ANN WILLOUGHBY could barely get dressed that morning, what with the phone tinkling soft and steady through her oyster-white bedroom, tinkling on downstairs past the Indonesian art, on down into the big kitchen of the big house on Colorado Avenue. She had been having breakfast, in the breakfast room, when it all started.
"A friend of mine called and said 'Ann, turn to page whatever in the paper -- there's an article.' And I said, 'Me? What did I do?'"
She turned, fast. An there it was, on Oct. 27, 1971:
"Very quietly, and deliberately not publicizing the fact, Washington's famed Green Book has admitted two black families for listing among the city's social elite . . . The Willoughbys, strictly speaking are the first totally 'private' couple to be elevated on Washington's social ladder by the Green Book . . ." The other listing was Patricia Harris and her husband, William. She's secretary of HEW.
"From the time that article hit the paper," Ann Willoughby remembers, "I couldn't get my clothes on for the newspapers calling me. It was unreal. Then it went on 'Panorama.' That was big news. And then it went out on the wire. We had friends writing us from as far away as Malaysia."
Less than nine years later, "private" blacks in the Green Book -- that is, those who haven't been automatically included because of the congressional or government titles in front of their names -- number about a dozen families among the 5,000. Partly scorned and partly envied by younger professional blacks who call them "frilly-frillies" who seem to be aspiring to be white, these few have tiptoes into one of Washington's most encrusted social institutions.
Racism in the book, heavy on WASPs with seasonal addresses, long has been taken for granted. Many blacks simply dismiss it as another social injustice 16 years after civil righnts eliminated most legal ones; others, both untouched and bemused by the city's old "cave dweller" society, just dismiss it period.
"Who gives a s---?" laughs Randall Robinson, the 38-year-old director of the African lobby Transafrica.
The Green Book blacks do. To them, the list is a small but discernible source of pride, a heady selection process made more select by racism. "Anyboby likes to be selected for what they consider the better thing," reasons one of the chosen.
Today, these chosen give a glimpse of an institution that is creaking, barely, away from the time nine years ago when a Green Book publisher regretted the flood of publicity surrounding the Willioughbys. Her reason: "It will start a flood of them wanting in, and the board will have to thoroughly investigate every one."
The flood has turned out to be a trickle. But it is a steady trickle, showing the way rusted institutions grind toward change.
In 1980, in a city nearly 75 kpercent black, here are some of the dozen families who've made their way in:
Charles and Roselyn Epps. He's a nationally known orthopedic surgeon, she a pediatrician with the D.C. Department of Human Services.
LaSalle and Ruth Leffall. He's chairman of the Howard University surgery department and a former president of the American Cancer Society. She is on the boards of, among others, the D.C. Chapter of the American Red Cross, the Children's Museum, the National Symphony Orchestra and the United Negro College Fund.
C. David and ViCurtis Hinton. He is an ear, nose and throat doctor and a Howard professor, she a vetern organizer on the society fund-raising circuit.
Aaron and Alexine Jackson. He's chief of urology at D.C. General, she a relatively recent entry on the women's club scene.
Lynnette Taylor. She's executive director of Delta Sigma Theta, the largest black sorority in the country. She was once married to Hobart Taylor, Lyndon Johnson's associate counsel. Both are now listed separately.
U.S. District Court Judge Barrington Parker and his wife Marjorie, a Gerald Ford delegate to the 1976 convention and a former D.C. City Council member appointed by Richard Nixon.
William and Marilyn Funderburk. He a prominent cancer specialist, she assistant social secretary at the White House and longtime organizer of society benefits. Both she and her husband were listed before her July 1979, White House appointment.
Belford and Marjorie Lawson. Both are lawyers in a family firm heavily involved in real estate and corporate work. Marjorie Lawson was civil rights director for the 1960 Kennedy campaign and is a former D.C. juvenile court judge.
Linwood and Claudia Rayford. He is a general surgeon and director of Howard University Hospital. She is a real estate broker.
Many of these black women got their starts toward Green Book society at a 1971 benefit kfor Freedman's Hospital, a facility that once served the city's slave population. The dinner-dance at the Corcoran, co-chaired by Marilyn Funderburk, was a sellout that attracted a large enough number of whites to be considered Washington's first integrated, large-scale fundraiser.
Which is the traditional way, without a sizable fortune or some amount of Washington blue blood, for a family of any color to get tagged for Green Book inclusion. Since 1930, the year Helen Ray Hagner started the diplomatic and social list to help Washington decipher who sat where, the method has been the same: The husband makes a big salary, while the wife has time to volunteer her way methodically upward in the correct clubs. She eventually gets noticed, and someone already in the book recommends her.
