Flora E. Molton, 82, one of Washington's best-known gospel and blues artists who sang and played on the streets of downtown Washington for more than 40 years, died of liver ailments May 31 at Greater Southeast Community Hospital.
Mrs. Molton was among the city's oldest street singers and often was described as the carrier of a tradition that had its origins in the wandering minstrels of Renaissance Europe and the roving blues singers in the American South in the first half of this century.
Six days a week, year in and year out, she worked the corners of Seventh and F streets NW and later 11th and F streets NW. There, seated on a stool, she raked the strings of an old guitar while tapping on a tambourine with her foot as her voice rose above the din of the downtown traffic in husky, musical moans. Wired to the neck of her guitar was a white plastic pail to receive the coins and bills of well-wishers.
She sang blues, traditional gospel songs and her own compositions. Her music reflected the folkways of a generation of Southern black migrants that brought to this city a rich tradition of Afro-American and gospel music that came to be centered around the churches and neighborhoods of an uprooted country people. She had won four awards for artistic excellence from the D.C. Commission on Arts and Humanities. She sang at the Smithsonian Institution's Festival of American Folklife on the Mall, at the Library of Congress and at the Capital Centre with the Rolling Stones.
In 1987, Mrs. Molton toured Europe, and she had been scheduled for a second tour this summer. She was nearly blind from cataracts, but until her health began deteriorating about six months ago she continued to sing on the street corners of downtown Washington.
A native of Louisa County, Va., Mrs. Molton was the daughter of a Baptist clergyman. As a child she learned Baptist gospel music at churches in West Virginia. She moved to Washington in 1937, and she took up street singing in the 1940s.
"She has a voice that comes as natural to blues as bubbling does to a brook. Sometimes it's raw, other times a moan that, were it not for her faith in God and the healing power of her music, comes close to world-weary dispair," observed the Sunday magazine of The Washington Star in 1970.
Mrs. Molton's style of guitar music was called "bottleneck," common to many rural blues artists. The name came from the practice of using a broken bottleneck to slide up and down the strings to make chord changes, although later artists wore a steel or brass tube over one or more fingers.
Although most of Mrs. Molton's compositions were religious, she wrote a 1970 song entitled, "The Sun Will Shine in Vietnam," which she later recorded at a local studio. She also made another recording, "I Want to Be Ready to Hear God When He Calls." Howard University's film department had done a documentary on her, "Spirit and Truth Music."
Her first husband, Haywood Bruce, disappeared about 60 years ago. They were subsequently divorced. Mrs. Molton's second husband, Walter Molton, died about 15 years ago.
Survivors include four children, Bishop William H. Bruce of Washington, Johnny Bruce of Cleveland, Sarah Bruce of Bessemer, Ala., and Doris Anderson of Forestville; 19 grandchildren; and 30 great-grandchildren.
AUSTIN J. MONTGOMERY
Austin James Montgomery, 77, a retired Army brigadier general who was a highly decorated veteran of World War II and a retired executive with Global Terminal and Containerization Service Inc. in Bayonne, N.J., died of cancer June 20 at the Hospice of Northern Virginia.
Gen. Montgomery, who lived in Alexandria, was born in New York City. He joined the Army Reserve in 1931. He went on active duty in 1940. He was a graduate of the Command and General Staff College and the Army War College.
He was stationed in the Philippines on Decemeber 8, 1941, when the Japanese invaded the islands. He was captured and was a prisoner of war until 1945.
His decorations included three Silver Stars, the Legion of Merit, three Bronze Stars and three Purple Hearts. He later received the Distinguished Service Medal.
Gen. Montgomery spent most of the rest of his career as a transportation officer. His postwar assignments included duty in West Germany and at the Pentagon. His last post was as commander of the military traffic management and terminal service in Brooklyn, N.Y. He retired from active duty in 1967.
He settled in New Jersey and became a vice president at the United States Lines Co. in New York City. In 1969, he worked as a consultant for two years before joining Global Terminal and Containerization Service. He retired a second time in 1976 and moved to Alexandria.
Survivors include his wife, Willa Vane Montgomery of Alexandria; a daughter, Sybil Montgomery of Hancock, N.H.; and a sister, Marjorie Kelly of Chatsworth, Calif.
EDMUND CODY BURNETT
Edmund Cody Burnett, 74, a retired Washington lawyer who worked for several federal agencies and the law firm of Humphreys & Loftus in Reston, died of a heart ailment June 16 at a hospital in Southern Pines, N.C.
Mr. Burnett, who lived in Southern Pines, was born in Bridgeport, Tenn., and grew up in Washington. He graduated from McKinley Technical High School and George Washington University and its law school. During World War II, he served in the Marine Corps.
After working in North Carolina with the Agriculture Department, he returned to Washington in 1948 when he transferred the Department of the Army. He later worked at the Defense Department and a second time at the Army Department before becoming a special assistant in the office of plans, programs and systems at the Defense Supply Agency in 1962.
He left the government in 1969 and received an exceptional civil service award from the defense agency. He joined what became Humphreys & Loftus, which at the time was in Washington. He retired in 1979.
He moved to North Carolina about 1980.
Survivors include his wife, Martha McCoy Burnett of Southern Pines; two children, Edmund Cody Burnett III of Roanoke Rapids, N.C., and Caroline McCoy Burnett of Falls Church; two sisters, Elizabeth Burnett Wiens of Eugene, Ore., and Sue Burnett Panzer of Washington; a brother, Thomas J.M. Burnett of Pinehurst, N.C.; and a grandchild.
