ALMOST ANYTHING good that has happened to the local fabric of this city over the past 50 years probably had the incredible helping hand of Flaxie Madison Pinkett somewhere along the way. Yet the remarkable breadth of her interests and strength of her contributions was by no means universally known because Miss Pinkett preferred to do what she did without fanfare. There was the public-spirited, go-anywhere Flaxie and the privacy-seeking Flaxie who was most comfortable with longtime friends with deep roots in the city she loved. And in both these circles her advice was held in high esteem.
The local roots go back to her days at Dunbar High School and -- at the age of 14 -- her admission to Howard University. While studying, she began her career in the real estate and insurance firm that her father founded in 1932 -- John R. Pinkett Inc. -- which she would come to guide until her retirement in 1985 as president and board chairman. It was in this business world that Flaxie Pinkett developed contacts that she would direct to community projects. Her own volunteer work included offices in more than 25 civic service organizations, including educational efforts: chairwoman of the D.C. Board of Higher Education, one of three founders of Federal City College, which would become a part of the University of the District of Columbia, trustee of George Washington University, chairwoman of an advisory committee to the school superintendent; chairwoman of the Stay in School Fund, founder and president of the D.C. Citizens for Better Education, vice president of the Washington Urban League and leader of many other groups assisting youth.
If these and other causes needed financial support and she deemed them worthy, out came her checkbook on the spot and up went the cradle of her phone to solicit more from others. She believed in swift action and strong results and was up front with her views, which also made her one of the most respected leaders -- and top vote-getters -- in the local Democratic Party for years. As national committeewoman and strong supporter of Robert Kennedy's presidential campaign in 1968, Miss Pinkett rallied opposition to continued fighting in Vietnam while pressing for civil rights progress domestically.
Like the lists of everything else she did, her personal record of breakthroughs for women in general as well as women of color grew each year. So did the awards. So now will the fruits of her many endeavors in and for this city.