(Updated at 2:30 p.m.) In the latest episode of PBS’ Finding Your Roots, historian Henry Louis Gates Jr. helped guide six-time Tony-winner Audra McDonald on a tour of her family lineage — a journey that led her to a golf club in Arlington.
McDonald’s trip through her family tree started with her maternal grandfather, whom she credited as a major influencing force on her life. Her grandfather, Thomas Hardy Jones, was described by McDonald as “born into the depths of the Jim Crow era” but managing to build a respected career as an educator in historically Black institutions.
Her awareness of her mother’s paternal lineage ended there, but Gates took McDonald further to meet her great-grandfather: Clarence Jones.
“After stints as a miner and chauffeur, Clarence supported his family and paid for his son’s education by working in a locker room in a segregated golf club in Arlington, Virginia, where it seems he somehow managed to thrive,” Gates said.
Clarence Jones worked at Washington Golf & Country Club, the first golf club in Virginia and a prestigious regional institution that counted presidents Wilson, Taft and Harding as active members.
The club was segregated, however, and Clarence Jones worked at the club but could never play there. Only starting in the mid-1970s were Black and Jewish applicants granted membership, according to a book by former Northern Virginia Sun publisher Herman Obermayer.
Even so, Gates’ team found a newspaper article from the time that profiled Jones, in which he was described as indispensable and well-loved by the golfing community.
“[He is a] shoe shiner, story teller, match-maker, gambler and good friend all rolled into one,” Gates read from the newspaper. “Wherever you go around the nation’s capital, golfers ask about Clarence.”
McDonald said many of those traits described in Clarence Jones were passed down to his son, her grandfather.
Records showed that Clarence Jones’ parents were both born in D.C. shortly after the Civil War, but the paper trail ended there as their parents were likely enslaved.
McDonald said that learning about her great-grandfather was bittersweet knowing that he was held back by the racist institutions of his era.
“There’s a part of me that’s amazed and proud of my great-grandfather,” McDonald said, “but a part that hurts for him too.”
As noted by the Twitter account of Arlington’s planning office, Schumer recently posted posted a photo on Instagram yesterday that highlights a painting hanging on her wall.
It shows a Black protestor, Dion Diamond, sitting at a segregated lunch counter at the Cherrydale Drug Fair in Arlington on June 10, 1960. The protester, who was part of an integrated group called the Non-Violent Action Group, is being harassed by white patrons.
Desegregation activists in Arlington continue to inspire: here, comedian @amyschumer shares art by Julian Joseph Kyle in her home. The painting is based on a photograph taken during the Arlington lunch counter sit ins in June 1960. See https://t.co/xMUbXGNkdG pic.twitter.com/GwhmswXTmC
— Plan Arlington VA (@planArlingtonVA) March 16, 2021
Last year marked the 60th anniversary of a series of lunch counter sit-ins in Arlington, during which demonstrators endured harassment from white students, police officers, and Neo-Nazis.
The demonstrations continued through the summer and eventually some stores that had discriminated against Black customers changed their policies and integrating their lunch counters.
Schumer, who has previously faced controversy for making racist caricatures, said in a social media post that the painting hangs by her front door as a constant reminder.
“It’s called Lunch-In (Man At Segregated Diner) it’s by our front door so I see it before I go out into the world,” Schumer wrote.
Image via Amy Schumer/Instagram
King moved to Arlington from Miami shortly after his Larry King Show picked up national syndication from the Arlington-based Mutual Broadcasting System in 1978.
King’s show was produced in the Mutual Broadcasting studio at the top floor of the office building at 251 18th Street S., next to the Crystal City Metro station. Back then, the building’s street address was known as 1755 South Jefferson Davis Highway, the Crystal City Underground shopping plaza had recently opened, and the neighborhood was only beginning to emerge as a major commercial center.
“Mutual radio moved to Crystal City when no one was there and nothing was there — there were four buildings and the Crystal underground,” recalls Tammy Haddad, King’s radio producer in the early 1980s and later the founding Executive Producer of his CNN show.
It was from that studio that the late-night Larry King Show was broadcast across the country until it went off the air in 1994. Initially, it aired from midnight to 5:30 a.m., though the hours shifted over the years. The radio show featured an extended interview followed by live listener call-ins, and eventually aired on more than 500 radio stations nationwide.
