There are only a handful of great men who so well served generations of Dayton businesses, Allen Conrad Washington, born 1939 and deceased (presumably) January 17, 2022 was such a man. His professional life was focused on (in his words) “Helping Black Folks!” Not that he meant we should help only African Americans, he meant helping any and all who were marginalized, discriminated against and excluded from full and equal participation within the vast American Dream of Business Ownership and Success.
From the late 1960s until the mid-1980s he served the City of Dayton as Supervisor of Contract Compliance at the Dayton Human Relations Council, enforcing the City’s Sheltered Market Program, forerunner to today’s Procurement Enhancement Program. Both mandated that Minority and Female-Owned Businesses gain a fair share of City of Dayton Construction Contracts. This was more than just his job… it was his passion, using City and State Ordinances to ensure Majority-Owned Prime Contractors awarded a fair percentage of subcontracts to minority and female businesses.
I worked for him as Coordinator of the early Minority Contractor Assistance Program (MCAP) from 1979 to 1988 and every day, Al’s entire energies were targeted at helping the “Brothers and the Sisters,” get contracts, build better businesses and make money. On many occasions he said he loved doing his job so much that every day he awoke raring to go. With enthusiasm and eagerness he took-on those who preferred not to hire minorities or females. Many of those he fought became if not friendly, they became respectful of his determination, of his point of view. Many times he won arguments in and out of court based on his exacting command of City Ordinances and the massive Ohio Revised Code of General Ordinances. He often cited passages of business and anti-discrimination law by specific reference numbers and then of the text he could cite word-for-word… When he got fired-up, it was truly an inspired sight to behold.
His favorite quotation was that of anti-slavery activist and gifted orator, Frederic Douglas, “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these [wrongs] will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.”
Over the years Al Washington taught me many aspects of the struggle for civil rights. He urged fairness and explained ways to help others reach success. Al told me, one day he had a run-in with a Majority Contractor who refused to subcontract to any minority firms. In the heat of the moment Al got carried away and called the Contractor a “Mother-F****r.”
Indignant, the Contractor stormed over and into the office of then Mayor, James H. Magee. Hoping to get Al fired or at least severely reprimanded, he told the Mayor, “Al Washington just called me a Mother-F****r and that just ain’t right.,”
The Mayor leaned back in his chair and asked the Contractor, “Did you have what you were supposed to have?”
The Contractor squirmed, “Ahhhh… well…No sir.”
Mayor Magee looked over his glasses, “Well… he should have called you something.”
After the disappointed Contractor left, the Mayor turned to Al, “Now Al… Let’s watch them Mother-F****rs… Okay?” End of story.
A few years later, Al left the City of Dayton to become the State of Ohio Equal Employment Opportunity Coordinator in Columbus where he wielded his considerable knowledge of affirmative action laws to fight the good fight and bring hope and fair play to statewide entrepreneurship.
When he returned to Dayton over two decades ago, he still devoted the full measure of his conviction to helping right the wrongs of racial discrimination. You readers may have never heard of Al Washington, for he never sought the spotlight nor blew his own horn. He worked steadily behind the scenes and effectively made great and powerful differences.
The world is a saddened and emptier place without Allen Conrad Washington. We must all strive to carry his legacy forward, we must all fight injustice and prejudice, evil and wrongdoing.
We must all lend a hand to help others who need that help, who make the City of Dayton, the State of Ohio, the United States of America even all of Planet Earth become a more just, a more prosperous society for all.
This is surely what Al Washington would have wanted.