The scars are there. On his forehead, knobby memories of dark nights on Mississippi roads. Yet, Ivanhoe Donaldson, the strategist behind Marion Barry, doesn't dwell on his brushes with death in the 1960s.
Even in the mellow darkness of his own dining room, Donaldson retreats from the limelight.
Elsewhere it is the same. On the walls in his campaign lair, outlines of the city's jagged wards, a glossy photograph of Barry (and one of his associate in the '60s, Stokely Carmichael), Barry bumper stickers and letters. Here again Donaldson is reluctant to shake his man-behind-the-scenes cover. "The candidate, the candidate has to be out front," he says, insistently beseechingly.
The moan of refusal gradually becomes a sigh of resignation. "If people know too much about your personality, they begin to make judgements - not on your words buton what they think you are thinking. Then the question becomes wheather they are reacting to you or your ideas."
Donaldson moves out of his office, constantly leaning forward. His build is less than thin, windwhipped; the gestures angular and perpetual: the voice; barking from the back of his throat, only an echo of his native New York City.
Ivanhoe Donaldson, 37, is a political organizer, a particular kind of American artist - one of the stage mangets in the political drama. Their names are rarely known, and their personalities are assumed to go one of two ways, innicent or Machiavellian.
But what friends say about Donaldson, after they point out unnecessarily that he's Marion Barry's alter ego, is that he's warm, temperstuous mix of intelligence, shrewdness, stubborness, consideration,humor and cantankerousness.
Ivanhoe reminds me something of Camus. He believes there are neither victims nor executioners," says a friend, Marcus Raskin.
Donaldson, who has been perfecting his art for 19 years, grimaces. "I'm not quite that much of an idealist." Unrelenting Optimism
Nine days before the September primary with City Councilman Barry pitted against incumbent Mayour Walter Washington and Council Chairman Sterling Tucker, a newspaper poll showed Barry trailing Badly.
The campaign camp was gloomy. Donalson, who wears exhaustion as visibly as a campaing button called an emergency meeting of all the campaign leadership. Fifty people crowded into a room intended for 20.
He let them express their bitterness, anger and depression. The negatives flew. Then he said evenly, "Let's look at our strengths, what we have done right so far."
Gradually with his unrelenting optimism he forced them to think about the types of people who had responded favorably, about additional points of saturation. They caught his mood and began to come up with the solution. Work proved the cure for depression and provided the momentum for Barry's primary victory.
"If everything goes right on Tuesday, Marion Barry would be the first person to come out of the movement and become a big-city mayor," Donaldson says now.
We talked about the city who would be in the race, all the political variables, then I studied the candidate, the candidate's ego." he says of his friend of 18 years." After all it's his personality at stake, he has no bear the strain the frustrations.
"Once I knew we were prepared emotionally to lose then I knew we could win." And at that point, a year ago, he predicted Wards 1,2,3 and 6 as Barry's.
He was on the money. 'A Very Private Person'
Energy. It's the Donaldson trait the Barry campaign staffers grudgingly admire. Intensity. That's the trait his blackjack and bridge buddies marvel at Stubborness and temper. They are what eyewitnesses to a few fistfights talk about. Caution and consideration about birthday flowers and the like. That's what Marion Barry says Donaldson is teaching him.
But even whrn the drive mellows, the reserve is still six feet thick.
My first impression was that he was all business," says Winnie Burrell Donaldson, a slender Capitol Hill aide married seven months to this man who had vowed publicly he would never marry. "Around our second date, he asked me about a fellow I was dating, but it didnm't really seem to matter to him. He told me he didn't have time for personal relationships. He said he didn't need demans on his time. He's a very private person."
"I had been a loner," says Donaldson, which is not the general perception of his bachelor days. "But I am able to shre her own sense of self and direction. On days when I wanted to chew Marion Barry and spit him out, she understood."
For escape Donaldson retreats to his spacious, art-filled condominium off Connecticut Avenue, listens to jazz to stack of old Lee Andrews and the Hearst records and reads.
His love of - and lack of talent for - the art of singing amases his friends. In 1962 a documentary, "Ivanhoe," was made about his work as a field secretary for the Student Non-Violent Coordinating committee (SNCC). When the film was shown at his recent birthday party, he accompanied the workers on film with "This Little Light of Mine." His voice filled the room, loud and off-key.
However, facade behind the serious and arrogant facade, frequently a clown sneaks out. A friend remembers hin jiving down a New York Street with Harry Belafonte and Robert Hooks in the middle of the night, imitating a singing group.
But times weren't always so happy. 'Something Momentous'
In February of 1960, Donaldson was in the student union at Michigan State University, pushing aside his engineering textbooks for a glance at the newspaper. He was riveted by a front-page picture of students in Greenboro, N.C., sitting in at a variety store lunch counter to protests the segregated eating facilities.
"I knew something momentuous was begining. I wanted to be there," says Donaldson, the emotion still evident. Until then, the only son of Jamaica-born parents, who had participated in his high school peers' protests against block busting in Queen, N.Y., had scattered ambitions.
