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Mon, 02.06.1933

Walter Fauntroy, Pastor, and Activist born

Walter Fauntroy

*Walter Fauntroy was born on this date in 1933. He is a Black politician, pastor, and civil rights, activist. The fourth of seven children, Walter Edward Fauntroy was born and raised in Washington, D.C. His mother, Ethel (Vines) Fauntroy, was a homemaker. His father, William Thomas Fauntroy, Sr., was a clerk in the U.S. Patent Office.

He grew up in the Shaw community in Northwest Washington and attended the New Bethel Baptist Church just a few blocks from his home. He graduated second in his class at Washington's all-black Dunbar High School in 1951, and the members of his church held fund-raising dinners to provide him with a college scholarship. When he graduated from Dunbar in 1952, his church gave him enough money to pay for his first year at Virginia Union University in Richmond.

He pledged Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity while at Virginia Union, where he graduated with honors in 1955, and then earned a B.Div. from Yale Divinity School in 1958. While at Virginia Union University, Fauntroy met a young Martin Luther King Jr., himself an ordained Baptist minister. With much in common, the two men formed a friendship that began with an all-night discussion of theology. Fauntroy joined the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), and upon his return to Washington, D.C., became an influential lobbyist for civil rights in Congress.

Fauntroy also helped to coordinate the 1963 March on Washington. After completing his education, Fauntroy became pastor of the New Bethel Baptist Church. He returned home with an unorthodox view of Christian service that his parishioners immediately embraced. Believing that religion was something more than a Sunday morning ritual, Fauntroy took part in civil rights demonstrations, sit-ins, and marches both in Washington, D.C., and elsewhere. As director of the Washington Bureau of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Fauntroy served as D.C. Coordinator of the historic March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963, and a coordinator for the 1965 Selma to Montgomery marches and the 1966 March Against Fear.

President Lyndon Johnson appointed him Vice-Chairman of the White House Conference on Civil Rights in 1966 and Vice Chairman of D.C. City Council in 1967. Fauntroy also founded and led the Model Inner City Community Organization (MICCO) until 1971.  They used federal grants to improve inner-city neighborhoods using black architects, city planners, and construction engineers to design and build homes, schools, stores, and other projects in urban Washington. At one time the budget for MICCO was well over $30 million, a community planning and neighborhood development group in Washington, D.C., that established and began to implement the Shaw Urban Renewal Project.

Fauntroy played a key role after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., meeting both with President Johnson and with activist Stokely Carmichael during the immediate aftermath. Fauntroy urged people, in person, on TV, and over the radio, to adhere to King's policy of nonviolence. He also led a prayer at King's funeral. Because his religious beliefs placed a premium on community service, Fauntroy gravitated toward the political arena. In 1967, he was named vice-chairperson of the Washington City Council, a nine-member body appointed directly by the president of the United States. Fauntroy sat on the city council for two years, resigning when his commitments as director of MICCO began to take all his time.

He is also a former delegate to the United States House of Representatives and was a candidate for the 1972 and 1976 Democratic presidential nominations as a favorite son. His stated life work is to advocate public policy that "declares Good News to the poor, that binds up the brokenhearted and sets at liberty them that are bound" in the United States and around the world. Contradicting his previous ecumenicism, Fauntroy asked the United States Supreme Court to stop same-sex marriage from taking place in the District of Columbia in March 2010, pending a "vote by the people".

In 1995, Fauntroy pleaded guilty to a felony charge of filing a false disclosure statement in 1989. Fauntroy falsely reported making a $23,887 donation to a Washington church at the end of 1988. In 2012, Fauntroy disappeared and fled the United States after a bench warrant was issued for his arrest in conjunction with allegations, he had written a fraudulent check for $55,000. Fauntroy's wife was eventually forced to file for bankruptcy. While his whereabouts were initially unknown to even his family, it was assumed Fauntroy was living somewhere in the Persian Gulf. In 2016, Fauntroy returned to the United States and was arrested at Washington Dulles International Airport. He had been hiding in Ajman, the capital of the Emirate of Ajman in the United Arab Emirates.

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