The quirky program was a hit: King’s following grew so quickly — with millions of listeners staying up into the wee hours — that the open call-in portion of the show would crash the circuits of the entire 703 area code, at least according to King.
When Larry King Live launched in primetime on CNN in 1985, King would drive from the CNN studios in D.C. to Crystal City to host the radio show. Famous for his work ethic, King kept that grueling schedule up for years.
While working out of Crystal City, King lived in the Rosslyn area. For a couple of years he lived in The Virginian apartment building, before moving to the nearby Prospect House condo building, famous for its monumental view of D.C. and the Iwo Jima memorial.
King later briefly moved to McLean before decamping for Los Angeles, according to Patrick Piper, who produced King’s radio show after Haddad. (An Associated Press article from 1991 noted that King was arguing to have one of his divorces heard in Arlington “where he lives and works,” instead of Philadelphia where his estranged wife still maintained a residence.)
Stories from King’s radio days abound.
For one, King was cast as himself in the 1984 comedy classic Ghostbusters.
“The people filming the movie Ghostbusters called and asked me to play myself in the movie,” he wrote in his autobiography. “They shot me, cigarette in hand, behind the mike.”
While the setting depicted in the film was definitely the Crystal City studio, Piper wasn’t sure whether it was actually shot in Arlington or on a soundstage. It did look like one of the secondary studios in the office, he said.
Getting to the studio late at night was not easy for the in-studio guests, Haddad remembers.
“The guests used to have to enter the Crystal underground entrance, which was unmarked, it never said Larry King radio show, it never said Mutual radio… and then they’d have to go to the building and [get] let up,” she said. “So you have to really want to be a guest on Larry King to get there.”
Many celebrities arrived via humble Arlington taxis
“We used to send the guests on Red Top Cabs,” Haddad said. “So we pick up Mel Brooks, Danny Kaye, you know, all these guys.”
One regular on-air guest was then-Congressman Al Gore, who lived five minutes away in the Arlington Ridge neighborhood and would drive himself over to the studio late at night.
“Al Gore and Larry had a special relationship,” Haddad said.
Crystal City might not have been as centrally located as downtown D.C., but King wrote that it helped him stay much more plugged in to national news and media than staying in Miami.
The latest “Art on the ART bus” installations features public icons with ties to Arlington.
A partnership between Arlington Arts and Arlington Transit, the program enlivens commutes with artwork highlighting three different Arlington-based artists at a time. This December, Art on the ART Bus celebrates its 10-year anniversary.
“It’s my job to make sure there’s art on a bus called ART,” Arlington Arts Curator Cynthia Connolly said. “It’s so fun.”
The newest installation, which went up earlier this month, includes depictions of famous Arlingtonians, including:
- Actress and dancer Shirley MacLaine
- Singer-songwriter Roberta Flack
- Actress Sandra Bullock
- Actor Warren Beatty
- Journalist Katie Couric
- Singer-songwriter and local punk rock icon Ian MacKaye
All six were born or raised here, put down roots in the area, or otherwise became famous while living in Arlington.
MacLaine and her younger brother Beatty grew up in the Dominion Hills neighborhood of Arlington. During her upbringing in Arlington, Flack accompanied her church’s choir on the piano. Bullock, who graduated from what is now Washington-Liberty High School, and Couric, who attended Yorktown High School, were cheerleaders. Beatty played football for W-L.
Connolly and her team drafted a list of famous Arlingtonians and picked those who enjoy the most name recognition.
“There is so much hidden history in Arlington,” she said. “I hope people research this more.”
So does the artist behind the installation, dubbed “Pop Arlington:” Ryan Carroll Nelson, who has a studio in Arlington.
Commuters may notice a punk edge to the art. Both Connolly and Nelson were active in D.C.’s punk scene in the 1980s and 1990s, and their connection to Ian MacKaye is personal.
“People are fanatic about the record label, but everyone thinks it’s in D.C.,” Connolly said. “It’s my duty to remind people it’s in Arlington.”
Punk rockers moved to Arlington for the detached houses they could practice in without disturbing the neighbors, Connolly said. Rent was cheaper and they did not have to worry about their instruments being stolen.
She worked at the Dischord House, which became the subject of her book about the scene. During those years that she got to know Nelson, who earned a reputation for his illustrations by drawing concert flyers, T-shirts and album covers for Dischord.
