Washington was a very different place in 1965. The Beltway had just opened, and Metro was only a proposal. Towns such as Reston and Columbia were being built. There was no Verizon Center, and the Redskins had never won a Super Bowl. The changes caused by the 1968 riots, Watergate, and crack cocaine were on the way.
The Washingtonian published its first issue that October. In our 45th-anniversary issue, we look at how the region has changed, through the lens of the people who made it what it is today. Here are 45 whose contributions—for better or worse—affected where we live and work, where we dine, what we read, which teams we cheer for, what music we listen to, and much more.
Robert E. Simon and James Rouse
In the 1960s, when suburban development was marked by the creation of many cul-de-sacs, Robert Simon and James Rouse challenged the notion of American suburbia. In Northern Virginia, Simon created Reston, a planned community where residents could live, work, eat, and play. In Maryland, Rouse founded Columbia, a city designed to bring together people of all races and economic groups. Besides inspiring dozens of similar towns—from the Kentlands in Gaithersburg to Kingstowne in Fairfax—these two visionary developers changed the way Washingtonians think about growth and community.
It was said that an invitation to Kay Graham’s Georgetown home was more coveted than an invitation to a White House state dinner. A shy grande dame, as publisher she guided the Washington Post from a good daily paper to a national heavyweight that rivaled the New York Times, and she grew the Post Company into a media and educational powerhouse. During the Watergate investigation and publication of the Pentagon Papers, she backed her reporters and stood up to the Nixon Administration.
Darwin Stolzenbach and Jackson Graham
If not for these two men, Metro might never have been built. According to historian Zachary Schrag, an extensive network of highways was planned for Washington when John F. Kennedy tapped Stolzenbach, an anti-highway activist, to run the National Capital Transportation Agency. Stolzenbach made rapid transit the focus of the region’s transportation plan, and Congress approved a version of his proposal in 1965. Graham, a retired Army Corps of Engineers general, was Metro’s first manager. He had the experience, skill, and forceful personality to make Stolzenbach’s vision a reality.
Before Zelda and Tom Fichandler and Edward Mangum started Arena Stage in 1950, the only homegrown live theater in town was inside the Capitol; the National Theatre hosted road companies. As artistic director, Zelda Fichandler built an acclaimed acting company and a reputation for breaking down racial and cultural barriers. Arena was the first regional theater to transfer a production to Broadway and the first theater outside New York to receive a Tony Award. Thanks to Zelda, Washington audiences didn’t have to go to New York to see a really good show.
Nearly every Washingtonian has seen Weese’s art. The Chicago architect designed Metro’s stations, described by New York Times architecture critic Herbert Muschamp as “some of the most powerful public spaces of our time.” Weese’s vaulted concrete ceilings and lights embedded in the platforms showed that subway stations could be beautiful and functional at once. He also designed the original Arena Stage and helped select Maya Lin’s design for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
S. Dillon Ripley
As secretary of the Smithsonian Institution during its golden age—1964 to 1984—Ripley told curators to take valuable musical instruments out of their cases “and let them sing.” A renaissance man with a populist flair, he presided over a period of big growth: He added eight new museums to the Smithsonian empire, tripled the number of visitors, led the organization into the magazine and broadcast worlds, added concerts, and—befitting the kid-like wonderment he brought to the job—installed a carousel on the Mall.
He was Washington’s original Music Man. As founder of the Washington Performing Arts Society, Hayes brought great musicians and dancers from all over the world to perform for local audiences, and he arranged for many of the great artists to present concerts in area schools. An impassioned impresario, the dapper, white-maned Hayes filled area concert halls with joyful sounds.
Thomas Hale Boggs Jr.
When this godfather of K Street partnered with an attorney named James Patton in 1966, he changed the business landscape of Washington. Boggs developed a robust lobbying practice at what was a traditional law firm, pioneering the model that has propelled the lobbying industry into a multibillion-dollar-a-year enterprise. Today K Street is dominated by megafirms—including Patton Boggs, where Boggs is chairman—that offer clients a combination of lobbying and legal expertise. Although his bid to become a Maryland congressman in 1970 was unsuccessful, Boggs has shaped more laws from his downtown DC office than he ever could have as a legislator.
As a 21-year-old Yale undergraduate in 1980, she entered a competition to design the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Her simple concept of a black-granite V cut into the earth was the eight-person jury’s unanimous choice from more than 1,400 entries. Though some Vietnam vets called her design a “black ditch of shame” and tried to block it, it’s now regarded as one of the most emotionally powerful memorials ever built.
Edward Bennett Williams
The legendary criminal defender’s intense focus and skill made him the go-to lawyer for a string of famous—often infamous—clients, including mobster Frank Costello, union boss Jimmy Hoffa, Senator Joe McCarthy, and singer Frank Sinatra. Williams elevated the image of criminal defense from seamy and second rate to a practice that today includes some of Washington’s most celebrated attorneys—many of whom work at Williams & Connolly, which he cofounded in 1967. The lawyers there continue to handle the highest-profile clients and much of the highest-stakes work in town. As onetime owner of the Redskins and the Baltimore Orioles, Williams also left his mark on the sports scene.
Catherine Filene Shouse
In 1966, Shouse donated $2 million and 100 acres of her Virginia farm to create Wolf Trap, the first national park devoted to the performing arts. The venue opened in 1971, and the Virginia hillside has been alive with music ever since. The National Park Service agreed to maintain the grounds, and Shouse set up a foundation to pick the talent that would perform and keep the place going and growing. That foundation now funds major arts-education programs for area schoolkids, nurtures young talent with its Wolf Trap Opera Company (mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves is an alum), and offers affordable access to great shows for all Washingtonians.