Like many of his neighbors in Arlington's Nauck community, Lutrelle F. Parker moved into this predominantly black neighborhood in the late 1940s, spurred on by the dream of owning a house and the land on which to build it.
But Parker and other homeowners who bought property in the area after World War II were only the latest generation of black suburbanites to build houses in one of Arlington's oldest and most stable neighborhoods.
Parker, 60, a retired naval captain and lawyer now working as a civil engineer, recalls that when he moved to Nauck many of its residents were already quite old, having bought houses before the first world war.
And before them, during the 1880s, freed slaves from a Freedmen's Village established after the Civil War near the site of the Pentagon were the first settlers in Nauck and its surrounding areas.
The Nauck community is bordered by South Walter Reed Drive, Four Mile Run Drive, Shirley Highway and the Army-Navy Country Club. Little is known of John D. Nauck Jr., for whom the community is named, except that he was a furniture upholsterer and a onetime Arlington justice of the peace who began selling real estate to blacks before the turn of the century.
For more than a hundred years, the Nauck community, whose 4,000 residents range from doctors, lawyers and military officers to government workers and laborers, has been a tightly knit, family-oriented neighborhood. But like other older suburban communities, Nauck struggles with the problems of deteriorating housing.
To stem even the hint of decline in Nauck and to continue the community's long heritage of black families, residents there have concentrated on preserving and upgrading their enclave of neat white bungalows and two-story houses to retain what one 75-year-old resident says is simply a "nice, quiet neighborhood."
Efforts to preserve the Nauck community have been led by a strong civic association and supported by the county government. The Nauck Civic Association, 400 members strong, has a history of fighting for neighborhood improvements since its formation in 1926.
From the basement of her house, Jennie T. Davis, civic association president for the past six years, and her husband Jim, write and produce News & Views, the association's monthly newsletter that helps bind the community together. With the help of 42 civic association block captains, 1,000 copies of News & Views are distributed throughout the community. April's issue included everything from a report on legislative action in Virginia's recent General Assembly session to a list of sick residents, wedding anniversary congratulations and job openings.
In addition, the Arlington Housing Corp., a nonprofit group that preserves housing especially for families with low and moderate incomes, has renovated 24 dilapidated houses in the Nauck area since the early '70s, according to Davis. "It has taken the blight off of the community," Davis said.
Residents have also made a commitment to keep young families in the community to maintain Nauck's stability. "What I found was we had young people get married who wanted to stay, but there was no housing for them," Davis said. To ease the shortage, the housing corporation built town houses on the site of the old Kemper Elementary School, where first preference is given to young couples who grew up in the Nauck neighborhood.
Cecilia Braveboy, 37, who grew up in Nauck, moved into the District for a couple of years after getting married because it was close to work. Eventually she and her husband Wilfrid, a loan officer at Independent Federal Bank, moved back to Nauck because of affordable houses. And more importantly, they believed it was the best place to raise their children.
"I live two blocks from where I grew up. It's basically the people -- people know you and watch out for your kids," Braveboy said. Her parents live seven blocks away, and it was only last year that her 99-year-old grandmother, a Nauck resident, died.
By returning to Nauck, Braveboy also returned to Our Lady Queen of Peace, the church attended by her parents and grandparents. This Catholic church is one of four major churches in Nauck that have been a focus of community activity for residents for generations, from birth to death.
Joan Cooper, 45, grew up in Nauck and never left. She credits the older people in the community, among them an aunt and her Sunday school teacher George Bullock at Lomax AME Zion Church, with encouraging her to stay and help out the community.
"People like them gave us inspiration," Cooper said. "They taught us about God. If there wasn't anything here in Nauck , I would have left a long time ago." One of Cooper's brothers and her three sisters still live in Nauck with their families, and one sister teaches Sunday school at the Lomax church that the Coopers attended as children.
Cooper works as a community service aide with the Arlington police department. She has organized community beautification projects and counseled families about children with drug problems.
Lomax, the oldest church in the community, built in 1887, is down the street from Nauck's business district at Shirlington Road and 24th Road, an area referred to as Green Valley, which is also a focus of revitalization efforts by the community and the county. This district includes a drugstore, restaurant, seafood store, grocery store, garages and a television shop.
It is in the Green Valley area, a longtime gathering place for young people, that Nauck residents and police are waging a war against the influx of drugs, much of which, residents say, is brought in by outsiders.
Because the Nauck area has none of the shopping malls and teen hangouts that are found in other suburbs, some teen-agers and young adults find few places to gather except the Green Valley area between the business district and the grounds of the Drew Model School. On hot summer nights, from 150 to 200 young people may gather there. This year, Arlington police, responding to pressures from Nauck residents, sent a task force to patrol the area.
Efforts by the Nauck community and the county government have been to provide recreation, education and cultural activities for the area's youth.
Sheldon A. Ballatt Sr., Nauck district supervisor at the Charles R. Drew Community Center in the Drew Model school, has promoted cooperation among the various organizations that serve the area. For example, Ballatt and Veterans' Memorial YMCA community youth director Nassan Tandekwire worked out a system that requires a young person to enroll in the Y's twice-weekly tutoring program before they take part in a basketball program run by the community center.
Tandekwire and Ballatt, like many of the Nauck residents, say they believe that the more options that are given to young people, the less likely they will be to turn to drugs and alcohol. Tandekwire and Ballatt work with the Martin Luther King Center and churches in the Nauck community to attract participants to their programs, which range from senior citizen lunches to movie night at the Drew Community Center. "The churches in this community are one of the best ways to let people know what's going on. In the past there were programs but a lack of marketing. We inundate everybody with information," Ballatt said.
Tandekwire is very enthusiastic about the YMCA's plans for an April and May series of guest speakers from a variety of professions to encourage Nauck's high school students to pursue college educations and professional careers.
But going to college may often mean leaving Nauck and not coming back. Lutrelle Parker, however, is sympathetic. One of his sons is a lieutenant commander in the Navy stationed in Charleston, S.C., and another is a Marine captain in Pensacola, Fla. Parker said it is exciting to talk to the area's college-bound students "to see their ambitions measured against their parents' ambitions." He concedes that parents cannot expect to keep their children at home.
"There was a time when I knew every youngster in the community. I still know all the adults. There is that camaraderie, a bond that still means a great deal to the community," Parker said.
But as for Nauck's young, Parker says, do not hold them back. The challenge, Parker says, will be attracting them back after they have left.