A History of the "Old Ward Four"




HISTORY OF OLD WARD FOUR

TOWN OF CHEVERLY, MD


Old Ward 4--Its History, Its Role, And Its Contributions In Making Cheverly What It Is Today, “A GREAT PLACE TO LIVE”!



Leila P. Price and Fred Price, Jr.


February 2011


Information in this document is based on recollections of present and former residents of Old Ward 4, Cheverly History and the Maryland Archives.  It is a work in progress.  Additional information from other former residents may be included at a later date.



THE EARLY YEARS


    The area now known as Old Ward 4 has always been part of the area which eventually became known as the Town of Cheverly, MD.  At one time the Ward was known as “the Colony” or “Tuxedo Colony”, and some maps even today refer to it as “Tuxedo Colony”.  The area has also been known as “South” Cheverly, due to its location.


    The land area is located on the South side of the railroad tracks and Route 50, which served as natural barriers of separation and would in later years make it quite easy to keep the Negro1 families living in Old Ward 4 (South Cheverly) and the Caucasian families living in the northern part of Cheverly separated.   


     The original tax list, after Cheverly’s incorporation in 1931, included 42 homes in Cheverly proper, with 14 in South Cheverly.  Harman Avenue (now 64
th Avenue in Old Ward 4) was one of first streets to be paved in the Town.  Cheverly was originally divided into three wards with the fourth (to represent South Cheverly or Tuxedo Colony) being added shortly after incorporation, which contained ten pre-Marshall era homes.    Only two of these homes still exist—1800 and 1812 64th Avenue.  One of the town’s three churches, The First Baptist Church of Cheverly (now the Community Temple Church of Christ), is located in Old Ward 4.

    William Link and Arthur P. Buck ran for Ward 4 Councilman during the May 16, 1931 election.  William Link won the election, and is presumed to be its first Councilman.

    Not much information is available specifically about Old Ward 4 between 1931 and the early part of 1950; it is known that the area consisted of 87 homes.  The homes were built as follows:


 State Street – 1940 and 1941, except for 6113 and 6204 which were built in 1951 and 6202, which was rebuilt in 1998.  The original house at 6202 was a pre-Marshall era home.

61st Avenue – 1946, except 1708 which was built in 1936.

62nd Avenue – 1946 (even numbers), 1951 (odd numbers)

Reed Street – 1940.  6006 was rebuilt in 1995 and 6004 was not built at this time.  (The present house was built in 2003.)


CHANGE COMES TO THE WARD


1950’S – 1970’S


     By 1950, Cheverly, as well as Old Ward 4, was a well-established middle class community.  The ethnic make-up was Caucasian (hereinafter referred to as white).  Towards the middle 1950’s change began to take place in Old Ward 4—Negroes were buying homes there.


     African-Americans were introduced to Cheverly (Old Ward4) in different ways--i.e., Dr. and Mrs. Leo (Mary) Hill were visiting friends on State Street and saw the homes with large lawns on 61st Avenue.  Mrs. Thelma Boyd-Nash became aware of the area when the Vice Principal of Fairmont Heights High School gave her information that a Cheverly resident had a house for sale.  The Negroes moving into the Ward were middle to upper-middle class professionals, teachers, doctors, and government workers who were seeking safe, sanitary housing in a good neighborhood to raise a family.  Between 1955 to 1956, Dr. and Mrs. Leo (Mary) Hill, Mr. and Mrs. William (Jacqueline) Eley, Mr. and Mrs. Theodore (Edith) Ellis, Mr. and Mrs. George (Thelma) Boyd, Mr. and Mrs. Eugene (Juliette) Curry, Mr. and Mrs. John (Bernice) Grooms,  Mr. and Mrs. Charles (Naomi) Watkins, Mr. and Mrs. Isaac (Katherine) Cook, Mr. and Mrs. Roscoe (Thelma) Robinson, and Mr. and Mrs. Thomas (Ruby) Cole moved into the Ward. 

     It should be noted that a covenant was appended to the property titles.  Among other things, item number 5 stated “No persons of any race other than Caucasian shall use or occupy any building or any lot except that this covenant shall not prevent occupancy by domestic servants of a different race domiciled with an owner or tenant.”   This was probably not enforced by the Town since item number 9 stated in part that “by vote a majority of then owners of lots could change the covenant in whole or in part”.  It can only be assumed that the majority of white owners in Ward 4 voted to change the covenant in whole.

