On Saturday afternoon, Kent Carter left Arlington to celebrate his 40th birthday on Turks and Caicos, the Caribbean islands southeast of the Bahamas, with his long-time girlfriend.
He was supposed to fly back on Tuesday.
Instead, while riding in a shuttle back from a jet-skiing excursion on Sunday evening, an alleged gang member opened fire on the vehicle. The gunman shot and killed Carter and an employee of a local business and wounded three others. The shooting has been covered by both local and national media outlets, including The New York Times.
His last act was to protect his girlfriend of eight years, who survived with minor injuries.
“He shielded me from being shot,” his girlfriend, who requested we not use her name, tells ARLnow.
Now, Arlington is mourning Carter’s death and paying tribute to his legacy as a local civil rights leader, loving father and caring partner. His story has attracted national attention and an outpouring of support from community members and local realtors with whom he worked, elected officials and regional and national leaders of the NAACP.
“We are devastated to learn of Kent’s loss and will be keeping his family in our prayers,” Arlington County Board Chair Katie Cristol said in a statement to ARLnow. “Kent was a true leader in the Arlington community: knowledgeable and determined on civil rights issues and gifted at building relationships and coalitions.”
Carter, an Army veteran and a real estate agent by trade, was serving his second term as the First Vice-President of the Arlington branch of the NAACP, and the chair of the Criminal Justice Committee. He represented the NAACP on Arlington’s Police Practices Group, which came up with more than 100 ways to change policing in the county, and advocated for a Community Oversight Board with subpoena power, which was officially established last summer.
“Kent led that charge,” Julius “JD” Spain, president of the Arlington branch of the NAACP, told ARLnow. “Many citizens in Arlington will benefit from the hard work that Kent put in. Words alone aren’t enough to express the level of gratitude for someone who not just wore the nation’s cloth, but one who’s a servant leader.”
The NAACP Arlington branch president said his First Vice-President was reserved but could command a room. He was duty-bound to his advocacy work and didn’t care about the accolades.
Arlington’s elected officials are now working to recognize Carter’s efforts, including his work with lawmakers on a criminal justice reform package several years ago, through a memorial resolution led by Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-30). It is expected to go before the Virginia legislature in January.
The memorial resolution recognizes “the esteem we in the Arlington delegation held Mr. Carter in,” Ebbin told ARLnow. “It is also in recognition of the impact of Kent’s work for social justice and in service to our country, which extended far beyond the borders of Arlington.”
Carter was born Sept. 28, 1982, and grew up outside Knoxville, Tennessee. He joined the military in 2000 and was first deployed to the Pentagon just after 9/11 to provide security. In 2002, he deployed to Afghanistan for six months as a member of a U.S. Army Personal Security Detail. While in Afghanistan, he met his ex-wife, Melanie Bell-Carter, to whom he was married for 11 years.
Carter also served as an airborne Army police officer and later, as a special agent in the Air Force Office of Special Investigations and the U.S. Department of Commerce. Concurrent with his military career, he pursued his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in criminal justice.
His lived experience as a Black man in the South, combined with his law enforcement experience, compelled him to tackle criminal justice reform where he could feel the impact directly: in his backyard in Arlington.
“He was one to stand up for those who couldn’t stand for themselves,” Bell-Carter told ARLnow in an email. “He frowned upon injustice and wanted to be a leader in changing how the country and the world treated people. Always one to look after those less fortunate.”
