The battle of Texas Avenue SE ended yesterday when the city turned on a traffic light that residents had fought 10 years to have installed.

"It's a monumental victory," said Joseph Thompson, president of the Fort DuPont Civic Association. "This thing started when I retired from the Army in 1968. If all the meetings I had to attend were classes, I'd have a Ph.D. by now."

Neighbors were so elated with the new light yesterday that they held a special ceremony. "We couldn't let 10 years of work pass without notice," said Constance Thompson.

The plummer Elementary School Glee Club sang. The school crossing guard said a prayer. City Council member Willie J. Hardy, who represents the neighborhood, spoke, making students promise "to only cross on green."

School was let out early.

Hundreds cheered when Gregory Chandler, a Plummer safety partol guard, flipped the switch expected to slow down motorists who usually whiz through the intersection at Texas Avenue and C Street SE.

During the past decade, three fatal crashes - and numerous less severe accidents - have occurred at the intersection while neighbors patiently pushed their stoplight request along a tortuous, bureaucreatic path.

Of the 10 families in the 4500 block of Texas Avenue, eight have lost at least two cars in collisions. In most in

"After our car was hit six times while parked, my husband dug up our backyard, laid some cinder blocks out and begain hiding our car in the yard," said Virginia Newbauer, who lives at 4562 Texas Ave. SE. "Our insurance company was about to cancel and it wasn't even our fault. Some damn preacher's wife comes through drunk one night, tears up my car, then hits a police car trying to back away. It was a shame," she said.

A spokesman for the District's Highways and Traffic Department said the city was aware of the problem at Texas and C streets. But other intersections were given higher priority for traffic control signals.

Texas Avenue SE is a wide, smooth two-lane strip-nearly a quarter-mile long and uninterrupted between East Capitol Street and Ridge Road SE.

At night, expecially, the faint sounds of cars speeding towards the hidden C Street intersection is cause for residents to hold their breaths.

"Sometimes they zip on past, and everybody sighs," said Mrs. Constance Thompson. "Sometimes they slam into a car. All of the neighbors are out in the middle of the night trying to see who got hit this time."

According to Joseph Thompson, the idea for a traffic light was first suggested at a civic association meeting in 1968. The neighborhood - mostly teachers and government employes - was concerned for the safety of the hundreds of children who crossed Texas Avenue to play in Fort Chapin Park.

The drive for a traffic device was stepped up when a car swerved out of control, rammed a utility pole and slammed into the Plummer school.

From the civic association, the proposal went to the Far Northeast Neighborhood Advisory Board, then to the Area Neighborhood Council. The traffic light idea later found it's way into the city budget, but was knocked out as the city council began its paring operation. The process began again.

Meanwhile, troubles for the residents, along Texas Avenue continued.

One family, which had moved onto Texas Avenue last year, was celebrating the purchase of their new house when they heard a crash outside. Three of thrir cars had been side-swiped, including one owned by a cisiting brother.

A few days later, around midnight, Thompson was sitting in his car, about to lock up, when he saw two headlights coming from behind. "I decided to sit in the car until it passed," Thompson said. "But the lights just kept on coming. (Crash!) I said to the dude, 'Hey, you just rammed my car.' He backed up and drove off."

"We have lived through the terror," Thompson said. "We ought to be able to start sleeping again pretty soon." CAPTION: Picture, Plummer Elementary School Glee Club sings at ceremony for traffic light. By Douglas Chevalier - The Washington Post