At an event attended by an overflow crowd, 93-year-old living legend, senior statesman, and founding father Sterling Tucker was honored for his role as the District’s first Home Rule Council Chairman. The centerpiece of the event was the unveiling and rededication of a photographic portrait of Tucker, and a corresponding portrait of his fellow pillar of the District’s first Home Rule government, Mayor Walter Washington.
First unveiled in February of 1979, the two photographic portraits were long hung in the Council Chamber, opposite the current dais. At some point prior to the renovation of the Wilson Building in the 1990s, the portraits were taken down and put in storage for safekeeping. They have now been returned to a place of honor, in the hallway outside the Council Chamber.
Both Sterling Tucker and Walter Washington served a unique role in the transition to Home Rule in the District. After nearly a century of rule by three federally-appointed commissioners, President Lyndon Baines Johnson pushed through a new system that included an appointed mayor and nine-member Council. This form of government was in place from 1967 to 1974. Walter Washington served as the appointed mayor throughout this period, and Sterling Tucker served as Council vice chair from 1969 until 1974.
Then, in the first-ever election of the Home Rule era, Walter Washington was elected Mayor and Sterling Tucker was elected Chairman of the District Council. In these roles, Tucker and Washington provided stability by bridging both the prior and Home Rule periods of governance. They pioneered their roles, as the first ever to hold them, essentially creating them as they went along.
Tucker and Washington both served just one term before being narrowly defeated in the 1978 Democratic Mayoral Primary by Marion Barry. Less than 3,000 votes separated the vote tallies of these three icons of District history.
Including Tucker, five past or present Council Chairs were in attendance at the event, as well as several past and present Councilmembers, and many friends and former colleagues of Mr. Tucker.