Billionaire Contributes to Board Candidate — “Who is Arthur Rock and why did he contribute $15,000 – a large amount by local standards – to the re-election campaign of Democratic County Board candidate Matt de Ferranti? The first question is perhaps the easier of the two to answer. Rock is a 95-year-old (to be 96 in August) billionaire who made his money over the decades in the venture-capital field and related endeavors.” [Sun Gazette]
RIP Sidney Dewberry — “Sidney Oliver ‘Sid’ Dewberry passed away peacefully in Arlington, Virginia, on July 16, 2022, surrounded by his loving family. He had a unique and purposeful life — filled with service to his community, the Commonwealth of Virginia and the nation, while being wholly dedicated to his family.” [Legacy, Dewberry, Sun Gazette]
One Arrested After Robbery — “The juvenile male victim and the three juvenile male suspects met for a prearranged sale during which the suspects assaulted the victim and stole his backpack containing a laptop. A lookout was broadcast and responding officers located Suspect One, who was carrying stolen property, and attempted to stop him. Suspect One fled on foot and following a foot pursuit, was taken into custody.” [Arlington County]
Spa Day for Rescued Beagles — “A group of rescued beagles got a special ‘spa day’ treatment after they arrived at a shelter in Arlington, Virginia. Virginia-based Homeward Trails, an organization facilitating rehabilitation and adoption for dogs and cats, is one of several groups working with the Humane Society of the United States to move about 4,000 beagles out of the Envigo facility in Cumberland County. When they arrived at Homeward Trails, the staff and volunteers there made sure the rescued pups got the full spa treatment.” [WTOP]
Yet Another I-395 Crash — From Dave Statter: “#caughtoncamera: Another 8C crash. Cars & barrels all over the place but no injuries & relatively minor damage. Plus, the driver crossing over eventually got to the exit ramp, thanks to police.” [Twitter]
ADA Celebration This Morning — “The public and media are invited to join Arlington County officials and key stakeholders… as we celebrate 32 years of the Americans with Disabilities Act [at 10 a.m. Monday] at Quincy Park (1021 N. Quincy St.). The Arlington County Board will also issue a proclamation to mark this important civil rights law.” [Arlington County]
It’s Monday — Rain and potentially strong storms in the afternoon and evening. High of 88 and low of 77. Sunrise at 6:05 am and sunset at 8:27 pm. [Weather.gov]
Photo courtesy George Brazier
SFH Prices Up 11 Percent — “Something may have to give, eventually, but, for now, average single-family-home sales prices in Arlington continue to spike, according to new data. The average sales price of the 108 existing single-family homes that went to closing across the county in June stood at just over $1.35 million, up 11 percent from the already red-hot market of June 2021.” [Sun Gazette]
CAIR Backs Arlington House Bill — “The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, today expressed its support for legislation that would rename a memorial currently dedicated to Confederate General Robert E. Lee in Arlington, Va.” [Press Release]
Arlington Crisis Line Now at 988 — “A new 9-8-8 crisis and support hotline is now active across the United States, including here in Arlington County. In 2020, Congress designated a new 9-8-8 dialing code to operate through the existing National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (NSPL) network, which has more than 200 locally operated and funded crisis lines across the country. PRS, Inc. operates the local network in Arlington.” [Arlington County]
Public Comment Rules Stretched — “After getting pilloried a month before for what critics called a heavy-handed approach to enforcing rules on public comment, County Board Chairman Katie Cristol on July 16 loosened her grip on the gavel just a bit. Cristol acknowledged that she was being a little more loose in her interpretation of rules for the July board meeting than she had been in June, when she shut down comment on the government’s Missing Middle housing proposal after just two speakers at the public-comment period.” [Sun Gazette]
Late Metro Critic Was Arlingtonian — “Matt Hilburn, a journalist and communications specialist best-known for his creation and curation of the popular and unsparing transportation social media account Unsuck DC Metro, died July 17 at his home in Arlington, Va. He was 54. The cause was complications of kidney cancer that had metastasized, said his father.” [Washington Post]
