Black and white liberal voters in the South played a key role in the battle for home rule in the District of Columbia, Del. Walter E. Fauntroy said last night.
During a symposium at the University of the District of Columbia, Fauntroy and several other key figures in the campaign for home rule reflected on how it was won.
Others who appeared to help mark the 10th anniversary of home rule for the capital city included Mayor Marion Barry, former mayor Walter Washington, former representative Charles Diggs and Sen. Thomas F. Eagleton (D-Mo.).
Shortly before the home rule bill was passed, activists such as Barry and politicians including Washington lobbied for the legislation.
Fauntroy, who is the city's nonvoting delegate to Congress, recalled that he went to Rep. John McMillan's home town in South Carolina to urge blacks and "white people of conscience" to vote to unseat the conservative congressional leader who had opposed home rule for years.
Several other congressmen who had fought home rule were unseated as well, Fauntroy recalled last night.
"The only reason we achieved home rule was because of the breakup of a coalition of southern Democrats and conservative Republicans," Fauntroy said.
Shortly before the home rule bill was approved, Fauntroy said, he mailed 10,000 letters to "my brothers and sisters" throughout the South "and asked them to tell their congressmen to vote for home rule or tell them that they wouldn't vote for them. And that's how we got home rule."
Barry said that 10 years of home rule have brought about three major elements: "authority, responsibility and unfinished business."
He said that the city needs and deserves the rights of statehood. He added, "Give Fauntroy a vote in the House of Representatives, and let us elect two senators."
Barry listed some of what he termed major accomplishments that the city has made under home rule, including summer job programs, revitalization of downtown, construction of the convention center and development of UDC.
"We have a right to be successful, and we also have a right to fail just like everyone else," Barry said. "We've demonstrated our abilities to read, write and to count, and we do that very, very well."
Former mayor Washington urged city residents to press now for statehood for the District.
UDC President Robert L. Green, City Council Chairman David A. Clarke, former council chairman Sterling Tucker, former council member Jerry A. Moore and council member Hilda Mason also spoke at the symposium, which was sponsored by the center for applied research and policy at UDC.