ERNEST J. KING JR.
Ernest J. King Jr., 67, a retired Navy commander who had been a resident of Washington since 1968, died of renal failure June 19 at Sibley Memorial Hospital.
Cmdr. King, who lived in Washington, was born in Annapolis. He was the son of retired Navy Fleet Admiral Ernest J. King, who served as commander in chief of the U.S. Fleet and chief of Naval Operations during World War II.
Cmdr. King grew up at various Naval installations around the United States. He was a member of the 1945 class at the United States Naval Academy that graduated in 1944. During the last year of World War II, he served in the Atlantic.
His later assignments included duty at the Naval Academy and in the Mediterranean Sea. His last assignment was at the Pentagon. He retired from active duty in 1968.
Survivors include three sisters, Mrs. Frederic Harrison Smith Jr., of Washington, Florence Beverly King of Coronado, Calif., and Mrs. James Oliver McReynolds of Rancho Santa Fe, Calif.
WILLIAM E. McINNIS
William E. McInnis, 53, a former National Aeronautics and Space Administration engineer, died June 11 at his home in Gainesville, Fla. The Alachua County Sheriff's Office in Gainesville said he died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound and the death was ruled a suicide.
Mr. McInnis was born in Dermott, Ark. He graduated from the University of Florida with a degree in electrical engineering.
He worked for NASA at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida before moving to the Washington area in 1976, where he was assistant to the chief engineer at NASA headquarters. He left the space agency in 1984.
A former resident of Woodbridge, Mr. McInnis left this area in 1985 and lived in New Jersey before moving to Florida in 1987. He had worked as a consultant to Lloyds of London for satellite insurance, as a project manager for Future Tech Industries and as management engineer for the Space Astronomy Laboratory.
He was an amateur radio operator and a member of the Woodbridge Amateur Radio Society.
His marriages to the former Joann Boyd and Sharon McInnis ended in divorce.
Survivors include a son from his first marriage, Keith McInnis of Tallahassee, Fla.; and a stepson, Eddie Day of Charlottesville.
MARY ELIZABETH AARON
Market and Restaurant Aide
Mary Elizabeth Aaron, 47, who assisted her husband in the operation of the Fin & Claw seafood market and restaurant in Waldorf, died of a heart attack June 20 at Southern Maryland Hospital Center.
Mrs. Aaron, who lived in Cobb Island, was born in Herndon. She attended Herndon High School.
She had worked with her husband, Thomas B. Aaron Jr., in the market and restaurant business for about the past 10 years.
Her marriage to John Kramer ended in divorce.
In addition to her husband, of Cobb Island, survivors include three children, Tracey Aaron of La Plata, and Kimberly and Matthew Aaron of Cobb Island; a son from her first marriage, John Kramer Jr. of Cambridge, Md.; her father, Richard Lafon of Herndon; a brother, Richard Lafon of Metairie, La.; and a sister, Marty Hall of Cambridge.
W. FLOYD B. WOOD
W. Floyd B. Wood, 81, a former circuits and communications engineer with Chesapeake and Potomac Telephone, died of an aneurysm June 20 at a hospital in Allentown, Pa.
Mr. Wood was born in Portsmouth, Va. He moved to the Washington area as a young man and began working for C&P. A former resident of Arlington, he moved to New Jersey in 1956 when he was transferred to Bell Laboratories.
He retired in 1967 and moved to Sun City Center, Fla. Four years ago, he moved to Allentown.
Survivors include his wife of 58 years, the former Virginia Everett of Allentown; two children, Margaret DeRonde of Kutztown, Pa., and Floyd Wood of Macungie, Pa.; four grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren.
ELIZABETH F. PATTON
Elizabeth F. Patton, 91, a member of Cheverly Chapter 111 of the Eastern Star and the Lanham Study Club, died June 20 at Greater Laurel-Beltsville Hospital after a stroke.
Mrs. Patton, who lived in New Carrollton, was a native of Kentucky. She came to the Washington area in 1941.
Her husband of 66 years, Woodford Douglas Patton, died in 1989.
Survivors include two daughters, Patricia P. Meek of Silver Spring and Dora M. Patton of New Carrollton; four grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.
WILBUR ELLIOTT McCULLEN JR.
Wilbur Elliott McCullen Jr., 70, retired chief of structure and grounds at National Airport, died June 21 at Alexandria Hospital after a stroke.
Mr. McCullen, who lived in Alexandria, was born in Philadelphia. He moved to the Washington area as a child and attended Alexandria's George Washington High School.
During World War II, he served in the Army in Europe and was awarded a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart. After the war he served in the Navy Reserve until retiring as a chief petty officer in 1966.
Mr. McCullen worked for 31 years for the Federal Aviation Administration at National Airport before retiring in 1976. He then worked eight years as a security official at the Buchanan House office and apartment complex in Crystal City until retiring again in 1985.
Mr. McCullen also did volunteer work at the Hermitage retirement home in Alexandria.
He was a member of the Moose lodge of Bailey's Crossroads, the Alexandria Veterans of Foreign Wars and the First Baptist Church of Alexandria.
Survivors include his wife, Doris C. McCullen of Alexandria; three daughters, Wanda McCullen of Falls Church, Mary Louise Schamberger Downes of Springfield and Doris Joan Hernandez of San Antonio; a sister; two brothers; six grandchildren; and a great-grandchild.