Board Members on Abortion Rights — From Arlington County Board Chair Katie Cristol: “We are joining with the many Arlingtonians who are now expressing their anger and frustration and their fear at the Dobbs v Jackson decision and at Gov. Youngkin’s threat to abortion rights in Virginia. We are committed as this Board to mitigating and preventing the public health crisis that these actions could precipitate and we will advocate for the protection of the fundamental human right to bodily autonomy.” [Blue Virginia]
Tech Event in Rosslyn Tonight — “For the 7th consecutive year, DCA Live and our partners are excited to recognize the 2022 Red Hot Companies, the Washington region’s fastest growing and most exciting companies. We’ll be profiling these companies over the coming weeks and will celebrate them with a lively, fun event on the evening of Wednesday, July 20 on the rooftop of Sands Capital in Rosslyn, VA.” [DCA Live]
Falls Church Check Fraud — “Last week, after being notified of suspicious activity, the City of Falls Church discovered fraudulent checks were cashed using the City’s accounts… City of Falls Church Police are aware of a possible national trend of checks being stolen from blue USPS mailboxes. The Police advise residents and businesses to mail checks and valuables directly through a post office.” [City of Falls Church]
It’s Wednesday — Humid throughout the day. High of 91 and low of 75. Sunrise at 6:01 am and sunset at 8:31 pm. [Weather.gov]
Flickr pool photo by Jeff Vincent
Trash Collection Starting Earlier — “In an effort to get a jump on the day and maybe beat a bit of summer heat, curbside collection crews will be starting their routes 30 minutes earlier in the morning beginning next week. The new start time of 6:30 a.m. is considered a pilot, with the results to be evaluated after a few months. As usual, recycling/trash/organics carts need to be at the curb by 6 a.m. on weekly pick-up day. Putting them out the night before is perfectly fine–if that’s how you roll.” [Arlington County]
Bezos Space Firm Has Arlington Office — Blue Origin “has a small existing office at 1530 Wilson Blvd. in Arlington… which the Blue Origin website describes as its ‘East Coast business office supporting government relations, sales and business development efforts.’ A lobbying disclosure form filed last month with the federal government also puts Blue Origin’s presence at that address. The Rosslyn office will remain open after Blue Origin occupies its new Reston space.” [Washington Business Journal]
Prolific Arlington Architect Dies — “Fredrick Sheridan of McLean passed away at home on June 30th at the age of 95. Fred was President and a founder of SBE & Assoc, an Arlington architecture firm for over 55 years… He was an early and major contributor to the development of local building and zoning codes in Arlington, advocating for residents and landowners. His scope of work included more than 200 projects. Fred’s versatility of design expertise extended from Courtland Towers to the Monastery of the Poor Clares to Marymount University.” [Legacy]
Forestry Commission on ‘Missing Middle’ — “The Arlington County government’s Forestry and Natural Resources Commission… while saying it agrees that a broader range of housing options should be available in Arlington, seems to be joining a growing chorus that the proposed zoning alterations should be phased in over time, to see what works and what doesn’t, before being implemented throughout Arlington’s single-family neighborhoods.” [Sun Gazette]
Group Lauds Board’s Antisemitism Resolution — “The Arlington County Board has received praise from the American Jewish Committee (AJC) for adopting the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) Working Definition of Antisemitism. Board members passed a resolution in support of the language in June.” [Sun Gazette]
Crystal City ‘Midsummer’ Production Reviewed — “If ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ is only as enchanting as a production’s take on the mischievous fairy Puck and bumbling actor Bottom, then Synetic Theater is fortunate to count spellbinding performances from Ariel Kraje and Vato Tsikurishvili among its assets.” [Washington Post]
NPS Seeking Ideas for Daingerfield Island — “The National Park Service is soliciting public feedback for ideas to overhaul part of Daingerfield Island near Potomac Yard. The idea is to revitalize the area around the Washington Sailing Marina at the former Indigo Landing Restaurant.” [ALXnow]
It’s Friday — Mostly cloudy during the day, then rain and possible storms at night. High of 86 and low of 73. Sunrise at 5:52 am and sunset at 8:37 pm. [Weather.gov]