   
     In 1954 homes on the lower section (the 1800 block) of 62
nd Avenue were built. Homes on the lower half of 61st Avenue (the 1800 block) were built in 1963.   No one imagined that a number of homes on both streets would have to be moved in 1976 because of flooding 

    As more African-Americans moved into the Ward, white homeowners accelerated leaving although a few remained until the early 1970’s.  Frank Pesci, former Maryland State Delegate, remained in the Ward until 1957.  Mr. and Mrs. David (Cora) Rice, an interracial couple, moved into the Ward.  Mrs. Rice became an active leader in the Civil Rights movement in the County, including the desegregation of schools.  Dr. and Mrs.
William L. (Laurena) Statom lived on 62nd Avenue.  Dr. Statom was a noted physician in the County.  Mr. and Mrs. Harold (Alma) Howard moved into the Ward in 1957, and Mr. and Mrs. Thurman (Dorothy) McClain arrived in 1959.   Mrs. McClain served as the Old Ward 4 Councilperson from 1974 – 1986.
 

    Old Ward 4 quickly became a place where neighbors knew each other and close-knit bonds were formed among residents through block parties, Christmas caroling, and other social affairs.  They were also acutely aware of the Ward’s status with the Town.  A Fourth Ward Telephone Directory published by the residents made a note of the following; “...to be used for the convenience and safety of the Fourth Ward Residents”.  A Men’s Club was formed.  Members included, among others, Dr. Leo Hill (Vice President), Harold Howard, Isaac Cook, George Boyd, William Eley, Mr. Brown, and Mr. Bakey.  The Club served as a social club but also pursued issues of racial discrimination they and their neighbors faced with certain Town amenities.  


Mr. William Eley defeated Ward 4 Councilman Joseph J. Scavillo in the May 5, 1958 election to become the first African-American to serve on the Town Council of Cheverly.  He made sure the Town was aware that residents of Old Ward 4 expected to receive the same Town services—police protection, trash pick-up, etc—as residents in the northern section of Cheverly.  He was keenly aware of how some residents in north Cheverly felt about the new Ward 4 residents.   In a 1966 Washington Post article, he noted that “there are as many die-hard segregationists (in Cheverly2) as you will find anywhere in the County.”  He also pointed out other facts in the article that substantiated his views espoused to the Mayor and other Council members at the time.  Mr. Eley served his constituents well during his 10 years on the Town Council and opened many doors for those who followed.


The Fourth Ward Civic Association was organized in 1960.  Its purpose was to identify and work on common issues affecting the community (Ward 4) and to stimulate interest and active participation in civic affairs.  Mr. Harold Howard served as the first President.  Meetings were held at the First Baptist Church of Cheverly on 64th Avenue where Rev. Gary Gaines was pastor. Other persons serving as President of the Civic Association were:  Mr. William Eley, Mr. Felix Franklin, Mr. Robert Tucker, who served 33 years, and Mrs. Leila P. Price, the current (2011) President.   The Association is still an active and viable entity today.     


Mr. George Boyd was elected Old Ward 4 Councilman in the March 4, 1968 election and served until 1974.  Desegregation of school districts was taking place throughout the country to be in compliance with the Supreme Court’s 1954 ruling of Brown vs. Board of Education.  The County schools in Cheverly were no different.

  

The African American families who had moved into the Ward could not send their children to Cheverly-Tuxedo Elementary, the neighborhood school, nor the junior high or high school that the children living in the northern section of Cheverly attended.  They had to attend Fairmont Heights Elementary, Mary Bethune Junior High and Fairmont Heights High.  Their children could not join the Cheverly Boy’s Club or participate in Town sports.  Neither adults nor children could go to the Cheverly Theater nor join the Cheverly Swim Club.

 

    As the sole African-American on the Town Council during this period of desegregation, Mr. Boyd continued to represent his constituents and conduct Town business even when meetings became very tense and sometimes “ugly”.  Mr. Boyd prevailed in maintaining his demeanor during those times when some Town citizens were very disrespectful, even bordering on personal attacks, in their public opposition to busing.


