Tuesday 4 January 2011

How many Washingtons have served in Congress?

The answer is Six.

George Washington was a member of the First and second Continental Congresses - before being chosen as "commander in chief of all the forces raised or to be raised" in June 1775 - and the rest is history!

The other five Washingtons were

George Corbin Washington, an Anti-Jacksonian who sat in the 20th to 22nd and the 24th Congresses (1827-1837) as a Representative from Maryland. He was a grand nephew of the first President, born in 1789 (the year the first Congress met) and he died in 1854. He served as President of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Company after his congressional service.

Joseph Edwin Washington , A Democrat from Tennessee who served in the 50th to 51st Congress (1887-1897). He lived from 1851 to 1915.

William Henry Washington, A Whig from North Carolina who served a single term as a Representative from North Carolina (27th Congress - 1841-43), after which he returned to State Politics.. He was born in 1813 and died just 10 months before the Civil War broke out.

Harold Washington, who represented Illinois in the 97th and 98th Congresses (1981-85), a member of the Democrat majority while Reagan was President. He subsequently became the first African American Mayor of Chicago. Richard Wright has written -

"The politician who truly set the stage for Obama's rise was also a South Side congressman: Harold Washington, who was elected mayor of Chicago in 1983, beating two white opponents in the Democratic primary -- incumbent Mayor Jane Byrne and future Mayor Richard M. Daley. In the general election, the difference between Washington and his Republican opponent was black and white -- and nothing else. When Washington campaigned at a church in a Polish neighborhood, he was greeted with the grafitto "Die, Nigger, Die."

In New York, Obama read about Washington's victory and wrote to City Hall, asking for a job. He never heard back, but he made it to Chicago just months after Washington took office. In his memoir "Dreams From My Father," he wrote about walking into a barbershop and seeing the new mayor's picture on the wall. (It's probably still there. To this day, Washington's image is as revered by South Side blacks as St. Anthony of Padua's is by Italian Catholics.) The old men, who'd suffered a lifetime of slights by white mayors, saw in Washington a sign that the black community had finally arrived as a citywide power. Blacks may have run things in their own neighborhoods, but they were still crammed into dreary housing projects, and they sent their children to overcrowded schools -- while white schools just across the color line sat half empty. And of course, the big political jobs -- the state's attorney, the County Board president, the mayor -- had always been controlled by the Irish.

"Before Harold," the barber said, "seemed like we'd always be second-class citizens."

He died in 1987.

Craig Anthony Washington, who is still alive - and will be celebrating his 70th birthday this year - represented Texas as a Democratic Representative in the 101st to 103rd Congresses (1989-1995). He was defeated in the Democratic primary in 1994 by Sheila Jackson Lee, who remains a congresswomen.