“His comic-style approach and hand-drawn text is immediately recognizable, and his flyers are coveted collectables among music aficionados,” notes a press release about the project.
“I’ve known Ryan for a long time,” Connolly said. “It seemed the right fit.”
For this series, Nelson underpainted the panels in black and layered white and color on top — a style reminiscent of the underground comic scene of the 80s and 90s, which often featured comics printed in two rather than four colors.
Connolly also called on the DIY attitude of indie punk rockers and comic creators for the ART bus project, which had a tight budget and had to make due with a number of limitations.
“How do you make it happen? You do original artwork and throw it to the wind,” she said. “That’s all based on my experience in punk rock.”
With a mission to create educational, yet fun games, Arlington-based Semper Smart Games has a hit on its hands: a board game called Election Night!
Jim Moran, the creator of Semper Smart Games, is a retired Coast Guard officer and SAT and ACT tutor (no, he’s not the former local Congressman of the same name). Moran turned his passion for helping students learn math into games.
Election Night! was created to give students a better geographical, mathematical and mechanical understanding of the Electoral College. The game, launched as a result of a successful Kickstarter campaign, has recently seen its sales ranking rise on Amazon, as the presidential election nears.
In 2019, after it debuted, the Parents’ Choice Foundation awarded Election Night! a Parents’ Choice Gold Award.
The company has even attracted the attention of Shark Tank star and FUBU founder Daymond John, who recently interviewed Moran live on Instagram.
Moran told John that the game was made for “age groups eight and nine, but college students are loving it.”
Thanks Daymond John for the great interview! Other than my phone cutting out and then messing up the amount of Electoral Votes California has (If you play the game you will know why I said 48 instead of 55!) you can see the whole interview @thesharkdaymond in his IGTV https://www.instagram.com/p/CEmnF2FHL-l/
Posted by Semper Smart Games on Tuesday, September 1, 2020
Photo via Semper Smart Games
Labor Day Closures — “Arlington County Government offices, courts, libraries & facilities will be closed on Monday, Sept. 7, 2020 for Labor Day.” Trash will be collected but parking meters will not be enforced. [Arlington County]
Library Buildings Remain Closed — “Even as neighboring Fairfax County is approaching the two-month mark for its reopened library system, Arlington officials appear in no rush to bring their library system more than marginally back to life. That means that while Arlington patrons will continue to have the chance to check out books online and pick them up at a central repository, they remain barred from visiting branches or wandering the stacks.” [InsideNova]
Bluemont BLM Protest Continues — “Father, in his red scooter, and son first rolled down the bike path to this corner in Arlington, Va., just after George Floyd was killed in Minneapolis police custody on May 25. They’ve been back most weekdays since, more than 60 times so far, as demonstrators in Louisville and Atlanta marched for justice for Black Americans killed at the hands of police and protests surged following the police shooting of Jacob Blake last month in Kenosha, Wis.” [Washington Post]
Deep Dive Into New Bridge — “The preferred alternative would add a new two-track rail bridge north of the Long Bridge while retaining the existing bridge without modifications. The plan would cost approximately $1.9 billion. The existing span would retain its CSX ownership, and the new span would be Virginia’s.” [Greater Greater Washington]
MU Extends President’s Contract — “Marymount University’s Board of Trustees unanimously voted to extend the contract of President Irma Becerra by an additional five years to 2026. This action comes one year earlier than expected, as Board members felt strongly that due to Dr. Becerra’s significant accomplishments during her tenure, it was important to ensure her continued association with Marymount on a more accelerated timeline.” [Press Release]
Trump Boat Parade Planned — “A boat parade is planned in support of President Trump on Sunday on the Potomac River. According to a Facebook post from an entity known as “Liberty Rally,” boaters will gather just before 1 PM in the Wilson Bridge no-wake zone and then proceed up the Potomac.” [Washingtonian]
Kanye Booted from Ballot — “A Richmond Circuit Court Judge has ruled that rapper Kanye West will be removed from the ballot as a presidential candidate in Virginia. The decision came after an attorney representing the plaintiffs in the case and Attorney General Mark Herring accused the West camp of acting fraudulently to get on the ballot.” [NBC 12]