    The 4th Ward took an active role in the desegregation of the schools in the County and Town and also worked to ensure the Fair Housing Act was being implemented.  For instance:

The Men’s Club began the process of filing suit against the Boys’ Club because Negro

children living in Old Ward 4 were not allowed to join and participate in Town sports.   

The case was settled out of court, thus leading the way of integration of  Cheverly’s Boys’ Club. 


They also took issue with the Cheverly Swim Club’s non-admittance of Negroes.  As this was a private club, it could not be forced to  desegregate. 

The Swim Club was not integrated until 1973when Mr. and Mrs. Fred Price,  Jr. and Mr. and Mrs. Jones became membership test cases.


Dr. Leo Hill served on the Coalition for the Desegregation of Prince George’s County

Schools.


Thelma Boyd and Hilda Rosenstock set up the first Fair Housing Office in St.

Christopher’s Episcopal Church.  


                       The Civic Association wrote the Mayor and Council a letter in September 1969

addressing issues of fair housing, human indignities, and swim club membership.

A copy of the Town’s reply is attached.


    The desegregation of the County’s schools began in 1959.  The Civic Association played an important role in this effort in regards to Cheverly Tuxedo.  Members protested and travelled to the Board of Education in Upper Marlboro to make known their wishes.  Because of their efforts and the efforts of others, the children in the 4th Ward were now able to attend Cheverly Tuxedo.  Former Prince George’s County Executive Wayne Curry, his brother, Patrice Hill, Thurman McClain, Jr., Roxcella McClain, and Vanessa McClain were some of the first African American children to do so.  The parents of the African American children played an additional important role in ensuring the teachers at Cheverly Tuxedo taught and respected their children as they did the white children.      


Mr. George Boyd was still the Ward’s Councilman.  During the remainder of his tenure, he initiated the effort for the Town to apply for block grant funds to buy the Hargrove property (the current Boyd Park) for the use of a neighborhood park.3


After 1969, Old Ward 4 residents began to take an active part in Town activities.  Three young ladies from the Ward participated in the Miss Cheverly contest at different times—Patrice Hill, Michelle Hill, and Greta Eley.  The children joined the Boys’ Club and played sports with the children in the northern part of Cheverly.  Others served on Town committees and some of the women joined the Women’s Club.

   

The residents of Old Ward 4 also worked with their neighbors in the communities of North Englewood and Fairmont Park on common problems. Like Ward 4, the racial make-up of these two areas changed from white to Negro during the 1950s.   Some of their common problems were a resolution to flood plain issues, a replacement for the 64th Avenue Bridge, and the blight on Marblewood Avenue which became highly visible after the street was cut through to 62nd Avenue.  


 Mrs. Dorothy McClain was elected to the Town Council in May 1974.  She served until 1986.  She worked to ensure that her constituents were heard.  Her tenure brought about numerous changes to the Ward.  The entrance feature at the top of 62nd Avenue and Reed Street was completed, the Columbia Park Bridge was reopened, block grant money was located to provide a pavilion and tennis courts in Boyd Park.  Councilwoman McClain also worked with Mayor Robert O’Connor to appoint the Town’s first African American police officer, Gilbert Jones, who later became the Town’s first African American Police Chief.


    The 1970’s brought the closing of the Columbia Park Bridge.  The County initially recommended the closing in the early 1960s because it was no longer safe.   Although aware of the need for the bridge to be closed, because of the way it was done (no advance notification), many residents in Old Ward 4 believed this was just another ploy to keep the Ward separated from the northern section of Cheverly by making it more difficult for them to access that section and to take part in Town activities.  The bridge was closed for four years (1974-1978).  The longer the closing the more some residents believed the Town did not have their best interests at heart.


     The advent of Metro in the 1970’s and the opening of the Cheverly Metro station in 1978 (which is located in Old Ward 4) caused some apprehension.  Residents were uncertain whether noise, increase traffic and having more people walking through the neighborhood would have a negative effect on the Ward.  The question of eminent domain was also a concern as a way to acquire property for  development, including the homes in Old Ward 4.   This concern stemmed from the fact that eminent domain had been brought up at an earlier time as a way for the County to acquire property for development, including the homes in Old Ward 4.  Although the issue had been resolved after numerous meetings with Town officials and receiving assurance from them that the Town would not allow eminent domain to happen, Old Ward 4 residents wanted to make sure this would not become an issue again with the opening of the Cheverly station.  Metro has now been around for 33 years (1978-2011) and all Cheverly residents believe it has been extremely beneficial for all.
 The Town annexed the station in 1978.

