A celebratory weekend in the City of Falls Church combined a standing-room-only gala banquet at the new Hilton Garden Inn on Friday night and a large assembly of dignitaries and supporters braving icy 17 degree temperatures to applaud the speeches and the dedication of the Tinner Hill Heritage Foundation historic site on Saturday afternoon.
Two U.S. congressmen – Hon. Jim Moran and Hon. Gerry Connolly – the chair of the national NAACP, Roslyn Brock, former National Basketball Association star Bob Dandridge and many others were among the many special dignitaries and guests who attended one or both of the events. Ms. Brock was the keynote speaker Friday night, introduced by Alexandria Mayor William Euille.
Key organizers of the events and of the Tinner Hill Foundation, which elevates the important century-old civil rights struggle in Falls Church, were Edwin B. Henderson II and Nikki Graves Henderson, president and executive director of the foundation. Edwin is the grandson of his namesake, who spearheaded efforts that led to the formation of the first rural chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored Persons in Falls Church.
Last weekend’s events were to commemorate the 100th anniversary, almost to the day, of the day on January 8, 1915 when Dr. Henderson and eight others met in the home of Joseph and Mary Tinner to devise a strategy to oppose an ordinance passed by the Falls Church town council to create racially segregated districts within the town. Their efforts eventually contributed to what became a U. S. Supreme Court decision in 1917 on a similar case that was one of the first important legal victories for the NAACP.
Last Friday night, the Hendersons handed out many awards in appreciation for the efforts to date to assemble lands straddling the City of Falls Church and Fairfax County bordering adjacent S. Washington St. and toward their development as a center for civil rights education and appreciation.
“Visionary” awards were presented to Edwin B. Henderson II and David Eckert. “Ambassador” awards went to Moran, Connolly, Michael Diener, former Virginia State Del. Bob Hull, former State Del. Jim Scott and Falls Church Vice Mayor David Snyder, who was mayor of Falls Church in the late 1990s when he lent major support for the assemblage of the Tinner Hill Heritage Foundation property.
“Founding Board Member” awards were presented to George Tinner, Rebecca Tinner Stotts, Dena Sewell, and (posthumously) H. Robert Morrison.
“Legacy” awards went to Corazon Foley, Mary Goins Roots and Ted Gong.
“Torchbearer” awards went to the Fairfax County NAACP and Evalyn Spain.
The “Rising Star” award went to Mandla Deskins, the Mid-Atlantic Region 7 organizer for the NAACP of Washington, D.C.
The “Young Leader” award went to Benjamin Cohen, a senior at George Mason High School who volunteered substantial technical support to the foundation.
Honored for their service on the board of directors of the foundation were former Falls Church Mayor H. Alan Brangman, Alex Boston, Irene Chambers, Peter Davis, Michael Everett, Steve Finley, Rev. Steve Martin, Dewita Soeharjono and Gregory Woodyard, and Advisory Board members Reid Chambers, Michael Diener, Carol Jackson, Debra Z. Roth, Dr. Rowena Stewart, Rebecca Tinner Stotts and Rev. Donald Winters.
This coming weekend when the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is celebrated, two Tinner Hill related events are scheduled on Saturday, Jan. 18. There will be two performances of “Tinner Hill: Portraits in Black and White” presented by the Creative Cauldron at the ArtSpace Falls Church, 400 S. Maple St., at 2 and 4 p.m. Then there is a guided bus tour of Falls Church’s civil rights history sites at 3 p.m., departing from the ArtSpace between performances by the Creative Cauldron. All these events are free to the public.