Guide to the Papers of Albert J. Headley Jr., 1945-1976

Guide to the Papers of Albert J. Headley Jr., 1945-1976

Finding Aid

Collection No. 35 (5.75 Linear ft.)
D.C. Community Archives


The papers pf Albert J. Headley were donated to Washingtoniana of the DC Public Library by Margaret S. Headley on July 9, 1991, in the memory of her husband, Albert J. Headley Jr.


A native Washingtonian, Albert J. Headley Jr. (d. 1978) was actively involved with his community throughout his life. A leader in both civic and church organizations, Headley became a “prominent community activist,” according to his obituary in The Washington Post.

Albert J. Headley Jr. was born in Southwest Washington, D.C. (c. 1905), the son of Albert J. and Gertrude Headley. His father was a well-known police officer who began duty as a bicycle officer in the Southwest area (then known as “Bloodfield”), instituted the first traffic regulations in Washington as head of the Traffic Bureau, and retired as Assistant Superintendent of Police. 

Headley Jr. graduated from Eastern High School and attended Bliss Electrical School. Employed by Potomac Electric Power Company in 1928, he rose to become power station operator. In the mid-1930s, he joined Capitol Transit Company as a claims attorney after earning his law degree from the National Law School. 

During World War II, Headley served in the Office of the Provost Marshall General of the Army Air Corps, as head of plant security in the United States. He received the Legion of Merit and the Order of the British Empire for his distinguished service. He joined the Veterans’ Administration in 1946, retiring in 1972. At the time of his retirement, he held a position with the VA Board of Appeals for Veteran Benefits.

Headley married Margaret Shireman Headley, a fellow Washingtonian, who shared his interest in church leadership, in 1947.

Around 1958, Headley became president of the Southwest Citizens Association, one of the well-established Washington, D.C. neighborhood groups. In the 1950s, the organization began to protest many of the urban renewal projects enacted by Congress.  Congress passed the Redevelopment Act in Washington, DC in 1946. This bill established the Redevelopment Land Agency and empowered the agency to assemble large tracts of land for development, but suffered from lack of funding. 

The Housing Act of 1949 and a 1954 bill that coined the term “urban renewal” provided the funding to “guarantee to every family ‘a decent home and a suitable living environment.’ ”  At this time, the Southwest, part of the original Washington City designed by Pierre L’Enfant, was home to a diverse population that included many low-income residents and a large African-American community.  Because many homes in the area were located in alleys, and some lacked indoor plumbing and electricity, Congress selected the Southwest as the test case for urban renewal. 

Boundaries of the Southwest Urban Renewal Area stretched from the Washington Channel on the east to South Capitol Street on the west, and from the Anacostia River north to the Mall and the Capitol Building (see Appendix A). The concept for the “new Southwest” included an inner city freeway that cut through the center of the neighborhood (see Appendix B), a modern shopping mall, and many apartment complexes. The decision to tear down the entire area to accomplish these goals affected 22,000 residents and numerous small businesses, churches, and schools. 

Local citizens’ and civic associations welcomed revitalization, but wanted to examine the impact of the changes on residents of the area. The Southwest Citizens’ Association pushed for open public meetings, passed resolutions concerning pending legislation, dispensed information, and set up a grievance committee that advocated citizens’ rights. Headley served several years in the late 1950s as president and remained active in the group through the 1960s.

Headley also was the Southwest’s representative to the Federation of Citizens’ Associations of the District of Columbia and the Vice-Chair of its City Planning Committee. Headley was active in St. Dominic’s parish, a member of the Holy Name Society, the St. Vincent de Paul Society, and the John Carroll Society.

Headley died of a stroke on Aug. 24, 1978.

Scope and Content Note

The papers of Albert J. Headley consist of 5.75 linear feet of materials dealing almost exclusively with the issue of urban development.  The materials span the years 1945 to 1976, with the bulk of the items dating from 1955 to 1968.  There are a few documents related to Headley’s activities in the local Catholic Church and several hand-drawn family trees.  Headley collected the majority of materials.  