AFTER THE CHANGE
1980’s – PRESENT

   

Mr. Fred Price, Jr. was elected to the Town Council to represent Old Ward 4 in 1986 and served until 1991.   Mr. Price, like his predecessors, always ensured his constituents concerns were heard by the Town.   Mr. Price had served as chairperson for “The Reopening of the Columbia Park Bridge” and as Campaign Manager and Administrative Aide for Councilwoman McClain during her first term in office.  Mr. Price was very active in making certain the Town adhered to the 1990 census and in ensuring that the one man, one vote rule was upheld.  Old Ward 4 consisted of 87 homes while the other Wards consisted of two to three times as many homes.    Mr. Price worked diligently in the reorganization of the Town’s six wards, which increased Ward 4 to include all the homes of the old ward and all that area south and east of a line running from a point at the intersection of the eastern boundary and the rear lot line of 6435 Forest Road (Lot 19) along the northeast side lot line of the same lot, across Forest Road to the eastern side lot line of 6432 Forest Road, along the eastern side lot line of the same lot and running in a northwest direction along the rear lot lines of 6432, 6430, 6428, 6424, and 6422 Forest Road and continuing along the northern side lot line of 2803 Hillside Avenue, running along Inwood Street west to 64th Avenue and then south along 64th Avenue to Forest Road, and running west on Forest Road to Belleview Avenue, then southeast along Belleview Avenue to Cheverly Avenue, then south on Cheverly Avenue to Euclid Street then west to Belleview Avenue and south along Belleview Avenue to Arbor Street (also known as Tuxedo Road) and then south on Arbor Street until the line ends at the southwestern boundary.


    Today (2011) the Town of Cheverly is a cohesive enclave.  Residents of Old Ward 4 are thoroughly integrated in all aspects of Town activities.  All Cheverly children attended the same public schools, until about a year ago (2010).  The 4th Ward Civic Association is still an active and viable entity.  Accomplishments of the Association besides the integration of Cheverly Tuxedo and the Boys’ Club and Boys’ Scouts, include providing a surfaced walkway for Old Ward 4 children to walk to and from Cheverly Tuxedo, traffic light installation at the corner of Columbia Park Road and 64th Avenue, scheduling meetings at the municipal building, the installation of barriers at the top of 62nd and 61st Avenues to prevent tractor trailer trucks from the neighborhood, and the clean-up of World Recycling located on Columbia Park Road at 64th Avenue.  With the expansion of the Ward, the Association, working with its Town Council representative, serves and represents all residents of the Ward.  


The contributions by the residents of Old Ward 4 and the role it played in making Cheverly the community it is today cannot and should not be overlooked or ignored.  Without these contributions the Town may not be able to boast about its diverse character, its small town flavor, and what a “Great Place Cheverly is To Live”.  History must tell the story of the great and noble persons who changed the face of Cheverly.


    Some of these noble persons are:


Mrs. Cora Rice – Civil Rights activist

                       Dr. William Statom – Noted Negro Physician in Prince George’s County

                       Mr. William Eley, Mr. George Boyd, Mrs. Dorothy McClain, Mr. Fred Price – African-American Town Councilpersons from Old Ward 4

The Honorable Wayne Curry – First African American Prince George’s County Executive

Mrs. Parthenia S. Pruden – First African American female Deputy Superintendent of

Prince George’s County Schools

Mrs. Thelma Boyd-Nash – First African American President of the Prince George’s County Board of Library Trustees

The children of Old Ward 4, who pioneered the integration of Cheverly Tuxedo Elementary, the Boys’ Club and the Boy Scouts of Cheverly

Mr. Fred Price, Jr., Chairman of Cheverly Day instituted the first pre-Cheverly Day dance; Dr. Thurman McClain, Jr., Chairman of Cheverly Day twice.  

Mr. Robert Tucker – President of the 4th Ward Civic Association for 33 years.   










1Negro will be used interchangeably with African-American.
2The words “in Cheverly” added.
3Dr. Leo Hill, at the request of Mayor Robert O’Connor, made the Town’s presentation before Model Cities.  Because of his presentation, the Town was awarded the money to purchase of Hargrove property.