During the 40-year struggle for home rule in the District, local residents from labor leaders and well-known attorneys to housewives and students worked with congressional allies behind the scenes, lobbying, planning and plotting to win self-government.
Some, such as labor leader Jay C. Turner, attorneys Joseph Rauh and Sturgis Warner and community activist Gladys Duncan, started in the 1930s and '40s, trying to lift the yoke of colonialism from the shoulders of District residents who had lost local control to the federal government in 1874.
In the 1960s they were joined by a group of younger activists in finally gaining approval of local elections for mayor and City Council.
The home rule struggle involved hundreds of mostly unsung heroes. Seven from those ranks are good examples of those pioneers.
Jay C. Turner's interest in home rule started in the mid-1930s, when he was a unionized bulldozer operator in the District and a delegate to a local labor group where home rule was discussed.
In 1940, as a full-time official with the national union, Turner formed the Central Suffrage Council, which advocated both home rule and congressional representation for Washington.
After World War II, the fight gained momentum. Turner and his allies succeeded in getting a home rule plank in the Democratic Party platform in 1948 and again in 1956, when he served as chairman of the D.C. delegation, he said.
In 1965, the Senate approved home rule legislation, but the bill failed in the House. To get around congressional opposition, President Johnson used executive order in 1967 to reorganize the city government and appoint a mayor-commissioner and a nine-member City Council. Turner was appointed to that first City Council.
"We've done very well, but we look for national representation," said Turner, 68. "Everyone is learning through self-government. The city has moved forward. There's a great deal more city pride than before home rule."
Sturgis Warner, 70, said he always thought that the foundation for securing home rule was laid when District residents won the right to vote in presidential elections.
In 1955, Warner and members of the Washington Home Rule Committee, which he helped form in 1947, successfully lobbied Congress to allow the District to hold a presidential primary in 1956.
Warner, a federal government attorney appointed as legal counsel to the city's new election board, divided the city into precincts, and for the first time in almost 100 years District residents got a chance to vote for president and vice president. "It's only through doing these things and making mistakes that you get solid growth," he said.
For years Warner researched different forms of city and state governments, and in 1972 he headed the congressional task force for drafting a home rule charter.
Home rule "is going better than anyone said it would have gone, but it has a long way to go," said Warner, now retired. "We're going along, but it's fragile. Congress still has power. The chance of becoming a state is very small."
Joseph Rauh, 74, a civil rights lawyer and a key player in congressional passage of the civil rights, voting rights and fair housing acts of the '60s, started lobbying for home rule in Congress in the late '40s, when his principal foe was the D.C. Board of Trade.
"Those who were against home rule are now prospering from it, and I enjoy that," he said. "It would have come earlier if the business community knew it would have prospered for it."
Rauh, active in the D.C. Democratic Party, helped get a home rule measure through the Senate in 1965 with the support of President Johnson, only to see the measure fail in the House because a coalition of Republicans and Southern Democrats did not want a local Washington government dominated by blacks and feared the City Council would be composed only of Democrats.
"As a matter of principle, it was right from the start, and it still is," Rauh said. "I think it's gone well, but I have this one reservation: A great deal of idealism went into home rule, but I'm disappointed that it didn't last longer than it did. But it's probably naive on my part."
Jan Eichhorn came to Washington in the mid-'60s as a member of the District's Young Democrats group, lobbying the Senate to improve welfare benefits in the District. She became so angry by the lack of political power of D.C. residents that she refused to pay local taxes until home rule passed Congress in 1972, she said.
"To live in D.C. at that time was to be a second-class citizen," said Eichhorn, now in her 40s. "Having to go to Congress on a purely local issue, and then seeing their indifference to District issues caused me to get involved in home rule."
In 1972 she became staff director for Self-Determination for D.C., an umbrella group that raised the funds and led the final charge for home rule. She coordinated mailings and phone campaigns to congressional districts across the country to help shore up votes for home rule.
"I think home rule has been wonderful. The difference has been incredible. It was really a colony 10 years ago," said Eichhorn, now a consultant and part-time lobbyist on issues involving the handicapped.
Richard Clark, 43, came to Washingtion as a Yale Urban Fellow in 1969 and worked as a lobbyist for the citizen action group Common Cause. He quickly became interested in the fight for home rule. In 1970 he became chairman of Self-Determination for D.C.
Clark, now executive assistant to City Council Chairman David A. Clarke, is still chairman of the Self-Determination group, which is lobbying for passage of a constitutional amendment to give Washington a representative and senators with full voting rights on Capitol Hill.
"The doomsayers were proven wrong, the people who said home rule wouldn't work," Richard Clark said. "Some congressmen before home rule said they would have to come back to govern , that we would elect radicals. Relative to my experience with other state legislatures, the District has proven to be a grand success. It has a legislative record I would compare with any city in the country."
Jason Newman, 46, the legal counsel for the appointed City Council in 1967, became counsel for the Self-Determination committee in 1973 when the group was battling Gerald Ford, then House minority leader and a leading opponent of home rule.
When Ford argued against home rule, citing a low voter turnout for a school board election, Newman and the committee combed election returns in Ford's own district and found that school board voting there was just as low.
Newman recalled that when the home rule vote came up in the House, some opponents voted for the measure in the belief that the District would fail in its efforts to govern itself.
"Those who voted for home rule from a negative point of view were definitely proven wrong," said Newman, now a law professor at Georgetown University. "The fact is that the city has shown that the District is no different than any other city in the U.S., that you don't need a training session, you don't have to relegate power slowly.
"Even if the city screws up, the fact is, the city has done it themselves," he said.
Connie Fortune, 57, remembers the misconceptions people across the country had about the District of Columbia.
"People knew nothing about the District of Columbia except some monuments," said Fortune, who as president of the D.C. Chapter of the League of Women Voters traveled widely speaking to church and civic groups to gain support of home rule.
"They always read something bad about the District . They thought there was widespread illiteracy and we were all criminals and that it was dangerous to come here. A lot of them thought we were freeloaders, that we were not paying taxes and that we didn't fight in wars."
Fortune provided league chapters in other states with statistics on city crime and tax rates. She also lobbied. In 1972, Fortune and about 20 other league members spent two days visiting the offices of all 435 congressmen to lobby for the pending home rule bill.
"I think we've come a long way in 10 years," said Fortune, now retired. "To come from an infant -- neophytes -- it's a marvelous achievement. Sure, there is a lot more to do, but I'm for complete home rule and we'll work towards that."