Edward S. Washington - August 21, 1891 – February 21, 1969
Updated: Feb 7
This article was submitted by James “Bruce” Monroe, the son of Sara Washington Monroe, the sixth child of Mr. Washington and grandson of Mr. Edward S. Washington. Sources include written family history and the obituary published in the venerable The Washington Star.
Edward Simon Washington, jack-of- all trades, was born in Madison County August 21, 1891. He was a descendent of George Washington’s slaves and a direct descendent of Howard Washington, the young man holding Washington’s horse in a famous painting of the first president. His early schooling was in Madison County. He later attended Manassas Industrial School where he graduated in 1908. He also attended Hampton Institute where he later taught for a short time. He then returned to Orange County where he built a four-room school with his own hands. The land was given to him by his grandfather who paid for by splitting logs. He built the school to teach Negro children to learn a trade that would enable them to be self-employed with independent income. It took him four years to complete construction due to opposition of white neighbors in the area. They objected because he was teaching typing, carpentry, brick masonry, plumbing and electricity. At that time, blacks only attended school for two months of a year. He taught at the school from 1912 until 1920 when County officials closed it down. A year into the construction of the school, he married Beulah Dade, daughter of Lawrence Dade, Sr. The Dade family was of Indian descent and acquired large land holdings in the Orange County Little Petersburg community. They became parents of ten children, each born and raised in this small Freedman community, where the house still stands today and remains in the family. They were married for fifty-nine years until his death in 1969.
Mr. Washington moved to Washington DC in the early 1920’s because of pressure from the white community. He held various jobs. He maintained two homes, one at Hamlin Street, NW in Washington DC, and the family home in Little Petersburg, where his wife Beulah remained raising the family. He traveled to Orange each weekend, mostly by train to maintain the country home and tend to the chores. He had dual church memberships, the 19th Street Baptist Church in Washington DC and Bethel Baptist in Little Petersburg, Orange. He was a Sunday School teacher and would ask precise, thought-provoking questions. He would insist his children and grandchildren recite a poem for a church program. He would always focus on orchestrating the phrasing, pauses, voice inflections, and pronunciations. His favorite readings were from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Paul Lawrence Dunbar, and Alfred Lord Tennyson. He always wore crisp starched shirts and a bow tie.
He served as a chauffeur, carpenter, and messenger at the White House. He was later hired as Blair House Butler during the administration of Franklin D. Roosevelt. His years at the Blair House put him in contact with foreign dignitaries who were President Roosevelt’s guests during the period of World War II. Two of his favorites who he talked about were General (late President) Charles De Gaulle of France and King Ibn Saud of Saudi Arabia. He described De Gaulle as “a rough and ready fellow”. Mr. Washington was the night butler and would be asked where to go in the city for a good time.
King Saud had a huge entourage of servants who called upon Mr. Washington on two minor emergencies. One was when no one could tie the king’s white tie for a formal dinner, which was not the fashion for the Saudis. The other was when he was called up to the king’s suite because no one could solve the mystery of the disappearing bath water. No one in the king’s entourage knew of the bathtub stopper or didn’t realize what it was.
Mr. Washington later chauffeured W. Averill Harriman, Secretary of Commerce under President Harry S. Truman and later the 48th governor of New York. He was also the son of railroad baron E.H. Harriman. Mr. Edward S. Washington died at age 77 on a Friday evening in February 1969 on a train while arriving at the train depot in Orange, his weekly routine.