Community groups such as the National Conference of Catholic Charities, Downtown Progress, Federation of Citizens’ Associations, and the Southwest Citizens’ Association’s contributed newsletters, resolutions, and correspondence. Headley also collected reports, meeting notices, legislation, and informational brochures from many government agencies, including the Government of the District of Columbia, D.C. Redevelopment Land Agency, and the Washington Zoning Revision Office.  

Other materials include: ground breaking programs, flyers, advertisements, court decisions, church programs, copies of public laws and bills, articles, public testimony, drafts, magazines, and newspaper clippings.  

Some of the topics that relate to urban renewal are: the Southwest area of D.C., the Northwest area of D.C., general issues of urban renewal in the U.S., freeway construction, housing developments, legislation, beautification, and relocation.  

Other urban issues touched upon include model school, juvenile delinquency, traffic, and public transportation.

Series Descriptions

Series I: Churches, Religious Organizations, and Personal Papers, 1959-1969 (0.25 linear feet)

This series contains Headley’s collection of materials produced by churches or religious organizations. It contains written statements, reports, press releases, building plans for new churches, articles, Crises Downtown, and working drafts of the report by the Rev. Robert G. Howes. Also in this series are a number of personal items, including programs and invitations to church services, conference registration, a treasurer’s report, and hand-drawn charts of Headley’s family tree.

The materials span the 1959 to 1969; the bulk of the items date from the early 1960s. Topics include school prayer, local diocesan business and prayer service. Urban renewal topics include relocation, building plans, and the effects of the changes on residents. The materials are arranged alphabetically by originating organization; within the folders the items are arranged chronologically.

Series II: Businesses and Organizations, 1956-1975 (0.5 linear feet)

This series holds the manuscripts and printed materials that Headley acquired from business and community organizations. It contains materials collected from several Washington, D.C.-area neighborhood groups — including the Southwest Citizens’ Association and the Federation of Citizens’ Associations—  local business organizations, political associations, and special interest groups.

The materials consist of correspondence, public testimony, resolutions, reports, flyers, advertisements, and newsletters. Topics include citizens’ rights, the right for District residents to vote in presidential elections, juvenile delinquency, city planning, zoning, development, mortgage loans, relocation, and resident grievances.

Correspondence of the Southwest Citizens’ Association is responded to by the D.C. Redevelopment Land Agency in its file located in Series III. The files of the Southwest Community Council and the Southwest Neighborhood Assembly contain some materials published jointly. Items generated after 1962 by the Washington Housing Association are found under the group’s new title: the Washington Planning and Housing Association.

The earliest materials date from 1956, the latest date from 1975. The majority of items span the years 1958 to 1965. Materials are arranged alphabetically by originating organization; within the folders the items are arranged chronologically.

Series III: Local and Federal Government, 1945-1970 (1 linear foot)

This series includes materials Headley received or collected from various local governmental agencies as well as from Congress. The government agencies range from the Department of Buildings and Grounds, the Department of Highways and Traffic, and the Public Housing Administration, to the Federal City Council, the Government of the District of Columbia, and the Board of Commissioners. Also included are the National Capital Planning Commission and the District of Columbia Redevelopment Land Agency. 

Appendix C illustrates the varied relationships between the departments that controlled the Washington, D.C. urban renewal projects.  Headley collected not only maps, brochures, notices, and reports, but also invitations, copies of bills and public laws, court decisions, fiscal statements, and surveys of both land and people. Two items, a Christmas card and a small map, did not have a statement of responsibility. Since they were clearly governmental in origination, they have been placed in an artificial group entitled “Images.” 

Responses to correspondence with the District of Columbia Redevelopment Land Agency are located in the Southwest Citizens’ Association file in Series II. The Washington Metropolitan Regional Conference changed its name in 1961 to the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments; materials can be found under both folder titles. The earliest item in the series is a copy of the first urban renewal law passed in 1945 and the last item is dated 1970.

The bulk of the items span the years 1956 to 1965.  Materials are arranged alphabetically by originating organization; within the folders the items are arranged chronologically.

Series IV: Articles on Urban Renewal, 1952-1976 (4 linear feet)

This series contains articles collected or clipped by Headley from magazines and newspapers. The articles contained within this series were written by staff writers.  agazine articles written by prominent leaders of organizations represented in the collection are filed with the organization’s materials. Magazines include Reader’s Digest, Time, and Life Magazine. The majority of newspaper articles were clipped from The Washington Post, the Washington Times, and the Washington Star.