Va. Booze Biz is Booming — “The Virginia Alcohol Beverage Control Authority announced Wednesday retail sales of $1.2 billion in fiscal 2020 — a nearly $120 million increase from the previous year and the second year in a row the liquor monopoly surpassed $1 billion in sales.” [Richmond Times-Dispatch]
NORAD Exercises This Week — “We will conduct air defense exercise Falcon Virgo between midnight and 5:30 a.m. (ET) Sept.1-3 in the Washington, D.C. area. The exercise includes U.S. Air Force F-16 fighter aircraft, a U.S. Army C-12, a U.S. Coast Guard MH-65D helicopter, and a Civil Air Patrol Cessna 182T. Some portions of the exercise may involve flights at approximately 2,500 feet and may be visible from the ground.” [Facebook]
The Backstory Behind Chasin’ Tails — Cajun seafood restaurant Chasin’ Tails, in East Falls Church, along with Happy Endings Eatery in Rosslyn, are owned by two brothers who became globetrotting multi-millionaires by playing online poker. [Washingtonian]
Rosslyn Company to Be Acquired — “Arlington language learning company Rosetta Stone Inc. is being acquired by private equity-backed Cambium Learning Group Inc. for $792 million. The all-cash deal announced Monday values Rosetta Stone (NYSE: RST) at about $30 per share, about 87% higher than its closing price on July 16.” [Washington Business Journal]
Long-time Journalist Dies — “William R. Neikirk, an award-winning economics and political journalist who spent nearly 35 years with the Chicago Tribune and served as White House correspondent during the Clinton administration, died Aug. 27 at his home in Arlington, Va. He was 82. The cause was dementia and complications from the novel coronavirus.” [Washington Post]
Kanye on Va. Ballot — “Rapper Kanye West has qualified to appear on Virginia’s presidential ballot in November, according to state election officials. Elections officials confirmed Friday evening that West will appear on the ballot as an independent after verifying he submitted 5,000 petition signatures from Virginia voters.” [InsideNova]
Nearby: D.C. Offices Nearly Deserted — “Only 5 percent of office workers in downtown DC were in their workplaces at the end of July, according to a new report from the DowntownDC BID. Economic activity in downtown DC, it found, was 12 percent of what it was the year before.” [Washingtonian]
Brittany O’Grady, a Washington-Liberty High School graduate, is starring in Apple TV+’s new series, Little Voice.
O’Grady plays Bess King, a singer-songwriter trying to navigate New York City while pursuing a career in music with her earnest songs.
The show is executive produced by Sara Bareilles, J.J. Abrams and Jessie Nelson, and is loosely based on Bareilles’ early days in the music industry. The soundtrack features original songs written by Bareilles.
O’Grady began her acting career in Arlington, with roles in Encore Stage’s 2007 production of The 12 Dancing Princesses and Signature Theater’s The Witches of Eastwick when she was 10.
She graduated from W-L in 2013 and has performed on major D.C. stages like Ford’s Theater, The Kennedy Center and The White House.
O’Grady’s first major television appearance was in a 2014 episode of ABC’s Trophy Wife, in which she plays an abrasive teenager at a mini golf course. She went on to play the main character’s sister in three seasons of Star on Fox, as well as have roles in thriller films Above Suspicion and Black Christmas.
Little Voice, which premiered July 10, has garnered O’Grady attention from some of entertainment media’s biggest outlets. She has done interviews with Vanity Fair, People, Variety, InStyle, E! and The Kelly Clarkson Show.
Amid questions about what it is like to work with Bareilles and how the show’s love triangle will work out, a recurring theme in these interviews is O’Grady’s candor regarding racial issues in the television and film industries.
“Now, as we’re progressing forward, people who are casting for roles, they usually go for… a Black person” with European features they believe to be more appealing, O’Grady, who is biracial, said to InStyle. “And I think that a lot of dark-skinned women in our industry have felt ignored, have felt overlooked, have felt that their beauty has not been appreciated or represented well, and usually only represented by lighter-skinned women.”
O’Grady has also been vocal in her support of social justice issues to her nearly 800,000 Instagram followers.
“Systematic racism… still affects Black people in our country today,” she said in one recent post. “It affects our beliefs, our school systems, and our communities. As a biracial black woman who often looks racially ambiguous to others, I have had minor experiences with racism and it took me till I left home and went to a private conservative college to experience the honest despair my peers have felt their whole lives.”
