Folks in the City of Falls Church are going to miss Dave Eckert and Annette Mills far more than any now can probably imagine (see story on Page One of this edition). The couple came to Falls Church in the 1980s and, while raising their child here, made an impact on this community that, taken cumulatively, has been stunning. Very rarely will you find such people, operating outside of elected office or without the command of enormous wealth and resources, “making things happen” in a community so consistently as they have for as long as they have since coming here. It will be hard for us to find as many colorful headlines and stories to capture our readers’ interest with them gone.
To us, it was their huge contribution helping to resurrect the proud civil rights heritage of key Afro-American families in Falls Church over the past decade that won our hearts to their tireless organizing efforts on so many fronts. They were absolutely key to the recognition given to the historic Tinner Hill neighborhood, and to the fight of that neighborhood to overturn a racist segregation law passed by the Falls Church Town Council in 1915 that resulted in a landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision. They helped call attention to the development of the first rural chapter of the NAACP here, the role of Ed Henderson as a coach and early civil rights leader, and of his educator wife, Mary Ellen Henderson, after whom the City’s new middle school was named last year. Their efforts were seminal in the development of the Tinner Hill Heritage Foundation, the soon-to-be built Tinner Hill museum and cultural center, and the state historical marker and NAACP arch that stand at the base of Tinner Hill on S. Washington Street. They brought new acclaim to the pioneering role of Falls Church blues legend, the late John Jackson, and helped create the annual Tinner Hill Festival.
They did more, on New Year’s Eve, on Thursday evenings in Cherry Hill Park during the summers, and around Thanksgivings with annual showings of “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Much more on top of all that, too.
We’ve learned over the years that there is an unfortunate, nasty little component of human nature which tends far too often, out of personal ego, jealously or other factors, to deny full “credit where credit’s due,” especially amongst those closest to a given situation. Through the fog of time, that can also result in the wrong people ultimately getting credit for things. So, for the record, we will say unequivocally here, for the sake of history, that none of what’s been identified above would have happened but for the initiative of the Eckert-Mills team. They may deny it, at least in part, out of modesty or their instinctive leadership tendency to bestow credit on those they’ve organized, but it’s true.
Dave and Annette are what we know and revere as genuine “organizers.” They have the knack and the love for marshaling a community to a greater good that transcends specific projects. They’ve always made it fun for everyone and it’s hard to imagine how dull and boring Falls Church would have been, and may become, without them.