Walter Washington
National Visionary

April 15, 1915 - October 27, 2003
Born in Dawson, Georgia

Public administrator, housing expert, first
elected Mayor of Washington D.C.

Walter E. Washington, veteran public servant, housing expert, public administrator, civic leader, was the first appointed, then the first elected, Mayor of Washington, D.C. in 104 years. He is recognized not only as an innovative public administrator, but also one whose ability to handle a wide variety of difficult problems in urban areas is unsurpassed.

He was born on April 15, 1915 in Dawson, Georgia and was raised in Jamestown, New York. He came to Washington, D.C. in 1934 to attend Howard University, where he earned his B.A. and law degrees.

Washington served with the National Capital Housing Authority, becoming its first director in 1961 under the administration of President John F. Kennedy. In 1966 and 1967, he was chairman of the Housing Authority in New York City and a member of the cabinet of Mayor John Lindsey. On September 5, 1967, President Lyndon B. Johnson appointed him the first Mayor-Commissioner of the District of Columbia, making him the first African American to become Chief Executive of a major American city. He was twice reappointed by President Richard M. Nixon. In 1975, after successfully campaigning for the restoration of self-government for the residents of the District of Columbia, Washington became the city’s first elected Mayor since 1871.

After leaving the office of Mayor, Washington joined the D.C. law firm of Burns, Summit, Rovins & Washington as partner. He is a member of the Bar of the District of Columbia, the U.S. Supreme Court, and the American Bar Association.

This interview has
been archived in the
NVLP Collection of
African American
Oral Histories at the
Library of Congress
American Folklife
His achievements have been recognized with numerous honors, among them the career service award of the National Civil Service League, the Alumni Achievement Award from Howard University, the National Urban League’s “Equal Opportunity Day” award, the “Human Relations Award” from the D.C. Branch of the NAACP, and the Charles Evans Hughes Award from the National Conference of Christians and Jews.

He was married to the late Dr. Bennetta B. Washington, former special assistant for employment and training to the Secretary of Labor; she passed away in 1991. They had a daughter, Bennetta Washington.

In 1994, Washington married Mary Burke Washington, a cabinet member for former New York Governor Hugh Carey, and a founder of the New York Coalition of 100 Black Women.

Walter Washington passed away on October 27, 2003 at Howard University Hospital in Washington, DC.



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