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Minister and civil rights activist Walter Fauntroy made history on April 19, 1971 when he was officially sworn in as Washington D.C.’s first delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives. Today, Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, who has fought diligently to establish D.C. statehood and for the seat to have a counting vote, holds the post.

Fauntroy was born February 6, 1933 in Washington, D.C. After graduating from the all-Black Paul Laurence Dunbar High School second in his class, the community helped fund his first year of college at Virginia Union University, where he graduated from with honors in 1955 before earning a divinity degree from Yale University.

In undergrad, the Kappa man forged a strong bond with another young minister in Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., and the pair became allies in the fight for equal rights. Fauntroy joined the SCLC, and served as the D.C. coordinator for the 1963 March on Washington event. He entered politics in 1967 after joining the Washington City Council.

In 1970, Congress passed the District of Columbia Delegate Act to give a non-voting member a seat inside the House body. Fauntroy served in the role for 10 terms, leaving the seat in January 1991.

PHOTO: Public Domain

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