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ArlingtonCivic standout wins applause for lifetime of service

Civic standout wins applause for lifetime of service

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Arlington Circuit Court Chief Judge William Newman Jr. notes that he often has personal relationships with those on whom he bestows awards as president-emeritus of the Arlington Community Foundation.

But Nov. 18 provided something of a first: The award recipient was one who has been a part of his world from the very start.

“I have witnessed the work of Mrs. Ross my entire life – since I was a small boy,” Newman said as he presented her with the foundation’s Spirit of Advocacy honor during an online ceremony.

“Mrs. Ross” is Florence Ross, who was saluted for her work in the Arlington View and broader communities for generations.

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An attendee of Mount Zion Baptist Church her entire life, Mrs. Ross served as clerk of the church for 35 years, and was secretary of the Arlington View Civic Association even longer – four decades, in fact.

“I haven’t every lived anywhere else for any length of time,” she said in remarks delivered during the program.

Arlington View, on the eastern edge of Columbia Pike as it wends its way toward the Pentagon, long was one of the few communities in Arlington where African-American residents could live during Virginia’s era of segregation.

Ancestors of many of those residents, including those of Mrs. Ross herself, had been residents of Freedman’s Village, set up by the federal government to house those freed from slavery during and after the Civil War.

Even well into the 20th century, residents of the Arlington View area – known to long-time residents as Johnson’s Hill – had to put up with slights from the largely white power structure of the county.

In her remarks, Mrs. Ross related the story of the planned closure of the segregated Hoffman-Boston School, a community beacon for generations.

Elementary-schoolers from the neighborhood, including her children, were assigned to Fort Myer Elementary, located on the nearby military base but run by the Arlington school system, only to find the principal adamantly opposed to their arrival. (Hoffman-Boston later won a reprieve for several years before being shuttered, but today is back serving students from the neighborhood.)

While things are not perfect, they seem to have run in the right direction over the course of her lifetime, Mrs. Ross said at the ceremony.

“It’s been amazing to see the changes,” she said, while remarking on her admiration for young people who strive to get involved.

“You have to speak up – it does bring change,” she said. “It’ll all work out.”

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