Obit for Legendary Land Lawyer — “Martin D. ‘Art’ Walsh, co-founder of one of the most prolific land-use law firms in Northern Virginia, died Monday at the age of 78, his firm announced. A cause of death was not released… A year before Walsh Colucci’s founding, Art Walsh was the subject of a Washington Post profile as one of Arlington’s best known land-use attorneys.” [Washington Business Journal]
Local Leader May Get Historical Marker — “A venerable and venerated leader in Arlington’s one-time Little Saigon community is likely not to have a local park in his honor. But that doesn’t mean the county government won’t do something to memorialize the legacy of Nguyen Ngoc Bich, who died six years ago after 40 years of service to residents in the area… Nguyen could be remembered by an historical marker, said Diane Probus of the county government’s Department of Parks and Recreation.” [Sun Gazette]
Shots Fired in Buckingham — “4200 block of 2nd Road N. At approximately 1:34 a.m. on June 8, police were dispatched to the report of shots heard in the area. Responding officers recovered evidence confirming shots had been fired. No injuries or property damage were reported. There is no suspect(s) description. The investigation is ongoing.” [ACPD]
Bike Theft Near Ballston — “3900 block of Wilson Boulevard. At approximately 11:55 a.m. on June 7, police were dispatched to the report of a larceny. Upon arrival, it was determined that between 5:00 p.m. on June 6 and 11:30 a.m. on June 7 an unknown suspect gained entry into a locked storage pod and stole approximately seven bicycles. There is no suspect(s) description. The investigation is ongoing.” [ACPD]
It’s Thursday — Possible light rain in the morning, then mostly sunny during the day. High of 79 and low of 69. Sunrise at 5:44 am and sunset at 8:34 pm. [Weather.gov]
Long-time Ashton Heights resident Trudy Ensign was happy to talk about a lot of things during her 101 years. She loved to paint, bowl, watch the Washington Nationals, and was a constant presence at Clarendon United Methodist Church.
But there was one thing that she never talked about: Being an intelligence analyst for the United States Army during World War II.
“No, never,” chuckles Jane Brown, Ensign’s daughter. “Even when stuff started becoming redacted or public knowledge.”
Gertrude Carley Brown Ensign died on February 28, but this past weekend a memorial service was held in her honor at the church on N. Irving Street.
During the eulogy, Reverend Tracy McNeil Wines told all those sitting in the pews paying their respects what Ensign never would.
“She used her intelligence to gain intelligence for our nation,” Wines said. “And… we enjoyed having this secret spy woman in our midst.”
Ensign was born in Iowa in 1920, lived through the Great Depression there, and was recruited out of college by the Army Security Agency (a precursor to the National Security Agency) to move to the D.C. area to help with the war effort.
“She knew Morse code, so [the Army] literally sent her all over the world, to Panama, Japan, Hawaii. During the Vietnam War, she worked at the [Arlington] base too,” Brown tells ARLnow. “She was the highest grade civilian woman when she retired. It was a big deal and she got all of these awards.”
In 2018, Arlington Public Library’s Center for Local History interviewed Ensign about her time working for the Army and living in Arlington in the mid-20th century.
After the war, she stayed in Arlington, got married, bought a house in Ashton Heights, and had two children.
For decades, Ensign was deeply involved in the Arlington community. She was known to hand out sandwiches in the Central Library parking lot to those in need, supporting the work of A-SPAN (now, PathForward). She was president of the Maury School PTA and was a Girl Scouts troop leader, serving alongside Annie Glenn.
And she alway made time for her church. She was the membership secretary of Clarendon United Methodist for years. As former Reverend Eugene Thomas noted at the memorial service to laughs, Ensign always knew who was at Sunday services — and who wasn’t.
In September 2020, the Ashton Heights community celebrated the resident’s 100th birthday with a socially-distanced parade, signs, and well-wishes. Her positive thinking, enthusiasm, and sense of humor was on full display sitting in front of her long-time home.
“Somebody may be looking at this real estate,” she told ARLnow at the time, laughing. “But I think I’ll keep telling them how the roof leaks and they’ll go someplace else.”
