The sudden death of former D.C. Council at-large and Ward 7 candidate Greg Rhett has prompted District residents to talk about his work to upgrade education in the ward and encouraging young people to become political leaders.

Rhett’s wife, Candace, announced the death of her 62-year-old husband on Facebook.

“My Girl Dad,” she said. “We lost him on May 29. My heart is broken. We will always love you.”

Rhett, a native of Durham, N.C., and football player at Duke University, ran for the Democratic Party nomination for the at-large D.C. Council seat in 1998, ultimately won by Phil Mendelson and in the 2007 Ward 7 special election to fill the vacancy created when Vincent Gray was elected council chairman in 2006, with Yvette Alexander emerging victorious. 

Outside of elected politics, Rhett worked as a consultant to the D.C. Superior Court, the D.C. Juvenile Justice Crime Prevention Agency, the D.C. Department of Recreation, the D.C. Community Partnership, the U.S. Department of Justice as a workshop facilitator in the “Weed and Seed” program and recently, as a D.C. HealthLink certified expert/broker. For years, he pushed the District government to provide equitable funds and resources for Ward 7 public schools.

Rhett’s funeral will occur on June 14 at the Zion Baptist Church in Northeast.

Rhett’s passion for the development of young community leaders and support for the ward’s schools impressed Anthony Lorenzo Green, the advisory neighborhood commissioner for district 7C04.

“He liked young people’s tenacity on city issues recently,” Green said. “He liked that we stood for reforming policing in the city. Greg also felt the educational policies in the city were harming our children in Ward 7 and he spoke up about that. He wanted a better path for our children. Overall, he wanted a better future for our young people.”

Green said Rhett’s sudden demise took him by surprise and Chuck Thies, a political consultant and commentator in the District, shared his sentiment.

“I was aware that he was sick but I didn’t know he died,” Thies said. “Greg Rhett was a dedicated community leader and an asset to the city.”

Tyrell M. Holcomb, chairperson of the 7F advisory neighborhood commission, said Rhett “was a pillar in the Ward 7 community.”

“He was a very strong advocate for all things Ward 7,” Holcomb said. “In the areas of education, economic development and stability in our community, he was strong. His death is a big loss. He worked so long on behalf of our ward.”

Holcomb agreed with Green on Rhett’s strong support for young community activists and political leaders.

“He would often say to me and I would hear him say to other young people that ‘your generation needs to step up’,” he said. “Three of the youngest leaders in our ward, D.C. State Board of Education member Eboni-Rose Thompson, Ward 7 Democrats Chairperson Wendell Felder and myself, were all mentored by Greg. He told us it was our time to lead. He gave us advice and guidance on how we should lead the ward. His death is a tremendous loss.”

James Wright Jr.

James Wright Jr. is the D.C. political reporter for the Washington Informer Newspaper. He has worked for the Washington AFRO-American Newspaper as a reporter, city editor and freelance writer and The Washington...

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