Posted tagged ‘People’

Important Past Residents: Percussionist Barnett E. Williams

January 17, 2013

Image of Barnett Williams from, 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.


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.


1943 Book About Washington History has Link to Park View

March 1, 2012

Washington: Yesterday and Today, was published in 1943

Here’s a nice link to the past, both of the City and of the neighborhood. Washington: Yesterday and Today was published in 1943 by Ginn and Company. As stated on its title page, the book was prepared by Social Studies Teachers in the Washington, D.C., Public Schools under the direction of George J. Jones.

George J. Jones lived in Park View from at least 1947 until his death in 1955, residing at 3670 Park Place, NW. According to his obituary, he came to Washington in 1908 to sight-see and stayed to teach.

He began by teaching history and introduced discussion of contemporary problems into his curriculum. He also testified on Capitol Hill in the late 1940s in defense of certain textbooks used in the school system which had been criticized as being un-American. In addition to Washington: Yesterday and Today, Jones was also the co-author of The Constitution of the United States with an Introduction to Its Study (1941) and Modern World Setting for American History (1925).

Washington: Yesterday and Today includes the following chapters:

  1. Before the Capital came to the Potomac
  2. A new Capital is born
  3. Washington in earlier years — and now
  4. Our Capital in Wartimes
  5. A story of old Georgetown
  6. The Chesapeake and Ohio Canal
  7. Commercial and Industrial Washington
  8. Schools in the National Capital
  9. The Capital as a cultural center
  10. The Government of the District of Columbia

While dated, even for a history book, so far I’m particularly fond of the commercial and industrial history as well as the explanation of the District government under the three Commissioners.


Honoring Tiny Tots Nursery’s Inez Dade

December 2, 2011

From the Washington Post -- Three sisters — Inez Dade, Margaret Harris and Vanilla Beane — gathered with friends and relatives to celebrate Dade’s 99th birthday.

Those who travel to the Georgia Avenue Metro station and get there via Rock Creek Church Road are sure to have noticed the Tiny Tots Nursery located at 801 Rock Creek Church Road, NW. But you probably don’t know the story behind the 99 year old senior who runs it, Inez Dade. I have to admit I didn’t know anything about her either until one of my neighbors pointed out the Washington Post article about her published on November 5th. I’m sure I’m not the only one that missed it.

I found it inspirational. Not only about Ms. Dade but also her two  sisters who are also in their 90s. If I read the article correctly, Dade has been operating Tiny Tots since 1972. They are definitely proof that life can continue to be good long after 65.

I highly recommend reading the article.


Remembering One of Park View’s Former Veterans — Maj. Robert W. Wison (1845-1939)

May 30, 2011

Civil War veterans William H. Jackson (far left) and Maj. Robert W. Wilson (second from left) with veterans Sergt. Peter Pierre Smith and Col. H. C. Rizer: May 30, 1938

Not surprisingly with the neighborhood bordering the Soldiers’ Home, Park View has been the home of many veterans over the years. Among them was Civil War veteran Robert W. Wilson. Wilson died on February 27, 1939, just three weeks shy of his 94th birthday. For the final six years of his life Wilson lived with his son’s family at 3548 Warder Street. Though more research is needed, it appears that he lived at 635 Morton Street prior to his move to Warder.

Maj. Wilson was a veteran soldier of the Confederacy. He was 16 when the war broke out but did not enlist until the tide turned against the South at Gettysburg. In the spring of 1864 he ran away from his home at Bladensburg, Md., crossed the river and made his way behind the Confederate lines.

Wilson joined the First Maryland Cavalry and saw action almost daily through the year. He remained with the company and was present in 1865 during the nine-day retreat from Richmond to Appomattox.

The pictures seen here are from the May 30, 1938, Memorial Day exercises.  Seventy-three years ago today, Maj. Wilson and three other Civil War veterans began their morning with a flight over Arlington National Cemetery. During the flight they dropped a bouquet of rose petals and evergreen sprigs above the cemetery and were interviewed in the air for a Nation-wide radio broadcast in which the veterans spoke of their war experiences.

The soldiers included Maj. Wilson and Sergt. Peter Pierre Smith, both veterans for the Confederacy, and Union soldiers Col. H. C. Rizer and William H. Jackson. After the morning flight Smith and Rizer, both 94 years old, felt tire and were taken home. Wilson and Jackson, however, were good for another flight. Along with a battery of cameramen, Wilson and Jackson re-boarded the plane and took off with plans to circle Gettysburg but only made it as far as Frederick, Md.

Left to right: William H. Jackson; C. Bedell Monroe, president of Pennsylvania Central Airlines; Maj. Robert W. Wilson


Park View History: John G. McGrath

August 10, 2009

John G. McGrath
Last week I included this image when referencing the dedication of the Park View post office in 1918. I’m sure few, if any, knew the person in the photograph was John G. McGrath.

McGrath was frequently referred to fondly as the “Mayor of Park View,” though no such office existed. It was in his house that the Park View Citizens’ Association was founded, McGrath himself being president. McGrath’s other accomplishments included being elected as community secretary in 1917, co-founding the Federation of Citizens’ Associations, and perhaps his most lasting contribution, being chiefly responsible for winning the 12-hour shift for DC firefighters and abolishing the 24-hour day.

While an early civic pioneer in Washington, he was employed by the Treasury Department. In 1927 McGrath retired from Washington and moved to a quiet farm in Lewistown, Maryland.

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