The D.C. Council is expected today to approve the nomination of the Rev. Willie F. Wilson to the board of trustees of the University of the District of Columbia, ending a two-week standoff over Mayor Anthony A. Williams's choice of the fiery activist to the school's governing body.
Williams (D) took part last night in a rousing rally in support of Wilson, pastor of Union Temple Baptist Church. The nomination became hung up in the council's education committee after two members objected that Wilson has been racially divisive in the past and another asked what he planned to do with vacant property the church owns in the historic Anacostia neighborhood surrounding his church.
"Rev. Wilson is someone who will get the job done," Williams declared from the pulpit of Young's Memorial Church of Christ Holiness in Southeast Washington, where a standing-room-only crowd showed up to support Wilson's battle to take a seat on the UDC board.
Williams acknowledged in a brief interview that he had told some council members that he would not submit Wilson's name for the UDC board.
"Initially, because of the controversy about this nomination, I thought it best not to do it," Williams said. "But I think a lot of things are controversial, but they're still the right thing to do. I think this is the right thing to do."
Yesterday, seven of the council's 13 members said they would vote for Wilson, including Sharon Ambrose (D-Ward 6), one of the education committee members who had raised questions about Wilson's suitability to serve on the university board.
Ambrose, who said she wanted to know what Wilson planned to do with abandoned buildings and vacant lots near the church's facilities on W Street SE, said that she talked with Wilson yesterday and that he had adequately addressed her concerns.
"I don't feel now that I have a compelling reason not to vote for him," Ambrose said late yesterday.
Aides for Kathy Patterson (D-Ward 3) and Carol Schwartz (R-At Large), the other education committee members who had publicly criticized the nomination, said yesterday that the two were still opposed to Wilson's nomination.
The education committee has scheduled a meeting at 8:30 a.m. today to vote on the nominations of Wilson and three other people to the UDC board, which has been unable at times during the past year to conduct business for lack of a quorum.
Kevin P. Chavous (D-Ward 7) could not be reached yesterday and has not publicly indicated whether he will vote for Wilson's nomination. The fifth member of the committee, Phil Mendelson (D-At Large) said he has not made up his mind on how he will vote.
If the nomination is approved by the committee, it will be forwarded to the full council, which is scheduled to meet today at 10 a.m. If the committee fails to act or rejects the nomination, the full council can override the committee.
Because the three council members who initially raised objections are white, some black activists questioned whether race was driving the opposition. In addition to Ambrose, at least two other white council members said yesterday that they plan to vote for Wilson.
Williams had vowed to stand by Wilson's nomination despite criticism over Wilson's 1986 confrontation with a Chinese restaurant owner who had chased a black female customer out of his store at gunpoint. Wilson led demonstrations against the restaurateur and raised tensions at one point when he said he had forgiven the man because, "If we didn't forgive him, we would have cut off his head and rolled it down the street."
Wilson and the Williams administration have said Wilson has mended his relationship with the Asian American community. Williams praised Wilson for his church's community outreach, including a feeding program and rites of passage programs for teenagers.
Before the mayor took the pulpit, where for several minutes he clapped and swayed along with a choir, his mother, Virginia Williams, spoke and led the audience in a rendition of "Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing."
She said Wilson was the first minister to step forward and endorse her son when he announced his mayoral campaign in 1998. She called Wilson "a man who has proven his ability to lead."
Yesterday, Linda Lee, a Chinese restaurant owner who is active in civic affairs, said she remained "uncomfortable" with Wilson as a result of the 1986 incident.
David Friedman, executive director of the Washington office of the Anti-Defamation League, said he also had expressed his concern to Williams administration officials about Wilson's nomination.
CAPTION: D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams, with his mother, Virginia, right, attends a rally for the Rev. Willie F. Wilson at a church in Southeast Washington.