Obit for a Local Legend — “John T. ‘Til’ Hazel Jr., a Virginia lawyer and developer who played a crucial role in building the Capital Beltway and transforming Northern Virginia from a rural outpost of Washington into an economic powerhouse, died March 15 at his home… He was a force behind the rise to prominence of GMU, acquiring land and lobbying for a school of law in Arlington, Va.” [Washington Post, Virginia Business]
County Holding Covid Remembrance — “The County Board invites members of our community to join in remembering Arlington neighbors who have lost their lives to COVID-19 over the past two years… Saturday, March 19, 2022 | 02:00 PM.” [Arlington County]
Repeated Thefts from Courthouse CVS — “The male suspect entered into the business, went behind the counter and attempted to open the cash register before being confronted by an employee. The suspect then walked through the store and stole a beverage and food items before leaving. The suspect then reentered and exited the business two more times, stealing more beverages and food items in the process. During his third entry into the business, the suspect was confronted by an employee and attempted to throw a beverage at a witness who approached him. The suspect then fled the scene on foot but returned a short time later and was taken into custody by responding officers.” [ACPD]
Beyer Blasts Plane Plan — “Congressman Don Beyer (D-VA), Representative of Northern Virginia and member of the Quiet Skies Caucus, today wrote to the heads of the U.S. Secret Service and the Federal Aviation Administration seeking a halt to procedural changes for regional airplane flight patterns. Beyer’s letter noted that the because the changes were not preceded by an environmental review process and were implemented just before a major drop-off in flights caused by the pandemic, their impact on noise levels in the region is just starting to be felt in full for the first time now.” [Press Release]
It’s St. Patrick’s Day — Rain in the morning and afternoon. High of 57 and low of 50. Sunrise at 7:18 am and sunset at 7:18 pm. [Weather.gov]
Flickr pool photo by Jeff Vincent
It’s less than a week before Christmas and Moore’s Barbershop is bustling.
Mask-wearing barbers are clipping, trimming, and shaving hair, while several customers wait for their chance in the chair at the small shop on Langston Blvd. There’s an echo of chatter, conversations ranging from politics to football to a mutual friend who got a new job.
By the window stands Jim Moore Jr., the owner, cutting and chatting at the same time. It was in 1960, when his father — Jim Moore Sr. — opened this shop in the Halls Hill neighborhood to cater to Arlington’s Black community, who were often not welcome in white barbers’ chairs.
For more than six decades, the shop has thrived as a focal point for the community, a place where all were welcome and lifelong friendships have formed.
But on Nov. 7, its patriarch Jim Moore Sr. died at the age of 88.
Today, James Thomas Moore Sr. Transitioned into his greater self. Mr. Moore started Mr. Moore’s barber shop in 1960 and “started” me three years later. His example helped me and countless other become better people. I love you dad and will always miss you ❤️!#dmv #barber pic.twitter.com/ppTCyohOGJ
— James Moore (@Mooresbarber) November 8, 2021
Now, several weeks since his death, memories are fluttering down much like hair trimmings from a fresh cut.
“Always jovial,” says Keaton Hopkins describing the elder Moore. Hopkins has been getting his haircut here for more than thirty years, since he was five years old. “Always smiling… We always had a great conversation.”
“He never seemed to have a bad day,” says Clay Pinson, a barber at the shop for about twenty years. “He was always in a good mood.”
His son, Jim, notes that these are common refrains, that his father was kind, a good conversationalist, and knew how to make people feel special.
“People have kept coming to me since his passing to tell me stories of the things he’s done for them and the lessons they learned from him,” Moore Jr. tells ARLnow, emotion coming through his voice. “That’s just who he was. He made a difference for a lot of people.”
Moore Sr. was born in North Carolina, served in the Korean War, and went to barber school before finding his way to Arlington, after getting a tip that the Halls Hill neighborhood was in need of a barber’s services. While there were Black barbers in the county and nearby in D.C., white clients would only go to them if the clippers and scissors had not been used on a Black client.
“They refused to cut Black people’s hair,” says Moore Jr.
So, Moore Sr. opened his own shop with a partner, Rudolf Becton, and ingrained himself in the community. In addition to being a barber, he was also a volunteer firefighter at the nearby, historic Fire Station #8. In 1962, Jim Moore Jr., was born and it didn’t take long before the young son went to work at the family business.
“I started when I was seven [years old] and my job was cleaning it up for him, sweeping hair,” he says. “I didn’t start cutting hair until I was a teenager.”
