Dr. Calvin W. Rolark Sr. (Roy Lewis/The Washington Informer)
Dr. Calvin W. Rolark Sr. (Roy Lewis/The Washington Informer)

D.C. Council received testimony this week on a bill introduced by Ward 8 Council member Trayon White to rename a D.C. street in honor of Dr. Calvin W. Rolark Sr. and his wife, former Ward 8 Council member Wilhelmina J. Rolark. The 500 block of Foxhall Place SE, where the powerful D.C. couple lived for more than 30 years, will be renamed Wilhelmina and Calvin Rolark Way if the bill passes. 

The renaming is symbolic, not permanent, allowing residents living there now to avoid the hassle of changing their addresses, a measure they opposed in 2018 when a previous bill was introduced.

Wilhelmina Jackson Rolark, a native of Portsmouth, Virginia, is a 1937 graduate of Howard University, where she received her Bachelor of Arts and master’s in Political Science. She is a 1944 graduate of Robert H. Terrell Law School, which she attended at night and practiced law in D.C. for over 50 years. She served as secretary to the National Bar Association and was an active member of the Washington Bar Association. She also founded the National Association of Black Women Attorneys. 

Rolark’s legal career focused on civil rights. She was praised as a champion for working people by the AFL-CIO. She was also remembered as a “Soldier for Home Rule” in a The Washington Post obituary.

Rolark served on the D.C. Council for  Ward 8 for four terms from 1977 to 1993. She chaired several committees, including the Judiciary Committee, and her legislation established cable television in D.C.  

Council member Rolark was responsible for renaming Nichols Avenue SE. to Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue and Portland Street to Malcolm X Avenue SE. She co-founded the Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday Parade. She died on Feb. 14, 2006.

Dr. Calvin W. Rolark Sr., a native of Texarkana, Texas, died on Oct. 23, 1994. He was 67. A community activist, journalist and philanthropist started The Washington Informer newspaper in 1964. He also co-founded the United Black Fund in April 1969. 

The fight UBF had with the U.S. Civil Service Commission for UBFs inclusion in the Combined Federal Campaign to solicit payroll deductions from federal employees was impactful and successful. They also worked tirelessly to establish a fundraising partnership with the United Giver’s Fund, now the United Way. Under Dr. Rolark’s leadership, millions of dollars were raised to assist more than 100 diverse local and small non-profit organizations serving the unmet needs of area residents.

Though Calvin and Wilhelmina Rolark are no longer with us, their legacy lives on with those who remember their innumerable contributions to this community. 

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