“If you are indifferent, annoyed or even offended by people addressing racism and racist systems in our country, that is your privilege and your ignorance, she continued. “It’s everyone’s responsibility in our country to address this and fix it, even if you think it doesn’t affect you. Because it does.”
The eighth episode of the nine in Little Voice‘s first season is being released today.
Photo via brittanyogrady.com
Three COVID Cases at Pentagon City Apartment — “Three residents of the largest apartment building in Arlington — The Bartlett owned by JBG Smith Properties — have tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, according to messages sent to Bartlett tenants.” [Washington Business Journal]
Library Launches ‘Quaranzine’ — “Liz Laribee, the programs and partnerships librarian at Arlington Public Library, says she thinks in puns. So, when the word ‘quaranzine’ popped into her head a little over a week ago, it gave her an idea. On April 3, the library published the first issue of Quaranzine, a weekly online collection of works by local artists responding to the coronavirus pandemic.” [DCist, Arlington Public Library]
Dems See Few Refund Requests After Event Cancelled — “Arlington County Democratic Committee leaders say the party did not take a big financial hit due to the cancellation of its Blue Victory Dinner, which traditionally brings in about a third of operating revenue for county Democrats each year. ‘We had very few folks ask for refunds,’ party chair Jill Caiazzo said… Democratic leaders offered those, who were willing to let the party keep the ticket prices, access to an online event.” [InsideNova]
ACFD Accepting Donations of Food But Not Supplies — “Thank you all for the generosity. You are amazing!! We have have been getting a lot of questions about donating PPE (masks, gloves, respirators, etc). At this time we are NOT collecting any supplies.” [Twitter, Arlington County]
Another Celeb Backs Ballston-Based Hungry — “Arlington catering platform Hungry Marketplace has raised $20 million from actor Kevin Hart, former Whole Foods co-CEO Walter Robb and others to fuel a 23-city expansion as the company’s revenues grow into the tens of millions of dollars.” [Forbes, Washington Business Journal]
Public Meeting for Athletic Field Feedback — “Help Arlington County ensure its athletic fields are utilized effectively and efficiently… Whether you play on an organized team or enjoy one of our many fields for casual recreation, share your thoughts and help us determine community needs.” [Arlington County]
Nearby: Region’s First Coronavirus Cases — “Maryland’s first three cases of coronavirus disease are Montgomery County residents who took an international trip together, Gov. Larry Hogan said Thursday. He said he has declared a state of emergency for Maryland, which has been preparing for the first cases of the disease.” [Bethesda Beat, WTOP]
Nearby: New Inova Facility Near Potomac Yard — “Inova Health System plans to open a new health care facility on part of Oakville Triangle, giving another try to the 13-acre site on Richmond Highway in Alexandria across from a planned Virginia Tech campus and a short distance from Amazon.com Inc.’s second headquarters.” [Washington Business Journal]
Nicklas Backstrom is loving dad life in Arlington.
Last month Backstrom signed a new five-year, $46 million contract to remain with the Washington Capitals. In addition to being the second all-time scorer for the Caps and one of hockey’s top players, the 32-year-old Swede and father of two is an Arlington resident.
A video from the Caps’ “Beyond Hockey” series was recently posted on YouTube and shows Backstrom at home in his red brick, north Arlington house. He spoke highly of the neighborhood.
“We have lived here for 10 years, actually — or I have lived here for 10 years, and Liza has lived here for 7 or 8,” he said, referring to his fiancée.
“We love it around here, on typical days we usually just — kids go to school until 2 or 3 in the afternoon, and then keep them activated and run around,” he said. “That’s when they get the best sleep too.”
Backstrom purchased the home, near the Fairfax County border, for $2 million in 2010.
In the video, he also reveals that Liza is pregnant with the family’s third child. For her part, Liza says the family “has a lot of good neighbors.”
Backstrom is not the only Arlingtonian on the team to talk up the county on video. In October, Caps winger and Bash Boxing co-owner Tom Wilson, who signed his own $31 million contract extension in 2018, appeared in the Beyond Hockey series and spent much of the video driving around Arlington.
“The offseason always flies by, but when you drive in and Arlington’s buzzing you realize how much you’ve missed it here,” Wilson said. “It’s a great feeling to have a place like that that you’re fortunate enough to come back to every year. There’s lots of stuff to do.”
The Caps may play at Capital One arena in D.C., but the team’s offices and its practices are held at MedStar Capitals Iceplex in Ballston.