Sunday, May 17, 2015

"What Would Nixon Do?"

Paul Richardson, Vons Parking Lot, Encinitas, Calif., May 9, 2015

Last weekend I pulled into the parking lot of the neighborhood Von's [grocery store] in Encinitas, Calif. and couldn't help but notice the words, "What Would Nixon Do?" on the rear bumper of a blue truck parked in front of me. Not something you see everyday. I thought for a second that it might be someone I knew working in Washington on the two Nixon presidential campaigns and subsequently at The White House. Then, I reasoned it could also have something to do with Nixon Watches, a successful homegrown business in the heart of Encinitas. 

When I returned after shopping, the truck was still there with no sign of an owner which, I confess, disappointed me. I began putting my groceries into the back of my van, then shut the door. . .and there he was! I introduced myself and learned that the owner of the mysterious bumper sticker was Paul Richardson. Much to my delight, Paul didn't hesitate to tell me the back story.

"I’ve always been a Nixon fan, having graduated from Whittier College, Nixon’s alma mater,” he said. “Eileen and I finally visited the Nixon Library a few years ago where I spotted this bumper sticker." 

Paul explained that while at Whittier he attended a lecture series by Raymond K. Price, Nixon's chief speechwriter and, coincidentally, head of The White House speechwriting department when I worked there as a secretary from 1971 to 1973. Paul had the extraordinary experience of Mr. Price taking him and a fellow student on a personal tour of the Western White House in San Clemente in the late 1970s. 

“We picked lemons off the trees outside Nixon’s office, and sat behind Nixon’s desk. It was a special moment for both of us.” 

He continued, "It was that moment, sitting in Nixon’s chair, that we each decided on careers in politics. I joined the Marine Corps after college and then worked under a Republican Governor in North Carolina for eight years, and my friend Paul Bateman went to Washington with Ray Price. He later became one of President Reagan’s senior aides -- and continues to enjoy a successful career in politics today."

"Ray greatly influenced both of us," he added. "Every so often, someone stops me to admire my bumper sticker.”

Nixon Speechwriters (L to R): Unknown, Lee Huebner, David Gergen,
John McDonald (Back) and Raymond K. Price (Head, Presidential Speechwriting Department) Photo credit: Lillian Cox
Copyright 2011

Sunday, April 5, 2015

The White House Easter Egg Hunt - April 3, 1972

Children served by St. Francis House enjoying The White House Easter Egg Hunt, 
April 3, 1972
While working as a secretary in the speechwriting office of The White House from 1971 to 1973, a close friend/coworker and I volunteered several times a week at St. Francis House located on E St., N.E. near Capitol Hill. It was founded by Father Manning Moore, a court stenographer and Methodist who converted to Catholicism in his fifties with the goal of spending his retirement ministering in the inner city. My friend and I leveraged our influence as White House employees to create opportunities for children such as being invited to the White House Easter Egg Hunt, and generating financial and product donations from Giant Food and Peoples Drug stores for programs operated by Father Moore.

Father Gene (left) and Father Manning Moore (right), 
St. Francis House, Washington, D.C., 1972
After getting off work we often ate dinner with Father Moore, and Brothers Gene and Dennis, before beginning our volunteerism which included running a charm school for teen girls and producing a talent show called "Souled Out" for the neighborhood and inmates at Lorton Reformatory in Virginia (which preceded the D.C. Jail). We also started evening "Rap Sessions" between inmates who were escorted to St. Francis House to talk to teens with the goal of deterring them from illegal activities which could land them at Lorton. 

One night over dinner I remember Father Moore looking at my friend and me and saying, "You're such nice girls. . . what I can't understand is Why do you work for Nixon?!"

Ultimately, I resigned my White House job, moved to California,  finished up my degree at San Diego State University (changing major from journalism to sociology/criminology) and embarking on a career in social services, which included running a halfway house for ex-offenders. Subsequently, I returned to communications in both the private and public sectors promoting educational technology as a means of lifting children out of poverty.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Jennifer Business College: First African-American Secretarial School in the Nation's Capital

W. Emile Jennifer, Pres.
W. Emile Jennifer established the first African-American business college in Washington in 1920 in response to news that the U.S. Civil Service Commission would finally be accepting applications from Blacks for clerical jobs. 

World War I (1914-1918) was over and the government continued to expand, so much so, that the Washington School for Secretaries was established. The school, which didn't accept Blacks, opened its doors on Monday, March 8, 1920. It was founded by Dr. Richard T. Ely, 65, a prominent economist, author and former professor of President Woodrow Wilson's at Johns Hopkins University.  Ely was also the founder of the prestigious American Economic Association.

Site, Jennifer Business College, 1243 New Jersey Ave., NW
In contrast, W. Emile Jennifer was an African-American man, age 20, who worked as a public stenographer in his parents' home while earning a bachelors degree in law at Howard University. He had the vision to launch the first business college in D.C. for African-American students, and did so nine days after the Washington School for Secretaries opened on Wednesday, March 17, 1920.

Jennifer's mother, Syme, provided capital for the venture and served as Secretary-Treasurer. The young entrepreneur, Emile, developed the curriculum, provided instruction and handled day-to-day operations including marketing.

Syme L. Jennifer, Secy.-Treas.
Ads with the headline "Wanted - Colored Students to Train" for jobs as stenographers and clerical workers were placed in daily newspapers such as The Evening Star in Washington as well as African-American newspapers including the Washington Bee and the Washington Eagle, and the Pittsburgh Courier in Pennsylvania.

The Crisis, edited by W.E.B. DuBois, and published by the NAACP, carried ads that touted the headline, "Capitalize Your Summer Months at the Nation's Capital... Special Summer Courses Now Forming."

In addition to training in shorthand (Gregg and Pittman), typing, mimeographing, multigraphing and card punch, the school promised special services such as "individual coaching" and "assistance in procuring positions after graduation." 

Ad, Chicago Defender, 1922
The Jennifer Business School operated from 1920 until 1960. Sadly, there is little information about the school in the public domain. It was only happenstance that I learned about it at all, scouring obituaries. Mr. Jennifer's 1975 obituary only mentions the existence of the school. 

I spent the last several months researching, emailing and making phone calls before I was finally able to locate a relative about three weeks ago who graciously was willing to talk to me. I would appreciate hearing from anyone who would like to add to the body of research I'm collecting about Mr. Jennifer and the Jennifer Business School. 

AfroAmerican, November 1938
In January 2013 I wrote a blog post where I incorrectly stated that Cortez W. Peters started the first African-American business college in Washington. I am updating that information with the table below of non-degree conferring schools in D.C. offering special training to Blacks. The data was compiled by the late Dr. Lillian Dabney Dearing for her thesis, "The history of schools for Negroes in the District of Columbia, 1807-1947" (Catholic University, 1949). It indicates that the Jennifer School was founded in 1920 and the Peters School in 1934:

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In addition to operating the Jennifer Business School, Mr. Jennifer was a pianist who at one time was affiliated with Duke Ellington, and performed around town with the Jennifer Society Orchestra which he founded. 

He also served alongside his mother in the Civil Defense as an air raid warden. Mr. Jennifer's father, Prof. William Jennifer, was an educator, attorney and statistician with the federal government.

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