Headley began his scrapbooks in 1952 and continued until 1976. Articles cover urban renewal projects both in the District of Columbia and in other cities. The magazines are arranged alphabetically and then chronologically. The newspaper clippings are roughly chronological, although Headley rearranged some items published within days of each other in order to paste them on a page.  It was assumed that undated items were appropriately placed by date when glued on the page.

Related Materials

Washingtoniana houses the following collections that concern the Washington Urban Renewal process:
  • The Washington Housing Association, 1950-1963
  • Emergency Committee on the Transportation Crisis, 1960s-1970s
  • Adams Morgan Better Neighborhood Conference/Hollyday House papers, 1950s-1960s
  • Downtown Progress, 1960s-1970s
  • D.C. Federation of Civic Associations, 1960-1984
Other Washington areas facing similar problems to those of the Southwest can be found in the:
  • Kane Family Papers
  • Sarah E. Ellis Papers
  • Chillum Heights Citizens’ Association
  • Ivy City-Trinidad Citizens’ Association
  • Farnsboro Tenants’ Association
  • Owen T. Curtis Photograph Collection
Collections housed in the Historical Society of the District of Columbia include:
  • Harry S. Wender Collection, 1908-1985
  • John C. Nolan, Jr. Collection, 1898-1986
  • John P. Wymer Photograph Collection, 1948-1952
  • Garnet Jex’s Bulldozer and the Rose Slide Collection, 1957-1963
The archives of several of the government agencies involved in the planning process are maintained in the D.C. Archives.  Included in these record groups are:
  • The U.S. Commission of Fine Arts
  • The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments—Information Center
  • D.C. Board of Commissioners
  • The Federal City Council
  • The D.C. Redevelopment Land Agency

Box Inventory

Series I: Churches, Religious Organizations, and Personal Papers

Box 1

  • FF 1    Archdiocesan Council of Catholic Men, 1958-1961
  • FF 2    Christ Methodist Church, nd
  • FF 3    Fifth Baptist Church, 1963-1965
  • FF 4    Genealogy Charts, nd
  • FF 5    Massachusetts Citizens for Public Prayer, 1964
  • FF 6    National Council of Catholic Men, 1960-1961
  • FF 7    Southwest Ministerial Alliance, nd
  • FF 8    St. Dominic’s Church, 1961-1968
  • FF 9    Westminster United Presbyterian Church, 1963-1968, nd

Series II: Businesses and Organizations

Box 2

  • FF 1    Applied Parking Techniques, 1975
  • FF 2    American Coalition of Patriotic Societies, 1960-1961
  • FF 3    Barney Neighborhood House, 1970s
  • FF 4    Capitol Park Housing Development, 1959, nd
  • FF 5    Citizens for Presidential Vote for the District of Columbia, 1961
  • FF 6    D.C. Federation of Civic Associations, Inc., 1960s
  • FF 7    Downtown Progress, 1960
  • FF 8    Downtown Progress, 1961
  • FF 9    Downtown Progress, 1963
  • FF 10    Downtown Progress, 1964-1975
  • FF 11    Edward J. Flynn Co., 1964
  • FF 12    First National Realty Corp., nd
  • FF 13    Human Events, 1960
  • FF 14    Junior Chamber of Commerce, 1960
  • FF 15    Kalorama Citizens’ Associations, 1962-1963
  • FF 16    Metropolitan Association of General Improvement Contractors, 1958
  • FF 17    National Association of Social Workers, Metropolitan Washington Chapter, 1956
  • FF 18    Sol Investment Co., nd
  • FF 19    Southwest Community Council, 1964-1965
  • FF 20    Southwest Community Credit Union, 1969
  • FF 21    Washington Real Estate Board, Inc., 1956