He also followed in his father’s footsteps by becoming an Arlington firefighter, serving the county for more than thirty years before retiring in 2020. On his off-days from the department, though, he would stand by his father’s side.
Moore Jr. learned that being a barber is about so much more than just knowing how to handle scissors. The profession requires listening, building relationships, and making people feel comfortable.
“Cutting hair is an intimate activity,” says the younger Moore. “You are close to somebody, you touch them, you smell them. You can see the sweat and tension when they are talking about certain subjects. You need to know how to read a person.”
And there was no one better at those skills than the elder Moore.
“I called it his superpower. The ability to… allow people the space to be their authentic self,” Moore Jr. says.
Throughout its history, Moore’s Barbershop has continued to be a place for everyone. In fact, it’s often cited as the first integrated barber shop in Arlington. Moore Jr. says his father never believed in segregation, knowing that a good haircut and great conversation were universal desires.
“What my dad taught me is that you can be successful in many ways. It doesn’t have to be a great big billion dollar house or a great big million dollar company,” says Moore Jr. “The smallest things can make a huge difference. That’s what he always put out there.”
Longtime Local Business Leader Dies — “Longtime Arlington Chamber of Commerce president and civic leader Rich Doud passed away Dec. 9 at Virginia Hospital Center, the chamber announced Friday. Doud served as president of the Chamber for 23 years before retiring in May 2014. Among his many accomplishments were the creation of the Arlington Business Hall of Fame — to which he was enshrined in 2017 — and the Community Action Committee, and the establishment of Leadership Arlington, now known as Leadership Center for Excellence.” [InsideNova, Sun Gazette]
Televised Tree Lighting in Rosslyn — “The Rosslyn tree lighting was live on 7News Thursday evening with live music. Rosslyn Cheer 2021 includes the tree lighting, a holiday market at Central Place Plaza, raffles, and other giveaways.” [WJLA]
Former County Board Member Dies — “[Roye] Lowry, who served a four-year term on the Arlington County Board in the early 1960s (chairing it for a year) and later was active in a host of civic affairs, died Dec. 4, Goodwin House officials confirmed to the Sun Gazette. He was 103 years old – probably the longest lived of any person who has served on the County Board since it was established in the early 1930s.” [Sun Gazette]
Top Brunch Spots in Arlington — “Everyone knows that weekends are better with brunch, and in our area, it’s easy to find a spread to suit just about any taste or budget. Check this list of local brunch spots in Arlington to satisfy that midday hankering for dishes ranging from corned beef hash to waffles stuffed with apples, plus coffee, cocktails and other requisite hangover cures.” [Arlington Magazine]
It’s Monday — Today will be clear throughout the day, with a low of 38 and a high of 54. Sunrise at 7:18 a.m., sunset at 4:46 p.m. Tuesday will be mostly cloudy, with a low of 38 and a high of 55.
Flickr pool photo by Cyrus.W
‘Kindness Yard Sale’ in Penrose — “Susan Thompson-Gaines wants to spread kindness. This weekend, she’s doing it through a big yard sale at her house. She says it’s hard to miss the home she shares with her husband, David — it’s the yellow house with purple trim at the corner of South Second and South Fillmore streets in Arlington… what makes this yard sale different is that the proceeds are all spent on acts of kindness.” [WTOP]
Flood Cleanup for Pike Businesses — From WUSA 9’s Matthew Torres: “A dental hygienist sent me this other video of the flash flooding in Columbia Pike in Arlington. Their business had to close today as they clean up the water that seeped through. Other businesses are having to do the same thing.” [Twitter]
More Vaccinations Added to State Stats — “Today, the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) has incorporated vaccination data from jurisdictions in Maryland. Virginians who received vaccinations in Maryland that were not reported through the Virginia Immunization Information System are now included in the locality and statewide dashboards. The updated data reflects an increase in COVID-19 vaccine first dose rates of 0.33% Alexandria, 0.46% Arlington, and 0.39% Eastern Shore.” [Virginia Dept. of Health]
AFAC Gets Donation from Library Program –“Representatives of the Friends of the Arlington Public Library (FOAL), together with the Arlington Public Library and Arlington County Department of Technology Services, presented a check for $4,525 to the Arlington Food Assistance Center (AFAC). The donation represents the number of Library readers who successfully completed the 2021 Summer Reading Challenge. The Library’s popular Summer Reading program helps children avoid the ‘summer slide.'” [Arlington County]
Fmr. County Board Member Dies — “Jay Edwin Ricks, 88, passed away at home in Arlington, Virginia on July 18, 2021 due to complications of Parkinson’s Disease… In 1967, Jay was elected to the Arlington County Board where he served until 1971. During this time, he was active in transportation issues and Vice Chairman of Metro during the critical phase of planning the Metro system.” [Legacy]
Local Church Adapts to Pandemic — ‘As another wave of the pandemic comes at us, we are different as a congregation,’ said the Rev. Amanda Poppei, senior minister at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington, Virginia… Poppei’s congregation began hosting outdoor events in spring 2021, including a handbell parade to ring in Pride Month in June and a Flower Communion in May, which they intentionally designed as a multiplatform event.” [UUWorld]
Long-time Arlington resident and community leader Fannie McNeil died late last month at the age of 84, her family tells ARLnow.
