The Washington Century: Three Families and the Shaping of the Nation's Capital

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9780066213729: The Washington Century: Three Families and the Shaping of the Nation's Capital

An epic work of history ... the story of the American capital told through the lives of three families that each symbolize a different aspect of the city and the nation it embodies

The Washington Century tells the captivating history of the nation's capital during the last century, made vivid through the struggles of three very different families, each representing an essential aspect of Washington. Veteran journalist Burt Solomon uses these families to explore everything from the customs of Washington's grand hostesses to the surge in the federal bureaucracy to the critical roles that politicking and lobbying have played as the capital has grown more truly democratic.

  • The Boggs family came to Washington during the age of political giants. Hale Boggs, a prominent congressman from Louisiana, was the prot#233;g#233; of Sam Rayburn and close friends with John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson. When Boggs died in a plane crash, he was succeeded by his widow, Lindy, a political power in her own right. Their son, Tommy Boggs, is one of the capital's most influential lobbyists, and their daughter, Cokie Roberts, is a distinguished member of the Washington press corps.
  • Real-estate developer Morris Cafritz changed the physical face of the city, giving form to Washington's new downtown, centered along K Street, which would become the center of activity for lobbyists and power brokers. His wife, Gwen, a legendary socialite, hosted the city's most exclusive parties, bringing together eminent politicians, jurists, and diplomats into a self-conscious elite.
  • Julius Hobson Sr. was a leading black activist in the first black-majority city in America. A brilliant and imaginative militant during the civil rights era, he served on D.C.'s first elected city council and fought for the capital's autonomy from the federal government before his death in 1977. His son, Julius Hobson Jr., became a political figure of a contrasting sort, an insider instead of an agitator, who worked for Mayor Marion Barry and went on to become the top lobbyist at the American Medical Association.

Each family's story forms a strand of the city's single history. Their lives were entwined with those of other Washington notables -- from Eleanor Roosevelt to Lady Bird Johnson, Perle Mesta, Stokely Carmichael, J. Edgar Hoover, Tip O'Neill, Jesse Jackson, John F. Kennedy, and even a twenty-six-year-old Bill Clinton.

The Washington Century is also the behind-the-scenes biography of an intricate and ever-changing city, once a gracious capital that has become a money-driven and partisan place. Solomon's ingenious narrative, written with the pace and sense of a novel, is full of quirky moments and unforgettable characters, both familiar and unfamiliar to the American public, who made a sleepy, southern town into the soul of a nation. Compulsively readable, as enlightening as it is entertaining, here is a fascinating chapter of living history.

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About the Author:

Burt Solomon is a contributing editor for National Journal, where he has covered the White House and many other aspects of Washington life. In 1991 he won the Gerald R. Ford Prize for Distinguished Reporting on the Presidency. He is also the author of the acclaimed Where They Ain't, a history of baseball in the 1890s. He lives with his wife and children inside the Beltway.

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