Series III: Local and Federal Government

Box 3

  • FF 1    Area M Board— D.C. Commissioner’s Youth Council, 1959, nd
  • FF 2    Buildings and Grounds, Department of, 1959
  • FF 3    Commissioners for the District of Columbia, Board of, 1955-1959
  • FF 4    Commissioners for the District of Columbia, Board of, 1961-1962
  • FF 5    D.C. Redevelopment Land Agency, 1957-1958
  • FF 6    Education, Board of, 1960
  • FF 7    Federal Courts, 1957
  • FF 8    Federal City Council, 1956
  • FF 9    Health and Welfare Council of the National Capitol Area, 1966, nd
  • FF 10    Highways and Traffic, D.C., 1957-1962
  • FF 11    Housing and Home Finance Agency, 1960-1964
  • FF 12    Images, nd
  • FF 13    Licenses and Inspections, Department of, 1960
  • FF 14    Metropolitan Police Department, 1961
  • FF 15    Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, 1962-1969
  • FF 16    More Beautiful Capitol, Committee for a, 1969
  • FF 17    National Capitol Housing Authority, 1958-1959, nd
  • FF 18    National Capitol Planning Commission, 1952-1959
  • FF 19    Public Housing Administration, 1961

Box 4

  • FF 1    Urban Renewal Legal Branch, nd
  • FF 2    Urban Renewal, Office of, 1959-1966
  • FF 3    U.S. Congress, 1945-1961
  • FF 4    Washington Metropolitan Regional Conference, 1960-1961
  • FF 5    Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority, 1970
  • FF 8    Washington Zoning Revision Office, 1955-1956
  • FF 9    Washington Zoning Revision Office, 1956
  • FF 10    Washington Zoning Revision Office, 1956

Series IV: Articles

Box 5

  • FF 1    American Home, March 1963
  • FF 2    American Motorist, January 1970
  • FF 3    Federal Bar Association, Summer 1961
  • FF 4    George Washington University Magazine, Fall 1964
  • FF 5    Harper’s Magazine, June 1961
  • FF 6    Life Magazine, February 12, 1965
  • FF 7    Reader’s Digest, March 1964-April 1965
  • FF 8    Saturday Evening Post, July 22, 1961-October 7, 1961
  • FF 9    Time: The Weekly News Magazine, October 31, 1960-May 21, 1965
  • FF 10   Washington Newspapers, Freeways and Bridges, 1952-1959
  • FF 11   Washington Newspapers, 1952-1955
  • FF 12   Washington Newspapers, 1956-1957

Box 6

  • FF 1    1957-1959
  • FF 2    1959-1960

Box 7

  • FF 1    May 1960-November 1960
  • FF 2    December 1960-June 1961
  • FF 3    July 1961-November 1961

Box 8

  • FF 1    November 1961-December 1962
  • FF 2    January 1963-January 1964

Box 9

  • FF 1    January 1964-December 1964
  • FF 2    January 1965-December 1966

Box 10

  • FF 1    January 1967-December 1969
  • FF 2    January 1970-December 1972
  • FF 3    January 1973-January 1976

Box 11

  • Miscellaneous
  • FF 1-FF 5


Box 12

Series I

  • FF 1    National Conference of Catholic Charities, 1959-1960

Series II

  • FF 2    Downtown Progress, 1962
  • FF 3    Federation of Citizens Associations, 1957-1965, nd
  • FF 4    Independent Citizens of Adams Morgan, 1963
  • FF 5    Southwest Citizens’ Association, 1957-1961, nd
  • FF 6    Southwest Displaced Persons Grievance Committee, Citizens’ Rights Council, 1960
  • FF 7    Southwest Neighborhood Assembly, 1963-1969
  • FF 8    Southwest Project, 1958-1959
  • FF 9    Washington Housing Association, 1956-1961
  • FF 10    Washington Planning and Housing Association, 1962-1963
  • FF 11    Webb and Knapp Inc., 1961, nd

Series III

  • FF 12    D.C. Redevelopment Land Agency, 1959-1963, nd
  • FF 13    Government of D.C., 1958-1967, nd
  • FF 14    National Capital Planning Commission, 1959-1962

Series IV

  • FF 15    Architectural Forum: The Magazine of Building, January 1956

Prepared by Leroy Graham, October 1991
Revised by Anne L. Foster, April 1995
Revised by Ryan P. Semmes, July 2006

DC Public Library, Special Collections
DC Community Archives
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Washington, D.C.  20001

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