6:30 p.m.

Finalizing the ribbon cutting event planning as well as continued planning for the Park View Family Day later in the summer or fall still need all the participation people are willing to give.

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Important Past Residents: Dr. Moses Wharton Young (1903-1986)

April 12, 2012

Here’s another notable Park View resident from the past, Dr. Moses Wharton Young.

Young was born in Spartansburg, S.C., in 1903 and moved to the Washington area in 1924. He graduated from Howard University, where he earned his degree in medicine. He earned a doctorate in neuroanatomy from the University of Michigan and later received an honorary doctorate of sciences from Howard.

He returned to Washington in 1934 and joined the teaching staff at the Howard medical school. His primary research was in the fields of baldness and deafness and he also did research on the anatomical basis of glaucoma. In 1950, along with other Howard University anatomists, Dr. Young boycotted the 63rd meeting of the American Association of Anatomists in New Orleans, Louisiana, when they were refused accommodations in the headquarters hotel because of their race.

A Fulbright scholar, professor, and visiting lecturer, he served as chairman of the Ninth International Congress of Anatomists in Leningrad, Russia, in 1970. Dr. Young received the U.S. Department of Defense’s Pentagon Award for his research on the mechanics of blast injuries.

Young retired from Howard University in 1973. For the next six years he taught at the University of Maryland. He retired for the second time in 1979. He also was a visiting professor in India and Japan and at the Chicago and Meharry medical colleges.

Dr. Young was a member of the Alpha Omega Alpha, a national medical society, and the American Association of Anatomists. He published more than 100 papers in professional journals.

He died of cancer on February 5, 1986, at Howard University Hospital.

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Park View Kids Zone Hosts Easter Egg Hunt at Raymond Rec

April 9, 2012

Some of those enjoying the cook out at Raymond

Not one to be daunted by the renovations at the Park View Recreation Center that have closed the park, Angela Strange and her Park View Kids Zone held their annual cook out and Easter Egg hunt at the Raymond Recreation Center this year. Assisting her were the Young Professionals auxiliary of the Greater Washington Urban League.

After the cook out, both the children and adults enjoyed a few games of tug of war before the Easter egg hunt began. I was happy to see a few of the oldest kids actually scooping up eggs and then turning them over to the youngest kids that weren’t able to fill their bags as easily as many of the elementary-aged kids could.

After the egg hunt, the day rounded out with a game of kick ball.

Children gathering before the start of the egg hunt

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