Orlando W. Darden, president of Community Federal Savings and Loan, yesterday became the first black in the 131-year history of Washington Gas Light Co. to be elected to its board of directors.
Darden was elected after Frank M. Ewing, president of his own investment company and a member of the board for 22 years, resigned for personal reasons.
Darden's election came after a controversial stockholders meeting last March in which numerous employes and stockholders pointedly questioned WGL's officers about their hiring and promotion of blacks and the lack of black directors on WGL's board.
WGL President Donald J. Heim said yesterday in a telephone interview that Darden's election was "not directly attributable to" the meeting, although at that time he said the board was considering a number of people.
"We have a vacacy now and we can move on this particular matter," Heim said.
Heim said Darden's election was based on more than race and that his being black was not a primary reason. In considering candidates for the spot "we took into account the make up of the District and our customers," Heim said.
After the initial telephone interview, Heim called the Washington Post to clarify his earlier statements.
He said that while race was not a primary reason for Darden's selection, it was "a factor that weighed in his favor in the selection process." "I think it's a start in the right direction, but there's still a long way to go," said Donna Lewis, a WGL employe who had questioned the company's hiring policies at the stockholder's meeting. "I think he's (Darden) an excellent choice, he has a good reputation."
Separately, the Washington-based utility reported yesterday that profits are continuing to sag.
For a 12-month period ended May 31, net income declined to $14.16 million ($2.58 a share) from $16.89 million ($3.19) in the comparable previous months. Revenues also declined by $8 million to $351 million, as warmer weather than normal reduced natural gas sales over the past winter.
Not counting the cumulative effect of a change in accounting procedures, WGL's earnings per share in the recent 12 months were down to $1.57 a share from $3.19 in the previous period. If the accounting change was applied retroactively, WGL earnings would have been $1.94 a share compared with $3.38.
Directors of the gas company voted yesterday to approve a regular cash dividend of 60 cents a share on common stock, payable Aug. 1 to owners of record July 10. Regular preferred stock payouts also were approved. CAPTION: Picture 1, Frank M. Ewing; Picture 2, Orlando W. Darden