By James Wright
Special to the NNPA from The Washington Informer
Friends and family members honored the work of the District’s coordinator for the 1963 March on Washington and the city’s first delegate in the 20th century to represent the nation’s capital in the U.S. Congress.
The Rev. Walter Fauntroy, who served as the District’s delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives from 1971-1991, received recognition for his civil rights work in the city and his political impact on Capitol Hill, during a tribute hosted by District attorney Johnny Barnes and former Ward 6 advisory neighborhood commissioner Keith Silver at Tony Cheng’s Restaurant in Northwest on Thursday, Aug. 22. Barnes, 64, said Fauntroy has always been more than generous when it comes to helping others.
“He lived his life in sacrifice so that we could live in comfort,” Barnes told about 90 guests, who came out on a warm and sultry evening to honor the man of the hour, prior to the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington.
Silver, a resident of Northwest, said that Fauntroy didn’t attend the tribute because he’s traveling overseas. However, Fauntroy’s wife, Dorothy, and son, Marvin attended the event along with his brother, Billy, and nephew, Michael Fauntroy, a nationally-known political scientist.
Fauntroy, 80, worked with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and other civil rights leader to host the historic 1963 March on Washington on Aug. 28, 1963. He worked on breaking down racial barriers for black District residents in the 1960s and served as the leader of the Washington bureau of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.
A graduate of the segregated Dunbar High School in Northwest in 1951, Fauntroy received a bachelor’s degree from Virginia Union University in Richmond., Va., and the Yale University Divinity School in New Haven, Conn. He is the retired pastor of the New Bethel Baptist Church in Northwest.
Fauntroy, as a delegate, successfully worked to get the city limited self-governance and a congressionally-passed U.S. constitutional amendment to admit the District as the 51st state. He also played a key role in the effective campaign to have the U.S. government prohibit investment in apartheid South Africa in the 1980s.
Fauntroy ran unsuccessfully for mayor of the District of Columbia in 1990.
D.C. Council member Jack Evans (D-Ward 2), a 2014 candidate for mayor, welcomed the crowd to Tony Cheng’s, which is located in his ward. He described Fauntroy as being a champion of the city and of the country. In essence, Evans said that Fauntroy’s simply a great leader.
Darrel Thompson, deputy chief of staff to U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and a possible candidate for the Ward 6 D.C. Council seat in 2014, said that District residents owe Fauntroy a tremendous debt of gratitude.
Landen McCall, principal and CEO of Bryant Mitchell, PLLC in Northwest, cried when he talked about how Fauntroy helped him to move forward in his life.
“Walter Fauntroy co-signed a loan to help me finish my education,” said McCall, 66. “All that I have become is because I was standing on Walter Fauntroy’s shoulders. He changed the paradigm of my life and he made a difference in my life.”
Fauntroy’s friends such as radio talk show host Joe Madison, comedian and civil rights activist Dick Gregory, D.C. Council member Marion Barry (D-Ward 8), National Congress of Black Women National Chair E. Faye Williams, United Black Fund President Barry LeNoir and Anacostia Coordinating Council Executive Director Philip Pannell attended the evening event. Barnes challenged everyone who showed up to help him with a special project for Fauntroy.
“I would like to establish a fellowship chair in the name of Walter Fauntroy,” Barnes said. “We need to support people who can study his life and carry out the work of Walter Fauntroy.”
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