Top D.C. Aide Resigns
Over Racial Rumor
Woodlee, Washington Post Staff
THE director of D.C.
Mayor Anthony A. Williams's
constituent services office resigned after
being accused of using a racial slur, the
mayor's office said yesterday.
David Howard, head of the Office
of Public Advocate, said he used the word
"niggardly" in a Jan. 15 conversation
about funding with two employees.
"I used the word 'niggardly' in
reference to my administration of a fund,"
Howard said in a written statement
yesterday. "Although the word, which is
defined as miserly, does not have any
racial connotations, I realize that staff
members present were offended by the
"I immediately apologized," Howard
said. " . . . I would never think of
making a racist remark. I regret that the
word I did use offended anyone."
When Howard, who is white, noticed the
reaction to his use of the word, he
apologized to his three-member staff,
which is made up of two blacks and another
white. It is unclear which two employees
he was addressing when he used the
Soon after the remark was uttered, the
rumor mill started churning that Howard
had used the word "nigger."
Howard said he has received numerous
telephone calls since Jan. 15 from people
in the community who had heard "I had made
a racist remark . . . [which is]
in fact unquotable here."
Dictionary of Etymology traces the
origins of "niggardly" to the 1300s and
the words nig and nigon, meaning miser, in
Middle English. It also notes possible
earlier origins in languages including Old
Icelandic, Old English and Middle High
German. There is no mention of any racial
the rumor that he had used a racial
slur "has severely compromised my
effectiveness as the District's Public
Advocate and in the best interest of my
office, I resigned," effective
Howard is the second mayoral appointee
in two weeks to quit, and his resignation
comes at a time when Williams's
administration is being bombarded with
questions regarding race relations -- his
"loyalty" to his race as well as the
diversity of his staff. Williams (D) is
black; Howard was one of four white men
Williams appointed on the first official
business day of his administration.
Five days after Williams named the
senior policy advisers, a group of
residents from east of the Anacostia River
-- many of whom had been part of the Draft
Williams Committee -- complained that the
mayor had "missed a unique opportunity" to
name someone who lives in Southeast
Washington to his personal staff. And they
questioned whether Williams would be
responsive to the predominantly black and
working-class communities of the city.
The issue of race continued to dog the
mayor the next week, when a D.C. resident
wrote an opinion piece in the Jan. 17
Washington Post questioning whether
Williams is "black enough."
Williams said that he was "confused" by
the opinion piece and that he had a track
record of helping minorities. Williams
said he recognized during his campaign
that race was creating a "great divide in
the city." He said his campaign was a
diverse coalition that represented people
across the District.
"While I'm troubled by recent news
stories concerning race -- questions about
whether I'm black enough or have too many
advisers who are not -- I understand that
they reflect a great hurt within our
city," Williams said in a written
statement last night. "I am committed to
representing all of the people of our city
and making sure my administration truly
reflects the city's diversity.
"I am particularly sensitive to the
need to include people that have felt
excluded from the political process and
governance of the city, such as residents
east of the Anacostia River.
"One thing I've learned, we will never
relieve the pain or heal a hurt if we
refuse to talk about the cause," Williams
said. "We need to get issues around race
relations out in the open."
Williams said yesterday that he
accepted Howard's resignation after
reports that Howard had made an
"inappropriate racial comment."
Howard's resignation follows that of
scheduler James Day, who left after a
Howard served as the volunteer
coordinator and office manager during
Williams's mayoral campaign, overseeing
1,600 volunteers. When Howard was
appointed to head the office that responds
to residents' complaints about services
such as trash pickup, welfare benefits and
police protection, the mayor's office put
out a brief biography that said Howard was
"often referred to as the 'glue' that
bonded everyone together." He was to be
paid $ 58,148 a year.
According to the biography, Howard
graduated from the University of Florida
with a degree in economics and has managed
several top restaurants in the
1999 The Washington Post