(Now the question, particularly for those who consider the book a silly anachronism, is why any person -- white or black -- would want to be included in the first place. Publicly, whites in the book say it's a convenient list for addresses and phone calls; privately, it's a tiny security blanket of acceptance by a group of people who are as good as or better than themselves.)
After the written Green Book recommendation comes a questionnaire in the mail. It is to be filled in promptly, then sent back and either approved or disapproved by a four-member, highly anonymous board.
So far, Green Book publisher Jean Shaw Murray says she can't remember one black recommending another for listing.
"There are some blacks still in this city," says a prominent black businessman and 20-year resident, "who think that if there's something white that excludes other blacks -- then it's good." Oddly, these are blacks who grew up segregated, who still remember the ugly little details, the movies they couldn't see, the times they had to put caps on their heads before trying on department store hats. There are still hidden emotional welts.
"It's all a question of how one processes anger," says Transafrica's Robinson, a product of a segregated Richmond, Va., and an integrated Harvard Law School. "Noboby likes to be rejected, even by those you don't want to be with. And if that group is a group in society that controls power, the acceptance by that group means to some people that you've been authenticated -- even if there is an element of loathing in the euphoria of being accepted."
A look at some of the Green Book blacks and how and why they did it:
"It's like anything else," says Ann Willoughby. "There are some people who just never move out of a certian circle."
Lunch is at a restaurant full of brown marble and single flowers in glass vases at the Sheraton Washington. Willoughby is catering sales representatives at the new hotel. She wears a dark blue suit and pearl earrings, picks sparingly at shrimp from the giant buffet, and seems, since her husband died two years ago, very much the executive woman of 1980.
Once she seemed, if she'd belonged, very much the model Junior Leaguer of the '60s and '70s. Her husband was a handsome dentist from Trinidad who was making a name for himself with Embassy Row patients; she was the wife who dutifully began making a name for herself on the women's club circuit.
"See, I was at home," she says. "Young and . . . you know." Her round face and full head of perfectly styled hair nod, as if asking for understanding.
She began in the mid-'60s, doing volunteer work for the National Collection of Fine Arts. Then came the Washington Performing Arts Society, the organization where many black women got their starts on the charity ball circuit. In 1969, Willoughby chaired the society's Diamond Dinner Dance, covered by Women's Wear Daily. This more or less put her on the map.
Today she's cut back some because of her job, but remains a counselor at Meridian House and on the boards of the YWCA, WETA and the D.C. Society for Cripple Children. She has been pictured in Town & Country and invited to the White House for a tea during the Nixon administration. The memory still thrills.
It was so lovely," she says. "The day was beautiful, and all the ladies looked so nice. Your name was done up just right in calligraphy." There were small roses, and carnations, and only 30 other guests collected for this reception for African ambassadors' wives.
"Here you are," continues Willoughby, "and suddenly you realize that you are being invited to a function by the vice president of the United States. It's not the person, but the office. You look back over your childhood, and you can't imagine being in that kind of company. It's so remote. Those people were put so far out of your reach as a child.
"They were the greatest. It was like a god."
Now in her early 50s, she came to Washington at age 9, a doctor's daughter who had gone to segregated schools. "I was so young," she explains, "I didn't know any resentment." She graduated from Dunbar High School and later Howard University; for years, her mother had told her education was the one possession no one could take. Soon she was working as a dental hygenist and soon after that, she met her husband.
She married Winston Churchill Willoughby in 1953. The Colorado Avenue house was a fine one for parties, so they had lots of them, inviting many of the dentist's white patients from Embassy Row.
The life style, though, was not the average black life style in a city full of those at the poverty level. So like other haves in a race still overloaded with have-nots, Ann Willoughby had some questions to answer.
"Somebody in Washington once said to me that I never did anything for blacks," she remembers. "An ooooh, I became infuriated. How can any person say that about a city like Washington which is predominately black? Whatever you do is going to help them. You work for causes. This city being what it is, you can say blacks get most of it."
Although she, for one, has never seen it as a world divided.
"Color isn't important," she says.
She has an example. "A friend of mine was telling me how another woman described me," she says. "And she said, 'You know Ann, she described you as a nice-looking girl, dark hair -- but not that you were black. I never thought the day would come.' People," explains Willoughby, "don't think of me as white or black."
Pickup trucks with shotgun racks drove through Greenwood, Miss., in 1964, and white women did not ask black women for tea. Alexine Jackson recalls that the ladies were apologetic and the guns probably not meant for her, but still, she says, "it was that kind of tension you were always under."
Tea at her home today is in delicate porcelain, served on a glass table in the airy living room. There are creamy wood floors and a dark beige couch that splits and curves, holding Jackson in black suit and red silk blouse. She is 43, has close-cropped hair, freckles, and sets off her furniture nicely. The cat, black and sleek, wanders in. He goes well with the rug.
