Sixteen years of memories lay about, in boxes marked "issues," "speeches" and "constituent services." The walls of his office had turned barren, their plaques and other objects removed for packing.
David A. Clarke was soon to be sans title. "No," he said, sitting tieless in deepening twilight the other day, "it's not easy to leave a work that I've loved very much."
As of tomorrow, Clarke no longer will be chairman of the D.C. Council. Betty Ann Kane and Nadine P. Winter no longer will be council members. And Walter E. Fauntroy no longer will be the D.C. delegate to Congress.
With the dawn of a new year comes the sunset -- at least for now -- of a quartet of careers enmeshed for so long in the governance of the District of Columbia that many residents cannot recall a day without them. All told, the foursome held their offices for a total of nearly 64 years.
They all wanted still more years. They all fell in November's electoral jousts. They leave behind laws that transformed their city and take with them a bevy of intangibles: How government works, how things used to be done, who was the best person for a problem. And they all depart to somewhat uncertain futures.
None voices much regret or sadness, at least not publicly. But others do.
"It really is a bittersweet day for all of us," council member Charlene Drew Jarvis (D-Ward 4) said at the last council meeting attended by Clarke, Kane and Winter. "That institutional memory is going with you."
"It's a really lonely day," said council member John A. Wilson (D-Ward 2), the new council chairman who, with the departure of Clarke and Winter, is the only remaining member of the first council elected under Home Rule, in 1974.
But Fauntroy even beats that longevity.
Elected a year before the Watergate break-in, the man from Shaw who often gave way to public tears served 20 years as the only delegate to Congress the District ever had. He gave up his seat to run for mayor -- but instead Sharon Pratt Dixon will be. And now Eleanor Holmes Norton is the new D.C. delegate.
Fauntroy, 57, said yesterday that he knows people "somehow feel I was stupid" to surrender a safe seat. "But I do march to a different drummer," he said at New Bethel Baptist Church on Ninth Street NW, where he is still the pastor.
He ran, he said, because his effectiveness on Capitol Hill was damaged by the District's soured image under Mayor Marion Barry. He ran too because he wanted to dig more deeply into problems he saw around him, such as drugs and housing.
He lost, he said, because "people didn't know me." He lost too because of what he calls "the apparatus," a coalition of government officials and media that spread "disinformation" about him, such as an allegation that he had put the son of Rep. Gus Savage (D-Ill.) on his payroll while the son lived in Chicago.
Now he is left with his memories, locked in binders of papers and photos that he thumbs in quest of proud moments: Home Rule for the District; Congress's 1978 approval of a constitutional amendment that would have given the District two U.S. senators and a representative, with full voting rights (the amendment died because not enough states approved it); his chairmanship of the Congressional Black Caucus.
Fauntroy said he would now earn his living as a pastor, aided by a pension for his federal service. He will continue his "networking" on national issues and international development, trade and finance, he said. He will have more freedom: "I believe what has happened has been providential."
And another campaign? "That," Fauntroy said, "I don't know."
Clarke, 47, wanted to be mayor too. "It was necessary to change," he said. He had "lost political definition" with the voters as chairman, spending too much time on the mechanics of the council and not enough on the issues.
But his mayoral strategy collapsed with Barry's arrest, trial and decision not to seek reelection because Clarke no longer could draw contrasts with the incumbent. In addition, he was the only white candidate in a predominantly black city that became racially polarized by the Barry case. In short, his timing was all wrong. "I'm going to cheer the departure of 1990 from my life," he said.
He will not say what history will note about David A. Clarke. But, he said, "I know what I feel good about."
That includes the management of the council, "a far more orderly institution than it was when I took the chairmanship." That includes the District's comprehensive plan and revisions in divorce laws. It includes too a law banning handguns and a recently passed law holding manufacturers of guns liable for any deaths or injuries caused by their products.
And though he did not list it, Clarke might well note that he is a white politician who, in part, found popularity in a largely black city because of his civil rights record. "He thinks he's one of us. He thinks he's one of the boys," council member Frank Smith (D-Ward 1), who is black, said in tribute at the final council session.
Clarke, an often moody and mercurial man, said he would miss "the slice of life that being an elected official gives you." He would not miss The Washington Post, he said with a smile. But he would miss his salary, "for a little while."
A lawyer by training, he has talked with three law firms concerning a position, he said, to no early result. He would also consider teaching at Howard University, his alma mater, if there was an opening. He would like to make some public contribution -- but does not foresee elective office at the moment.
Kane, 49, long known as the council's wizard of government ins and outs, wanted Fauntroy's seat -- in 1992. But his decision to step down forced an early run, she said, and she found herself pitted against Norton, a nationally known civil rights leader tainted by her husband's failure to file the couple's D.C. income taxes during most of the 1980s.
To Kane, there appeared no need to belabor Norton's failure to perform such a basic civic obligation. "People would make the sensible decision," said Kane, who has served 12 years on the council. In retrospect, "I would have been more aggressive."
Therein lies no regret, she said. There might, though, lie another delegate race: "I know that's the job I wanted to do . . . . We'll have to see how it gets done."
Her legacy, she said, is having brought the District cable television, "without scandal, without convictions." She is proud too of her investigation of a D.C.-Virgin Islands project, which concluded that city workers and funds were improperly used.
Kane, who was a professor and administrator at Catholic University and director of public programs at the Folger Shakespeare Library, does not know what Citizen Kane will do. Perhaps work with city and county governments. Perhaps teach.
Whatever, she said, "I know I want to stay active in civic life in the District."
Winter, 66, a council member for 16 years, is the only one of the four who did not seek a different office. She almost didn't seek any office. But she decided, she said, to seek reelection from Ward 6 because she did not like the environmental policies of Harold Brazil, the eventual winner.
To Winter, it wasn't really a defeat, though. Instead, "I didn't get enough people to put me over." But even that does not matter much, she said. "I'm a Pisces. I could go out and sell peanuts and thoroughly enjoy it . . . . Moving on was in the cards for me. If God wanted me here, I suppose I would have won. I haven't shed one moment of sadness, not one."
Her colleagues will remember her as often argumentative. She should be remembered, she said, for her work on recycling and opposing real estate speculation. "I've probably introduced more bills than anyone else here," she said.
As for what's next, she might lobby at the federal level, if the cause is right. She might join an institution that helps people "help themselves." But what she would "really, really" like to do is open her own clothing shop.
Nadine's, of course.