"I was good in math and I was a child of Sputnik, so I studied engineering . But it was more the adventure of the space program. I've never had ambitions in the traditional sense says Donaldson, sitting in Reeves' Bakery and consumpting rye toast, chocolate milkshake and two cups of teaL
Events moved quickly. He got the call many young people felt, and took the Greyhound to a meeting in Raleigh, N.C., that turned out to be the birth of SNCC. That's where he met Marion Barry. The Freedom Rides followed: Donaldson ran clothes, food and medical supplies from Lansing to Clarksdale, Miss On his first mission he was busted for driving "drugs" across a state line.
On the way back from Birmingham to Atlanta in the summer of 1961, Donaldson was almost lynched. There, his chromology quietly halts. "I'm not repressing those events, the times I was almost killed. The particulars loom large for me, but I don't think they mean that much in general ." His tea sits untouched as a friend gives his version of the worst moment in Missippi.
On the way back from the Jackson, Miss., airport, the car Donaldson was driving with three other SNCC workers was stopped by a policeman and some unidentified white men. Donaldson was dragged out and thrown into a police car.
"I heard yells and went to see what they are doing to Ivanhoe. They had a gun pointed at his nose and they had been beating him on the hand remembers journalist Charlie Cobb. Then, Donaldsonand Cobb remember, the policeman said, "You can't kill that nigger out here," and released Donaldson.
"Ivanhoe got back in the car and couldn't drive. That's the only time I have seen him shaken," says Cobb.
Danger became his companion in SNCC, and the leaders of the movement gave him direction. "My parents were very proud black people. They instilled that in me. In fact they spawned a monster,"says Donaldson, a wry smile appearing on his concave face. "But the teachers of the movement, Ella Baker, and Jim Foreman, helped me mature, gave me a sense of capacity and purpose.
"Foreman never said, 'Can you do this? He said, 'Go to Louisville, organize the West end.' He gave me $25, a bus ticket and said, 'Not only organize, but send a certain amount of money back to SNCC.'"
Donaldson shakes his head, then speaks of the ifluence of Bayard Rustin, Malcolm X, Franz Fanon and Marin Luther King Jr. As Donaldson digested their philosophies, he became a hero. (When the students from Havard University returned to campus after the summer of 1963, a student recalls, they spoke of two people, Donaldson and Bob Moses.)
Though he had nearly died at the hands of whites, Donaldson curbed any racial hatred. Several friends remember him dismissing any vendetas. "I had to learn to span the gap between my emotionally reactions and intellectual perceptions. Harry Belafonte was the person who taught me how to deal with the emotional rage while advocating those perceptions of balance."
After organizing Julian Bond's first campaign in 1965, and later those of Richard Hadder and Andrew Young, among others, the southern activism of the civil rights movement waned, and Donaldson moved into the anti-Vietnam war effort, joined the Institute for Policy Studies and established a base in Washington. He shared an apartment with City Councilman John Wilson, invested in a few restaurants, and organized an annual Christmas party for under privileaged children.
While none of these roles put him in the limelight, his old friend Marion Barry did remain out front. In 1974 Donaldson managed Barry's campaign for City Council and stayed on at the District Building as Barry's executive assistant. "Ivanhoe is hard-nosed and compassionate," Barry says. "He doesn't drift here and there, he's quick. And he's the one person around here who knows my thinking, he can anticipate where I'm going to come down."
In the current campaign, Donaldson is known as the tight-fisted, demanding campaign manager and one of the few people who can go "toe-to-toe" in a debate with Barry. He is open to being challenged. He is closed to ideas, alternatives or crticism," says Donaldson.
The other night at a television studio, Barry was waiting for a taping. When an aide asked if he wanted to speak to Donaldson on the telephone, Barry said no.The aide handed him the phone saying, "Ivanhoe wants to talk to you." Barry smiled, "well, that's different."
Though many of the contacts Donaldson made in the 1980s, especially the fund-raising sources, have helped him pull together the Barry constituency. Donaldson doesn't dwell in the past. "The '70s are fulfilling. People and history move forward. I don't wallow in the good old days. Those people who do are often cynics," says Donaldson, bluntly. "I try to find what's positive, build and reinforce it. I think it's irresponsible to take away anyone's sense of hope." Passing the Torch
One of SNCC's philosophies was that workers continually worked themselves out of a job, passed the torch on. That idea has stayed with Donaldson. "I don't feel I'm indidpensible to Marion Barry. He's at a crossroads of his life - there will be new insiders, new confidences. In some ways to hang around would hamper that from happening. My involvment will be short-term."
But even the organizer's moments of stubborn, watchful tension can fade. After the National Black Political Convention in Gary, Ind., in 1972, Donaldson, one of key organizers, went to Mayor Richard Hatcher's house for dinner. Exhausted after six weeks of constant work, he fell asleep at the table.
"But what's important," says Hatcher, "is that he waited until the job was done."