Her husband is chief of urology at D.C. General. Before that, he did his residency in Iowa and before that, he was a general practitioner and the only black doctor within 50 miles of Greenwood. It was headquarters for Stokely Carmichael, and he was trying to register blacks to vote. That was why there were guns.
Alexine Jackson was pregnant, which made things worse. "That first year," she says, "I sort of just sat and stared at the walls."
Her walls these days are glass, looking out over the Potomac, Md., woods. Some days you can see an albino fawn. Not that she's home looking. Her list of activities:
Member, The Hospitality and Information Service. Member of the Women's Committee, the Washington Performing Arts Society. Co-chair, the 1978 Washington Performing Arts Society Ball. Member, Wolf Trap Associates. Board member, National Capital Area YWCA. Board member, Child Health Center. Women's committee member, the Washington Urban League.
The days vary only slightly, following a pleasant pattern of morning phone calls made from her kitchen, tennis on a neighbor's court, maybe a luncheon here, a board meeting there. Afternoons are for the soaps (she's been watching "The Guiding Light" and "As the World Turns" for nearly 20 years) and later, the kids.She takes them to basketball practice, or drops her daughter off at piano lessons. Dinner is at 6 or 7, then television with her husband. Occasionally there's the symphony or a benefit.
Her father is the retired vice president of the North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Co. and her mother, president of the Durham school board. Her cousin is Maynard Jackson, the mayor of Atlanta.
The family's community work, a commitment that has allowed them to help but also further separate them from lower-class blacks, is a great pride to her. She carries it on in the well-to-do wife fashion, only infrequently looking back on her middle-class, '50s upbringing and saying, "I can see how I was lured into that particular trap of not aspiring to a career."
But, she says "I've always been involved in community activities. It's part of our heritage."
So she's been volunteering in Washington since 1975. This is her first year in the Green Book.
"If we had been white," she says, responding to a question on if she had, would it maybe have been her third or fourth or . . . "Ummmmm," she says, "I don't know."
She passes it off. If there is bitterness, it is a tired bitterness, and one certainly not permitted to float in a white world that's finally allowed her in. She, too, remembers southern segregation. Oddly, it's not a wretched memory.
"When you grow up in the South," she explains, "you're almost protected from racism. I grew up doing the same things -- concerts, museums -- but it was all in this black world. You could go for days without seeing whites."
It wasn't until she was in th North, in graduate school at the University of Iowa, that she noticed the subtle things. "I used to feel," she says, "that a black person who was well educated and fairly articulate was always perceived by whites as much smarter than they really are. Many times I think you make a greater impression because you are black."
Now she says her children, two of whom attend predominately white Winston Churchill Senior High in Montgomery County, "sometimes feel a little conspicuous about being black and being sometimes ignored." But she thinks they manage to move freely between black and white friends, and in the long run, she considers it good for them. "That's the advantage of integration," she says. "You broaden your world."
She dismisses the Green Book as inconsequential. So why bother at all? she's asked.
"Well, she says, "I think it falls in the category of wanting to be listed in any list of elite. Now to me, it doesn't mean we've arrived socially. We're basically on the fringe . . . I don't consider it the end-all and be-all. We certainly weren't aspiring to it."
Still, she is well aware of the criticism of belonging.
"You hear black leaders saying all the time, 'You can't forget the ones who are still downtrodden.' I don't think anybody has.
"You can't really feel guilty for what you have."
ViCurtis Hinton would like to see more blacks in the Green Book, but she's not sure how to go about it.
"Where would you complain?" she asks. "You mean write the Green Book and tell them? I never even thought about it. I didn't know you could do something like that."
Early afternoon, 1310 Farragut, a street of brown brick homes, uneven grass, yapping dogs. Hinton crosses her legs on her plushy piano bench, leaning back on the keyboard. The room is gilt and gold: gold-dipped plastic roses in a gilt vase on the piano, gold-dipped pine cones in a gilt bowl on an end table, gold curtains, gold couch, gold lamp tassels.
But there is one purple plushy chair and Hinton herself is in purple, startling with the purple half-boots up to the darker purple skirt, then up to the off-purple silky blouse.
She has a head full of puffy, brushed-back hair, silver-dollar-sized gold medallions dangling from her ears and a larger gold medallion dangling from her neck. The mail has just come, and with it, a White House picture of herself with Jimmy Carter. She's shaking his hand.
"With best wishes, and appreciation, to Vi," it says. It's signed "Jimmy Carter." She shows it around.
ViCurtis Hinton grew up in Washington, attending Howard and later Minnesota universities. Her current list of credentials:
Honorary director, Washington Performing Arts Society. Women's Committee member, Wshington Performing Arts Society. Washington coordinator, NAACP Legal Defence Fund. Advisory board member, National Symphony Orchestra. Advisory board member, Industrial Bank. Board member, Junior Citizen Corps. Board member, National Child Daycare Association. Former co-chair, Washington Preschools, Inc. benefit.
