In 1962, Hubert H. Humphrey launched a campaign from the floor of the U.S. Senate to establish, for the first time, libraries in Washington public schools.
"Mr. President," the senator said, "there are no libraries at all in Washington's elementary schools. Some of the newer ones have library rooms. This is a great advance but they are stocked only with furniture, not books.
"I shall conduct a one-man crusade on this subject until something is done. I warn my colleagues that I do not intend to drop it after one angry speech," Humphrey said. And according to the news reports at the time, he didn't.
In 1963, due largely to Humphrey's efforts, Congress allocated money for the District to provide librarians and to buy books for public elementary schools in the city.
Last Saturday, the District of Columbia Association of School Librarians posthumously honored Humphrey for his efforts. All elementary, junior and high schools now have libraries.
The 17-year-old association also presented five other awards to people who have contributed to the Washington community and to the literary world.
The luncheon, held at the Hyatt Regency Hotel on Capitol Hill, was attended by more than 350 peopel. Most of them work in school libraries in the District.
The other award winners were:
Larry Brown, former Redskin running is Fundamental Program and other work with hearing-impaired and inner-city children.
Frances Dean, national president of the American Association of School Librarians, for her work with school libraries both nationally and in the Washington area.
Faustine Childress Jones, professor at Howard University, for her contributions to the literary world and to education.
William Simons, president of the Washington Teachers' Union, for his work as a teacher, civic leader and labor negotiator for Washington school teachers.
Katharine Graham, publisher of The Washington Post, for her work with an adult literacy program, and for gifts of books to the school libraries.
Marilyn Moser, a librarian at Amidon Elementary School and president of the association, said, "We are here today to pay tribute to the late Senator Hubert H. Humphrey and to extend sincere congratulations to our 1978 honorees who have demonstrated excellence, efficiency, and effectiveness in their chosen field of endeavor.
"In an era when the D.C. School libraries are experiencing severe fiscal problems and book media collections are subjected to not being kept up-to-date for our users," said Moser, "DCASL appreciates the shared commitment from current school officials that the school library media program contributes to the educational growth and development of our District's children.
"For the past three years, we did not have a budget for school libraries. There was money for staff, but there has been no money since 1974 for any other resources, including books and periodicals," Moser said.
Money for magazines and current periodicals was cut off during the Watergate years, Moser said.
"We took the matter to the school board, the Superintent of Schools Vincent Reed, and to City Council Chairman Sterling Tucker and we got action. On April 17, we can for the first time in three years, put in orders for books for our children," Moser added.
The citation for Humphrey was to have been accepted by his widow, Sen. Muriel Humphrey (D - Minn.), but she was in Minnesota.
Instead, the citation was accepted by Pat Coleman, a member of Sen. Humphrey's staff who read a letter from Mrs. Humphrey.
The letter said, in part, "Hubert's interests were wide and varied, but the one challenge to which he repeatedly returned was to assure quality education for all young Americans. He knew that reading was the basis for all instruction and that without sound reading skills, learning would never be possible.
"Hubert worked hard for progressive school systems and although it was a labor of love on Hubert's part to be able to help provide textbooks, librarians and libraries to the District of Columbia, he would be proud of this award," Mrs. Humphrey's letter said.
Prior to the presentation of the award, Mia Abadey, a 9-year-old fifth-grade student at Amidon, brought the audience to their feet when she recited the story of Pandora's box, which she said was one of the late Senator's favorite stories. She ended her version of the story of the little girl who was given a pretty box and told not to open it for fear of letting jealousy, evil, and hatred loose in the world by saying that when the child did look in the box, all that escaped was hope.
"And it has always been hope that has comforted and saved mankind. Mr. Humphrey taught us how to have hope, how to win and how to lose, and finally, how to die," Mia said.
In the keynote address, Frances Dean told the librarinas: "Make yourselves an indispensible part of the school curriculum and make sure that the principal knows what it is that you do."
She also advised the school librarians to involve parents and PTAs in the library programs and to support school board candidates who support the school libraries. Finally, she urged them to "like your kids; people are more important than things."