We know D.C. Get our free newsletter to stay in the know.
Lawrence Guyot, who died in November at 73, was never elected mayor of the District of Columbia like Marion Barry. He never became a kingmaker on the level of Barry’s right-hand man, Ivanhoe Donaldson. Nor did he ever preside over the District’s legislative chamber, as John Wilson did. And he was hardly shy about clashing with Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton. Guyot never reached the political heights of these people—alongside whom he helped bring the message of the civil rights movement north, to the federal district—but the man had too much fight to be corralled into one measly elected position. Guyot’s ferocious activism is all over today’s mostly self-sufficient Washington. He virulently opposed the financial control board, which he called the “the slave board,” until its dissolution in 2001. Guyot broke from other African-American leaders on same-sex marriage, saying in 2009 that “you either want liberty for everyone, or you want liberty for nongays.” Instead of the pedestals provided to his cohorts, Guyot spent his time in politics at work for the city’s residents, whether that was as a zealous advisory neighborhood commissioner, at the D.C. Department of Human Services, or while arguing for stronger development of his LeDroit Park neighborhood. No, Guyot might not have been the most glamorous Washington figure of his time. But for a man who has been eulogized as an unsung Civil Rights hero, that seems rather fitting.