Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Walter Edward Washington, (April 15, 1915 – October 27, 2003), was the first elected mayor (and first black mayor) of the District of Columbia (Washington, DC). From 1975 until 1979 he served as mayor in that capacity. Previsously, between 1967 and 1974 he had been appointed mayor-commissioner by Presidents Lyndon Johnson (1967–1972) and Richard Nixon (1972–1974), during the period before home rule became effective in the District. (Congress had enacted the District of Columbia Self-Rule and Governmental Reorganization Act on December 24, 1973, providing for an elected mayor and city council for the District. Home rule became effective with the first mayor and council on January 2, 1975.)
Washington was also the first elected black mayor of a major American city. Soon after his initial appointment by President Johnson as mayor-commissioner in late 1967, Washington was faced with the riots in the District that followed the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1968. Although he was reportedly urged by FBI director J. Edgar Hoover to shoot the rioters, he refused. He told the Washington Post later, "I walked by myself through the city and urged angry young people to go home. I asked them to help the people who had been burned out."
Washington was born in Dawson, Georgia and raised in Jamestown, New York. He graduated with a bachelor's degree and, later, received his law degree from Howard University in the District. His first wife, Benetta, died in 1991. In 1994 he married Mary Burke. He had a daughter, Benetta Washington, with his first wife. Washington died on October 27, 2003.
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