Fifty-year-old Theodore R. Hagans Jr. grew up in segregated Washington, where the careers and futures of blacks were shaped not so much by their ability as by the constraints placed on them because of their color.
Hagans was the son of a maid and a cab driver, and lived on Swann Street NW in one of the City's back ghettos. Although he worked his way through Cardozo High School and graduated from Howard University as an electrical engineer, he found there were many jobs he could not get because he was black.
Nevertheless, he lives today in a large, expensive house in a fashionable Northwest neighborhood and drives a Mercedes. He is president of Fort Lincoln New Town. Inc., and is the chief developer and salesman for a community scheduled to grow to 4,500 units and 16,000 people.
Hagans has accomplished this, he said, "because I worked my ass off to make sure I was equal to or better than anyone else."
As he spoke, Hagans relaxed at a party in the home of Laurence and Margaret Allen, one fo the first families to move into Fort Lincoln. People slapped Hagans on the back and brought him refreshments.
"I just love Ted Hagans - he made all this possible," Margaret Allen bubbled. She explained that she and her husband had lived in a highrise apartment and now have a nicely appointed home in Fort Lincoln with a barbecue and lawn. Hagans beamed.
Hagans, a mustachioed man dressed in a well-tailored suit, told a questioner that he got of the electrical engineering field and into real estate in the 1950s.
"I was called to redesign a power plant at the old Dunbar Hotel," he said. "Then they asked me to manage it (the hotel). I wound up owning it."
As a budding developer and property manager. Hagans became involved in Fort Lincoln in 1974 as a minority partner in a firm that was then struggling to develop the community. When that firm withdrew the next year Hagans formed his own company and was selected by the city over four competitors to develop Fort Lincoln.
"I've invested everything I have in Fort Lincoln," he said. "I've guaranteed every loan. I will sink or swim with Fort Lincoln."
Hagans moved in as Fort Lincoln developer in June, 1975, and by the end of the year he had broken ground for the first homes.
Developers in the suburbs, he said, often get commitments from purchasers before they build. "We built 57 units before we opened for sales," he said. "You can say we stuck our necks out."
He has sold 185 units in 14 months which shows, he said, "that given an equal opportunity minorities can do anything."
Hagans is a workaholic, sleeping three hours a night by his count, and his driving work habits have led to a divorce. He will consider himself himself successful, he says when he can bring himself one day to retire.