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Former NAACP president passes away remembered for a lifetime of good work

Frank Washington was passionate about education and civil rights. He was awarded the Order of the Palmetto in 2019.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Former Columbia NCAAP Branch president and local activist Frank B. Washington died over the weekend.

The 91-year-old is not only remembered for being the president of the Columbia NAACP and vice-president of the South Carolina NAACP but he was an educator for over 30 years and was married to his wife Vivian for over 70 years. 

Washington was born on September 5, 1929 in Estill, South Carolina. His family relocated to Columbia, South Carolina when he was nine months old. He was a product of the Waverly community and Allen Benedict Court in Columbia, South Carolina. 

He attended public schools in Richland School District One, graduating from Booker T. Washington High School in 1945. 

He went on to Allen University, where he graduated in 1949 with a degree in psychology. After college, he pursued graduate studies at South Carolina State University, Catholic University in Washington, DC, and Bradley University-Peoria, Illinois.

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Washington had a 35 year career at the State Department of Education, where he became the first Black person to have an administrative role.

In 1970, he was elected president of the Columbia Branch of the NCAAP, where he served for 16 years.

He was also Vice President of the State of South Carolina NAACP for eight years and was a member of the National NAACP Board of Directors for four years. 

His leadership resulted in landmark civil rights decisions.  

Washington was involved in the court decisions that reapportioned the SC House of Representatives and the State Senate leading to the first three Black people being elected to the house in 1970. 

He participated in a lawsuit filed in Federal Court contesting the manner in which the Columbia, SC City Council selected its membership in the case known as Frank B. Washington vs. The Mayor of the City of Columbia, SC. 

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This lawsuit brought to the forefront the issue of equity and fairness in the way the City of Columbia elected its city council members. He advocated for the City of Columbia to adopt single member voting districts which allowed the Columbia's largely Black population to be adequately represented in elected office.

This case resulted in the 4-2-1 Districting Plan and provided for the election of city council members and the mayor. This plan was responsible for the election of two Black members to Columbia's city council.

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Columbia Branch NAACP president L. Oveta Glover released the following statement on Tuesday:

"We, the Columbia Branch, will cherish the memory of Mr. Frank Washington, a champion for Civil Rights in Columbia, SC. Mr. Washington truly represents the epitome of selfish leadership in the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Columbia Branch. He served for 16 years as president of the branch. His legacy of commitment to social justice and inclusion will serve as a blueprint for racial harmony throughout our community. 

The Columbia Branch extends our prayers to the family of Mr. Washington during this time of bereavement; He will live on in our hearts and minds.

Mr. Washington's leadership/counsel influenced my abilities as the current president of the branch. Dr. Bobby Donaldson and I recently spoke with him about the history of the Columbia Branch. We gained a wealth of information. I personally will miss Mr. Washington, my friend."

Washington is survived by his wife of 71 years, Vivian Wingard Washington, three adult children and three grandchildren. 

Funeral services for Mr. Washington will take place at 11 a.m. on Wednesday at St. Luke Episcopal Church and live streamed at www.Leevy.com.

The Columbia Branch of NAACP said they expect to do something later in the year to honor of  Washington.

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