So far, her ultimate social moment has been chairing the Washington Performing Arts Society Ball in 1976. The theme, she remembers vividly, was a salute to Canada and the Olympics. "The Canadian ambassador was so great," she recalls. "And Jesse Owens came to our kick-off reception."
These days, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund dinner she's organizing for May 5 just might come close to that moment four years ago. U.N. Ambassador Donald McHenry is the featured speaker and main draw.
So she spends her mornings addressing dinner invitations -- almost 3,000 of them. Other ladies help, but in the afternoons are still more invitations, and errands. Then it's home to cook dinner, maybe a roast or lamb chops. Sometimes there's bridge, or poker on Fridays with her husband and friends.
And there are parties, both black and white. She says they're all the same to her. "I've been to all-white parties and had a wonderful time," she says, "and I've been to all-black parties and had a wonderful time."
She calls her three children and two grandchildren her "proudest accomplishment." She says her life has been one of absolutely no disappointments, absolutely no problems and absolutely no social ambitions through the years of addressing envelopes, stuffing envelopes and slapping stamps on envelopes. "Nothing is really a bore to me," she explains.
Her motivation? "I like people." If there is another one, she's not about to let on during an increasingly stiff interview centered on why she's one of a sprinkling of blacks in the Green Book.
"You often wonder why there aren't more," she says, "and there are an awful lot of people who aren't there. I just don't think about it. The average black -- he doesn't even know about the Green Book. People don't even know I'm in there. I've never told a soul in my whole life."
Marjorie Parker was a little surprised when she got her Green Book questionnaire in the mail one day in 1973."Intrigued," she adds. And "delighted." She sent it right in.
"I'm not the kind of person who says "If you're not going to let all the black people in, I'm not going to be in either,"' she says. "What I really felt was that if they sent one to me, they could have sent one to anybody. I'm sure they're not going to put 100,000 black people in, but I don't mind being, ah, ah, different, if that's the word.
"I went on a board once because I knew -- I had been told -- 'We have to have more black people on our board.' Well, I didn't consider that an insult. I don't get offended at honesty."
Parker is 63, a grandmother, treasurer of the board of trustees of the University of the District of Columbia. She is a member of the League of Republican Women, and a former professor at D.C. Teacher's College. The daughter of a well-known Washington minister, she attended Dunbar High School, then got her masters and doctorate from the University of Chicago in history and philosophy of education.
"I don't socialize much," she says. "The socializing that I do is dinner at home or being invited to someone else's home. And maybe once or twice a year, a club dinner-dance." But just last week, Marjorie Parker hosted an all-black reception at her home for presidential candidate John Anderson.
"A certain amount of party giving is status," she says in an interview at her home a good time prior to the reception. "Now, it's not whether you have white guests, but usually it may be who snares -- no, not snares -- who gives the best party for the most interesting person. "See, if someone in Washington gave a party for Alex Haley and Sidney Poitier and Cecily Tyson all in one night, that would be the living end. That person would have won hands down." She leans back in her chair with a plop, emphasizing the social law she has just laid down.
Hear face is light-skinned and supple, her hair combed straight and flat. She wears clip-on earrings, a conservative cloth dress, a fat pin on her collar.
The home is ranch-style, on Fessenden Street, with a gold flock couch in the living room that opens onto a flagstone terrace overlooking some woods. It is not a lavish living room, but it is wall-to-wall carpeted, immaculate, comfortable. Copies of Ebony and Smithsonian are on the coffee table; pictures of grandchildren on the walls.
Throughout the years, she's remained the solid Republican. Not her children, though; her son marched at Selma with Martin Luther King. She says that was fine for him but not for her.
"I suppose that during the '60s, I would have been a conservative," she says. "I felt that the NAACP and the Urban League and the traditional civil rights movements were adequately and effectively handling the problems. I think that youth and excitement and impatience and whatnot are sometimes very necessary and invaluable. But in the long run, I think the real gains come from litigation and legislation."
She, like Ann Willoughby, is of the integrationist school that believes color doesn't matter. So she says she feels no resentment from other blacks about her husband's success, or her success, in a white world.
"There's just a sort of comradeship," she says. "The feeling that you get more than anything else is 'I'm glad you made it.' The idea is Good for you."'
The subject eventually comes around to tokenism -- on the boards on which she's served, or in the Green Book.
"Does it bother me?" she asks. "It doesn't bother me. It's their book. These are the rules they've made. These are the folks they wanted to put in there."
And she, loke most other blacks, insists she doesn't think it's worth the fuss. Just a social list. A convenience, like the phone book.
But she does recall her thoughts the day she got the little form in the mail. "Here I am in the Green Book," she remembers musing. "Think of that."