A constant presence at Lomax A.M.E Zion Church on 24th Road S., McNeil was a member of numerous boards there and the founder of the SPICE (Sisters Providing Information & Christian Encouragement) program. Since the early 1990s, the church program has mentored hundreds of young women in the community.
“She really had us learn the importance of community, love, and women empowerment,” says Reba Nettles, McNeil’s daughter.
McNeil grew up in North Carolina and moved to Arlington’s Green Valley neighborhood in her early 20s with her husband.
A few years later, in the 1960s and with a growing family, they moved to the Columbia Pike corridor, right off of S. Fillmore Street. In the early 1970s, they moved to the Johnson’s Hill neighborhood, now known as Arlington View.
It was then that McNeil became a single mother, raising six children by herself. She also had eight grandchildren, three of which she raised, as well as 13 great-grandchildren, all while living in the Columbia Pike corridor and working to clean residences for more than fifty years.
And she loved her community.
Family describes how she would invite the entire neighborhood over for parties, donating countless hours and money to her church, mentoring children in the community, and bringing food to election officers at Carver Community Center on election day.
“My grandmother, when she would go vote, she would bring food for everyone,” says her granddaughter, Tiffany Jones.
Despite her positive attitude, life wasn’t always easy.
“It was a hard struggle for her,” says Nettles. “But my mother was always there for us… She never missed a step.”
She became an entrepreneur, creating a home cleaning business that allowed the family to live comfortably. The kids and grandchildren say they were never left wanting, always having food, nice dresses, and a loving home.
“This was a woman who witnessed lynchings and was in the era of the [Ku Klux Klan] and surviving that, coming to Arlington County, and building a foundation,” says Danielle McNeill, another granddaughter of Fannie’s. “I mean, she was just so phenomenal.”
As Nettles puts it, “My mother was a role model for all of us.”
She was long-time and welcoming presence at Lomax A.M.E Zion Church, says Brenda Cox who is the chairperson on the church’s historical committee as well as McNeil’s neighbor in Johnson’s Hill.
“They don’t make them like Mrs. McNeil anymore,” Cox says. “She was a pillar of our church and will be missed.”
She was also an amazing cook, so much so that the kids would fight over who would sit next to McNeil at church to get first dibs on what was being prepared for Sunday night family dinner.
“We even got her to cook for her own birthday party,” laughs April Nettles, a granddaughter. “Her own surprise birthday party, at that.”
Cox says at every big church event and moment, McNeil was there, usually doing what she did best.
“She was always in the middle of it,” says Cox. “Probably cooking.”
As McNeil grew older, she saw her neighborhood changing. Johnson’s Hill was first established in the 1880s and in close proximity to Freedman’s Village, which was in the process being closed by the federal government. By the turn of the century, 300 to 400 Black residents lived in Johnson’s Hill. In the 1960s, and around the time McNeil moved in, that number had tripled.