By Barrington M. Salmon
Special to the NNPA from the Washington Informer
WASHINGTON (NNPA) – Growing concern for the well-being of the Walter Fauntroy and his wife, Dorothy, has led a number of supporters and friends to rally around the couple in their time of need.
Fauntroy, 82, has been away in Dubai, the most populous city in the United Arab Emirates near the Persian Gulf, working on pulling together resources for some projects dear to his heart such as feeding the hungry, moving towards a green world and accomplishing world peace, said his lawyer Johnny Barnes.
Beginning March 25, Barnes said, the group, which includes E. Faye Williams of the National Congress of Black Women; Barry LeNoir of the National Black United Fund; Ward 8 Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Keith Silver; radio personality and talk show host Joe Madison; the Rev. Dexter Nutall, pastor of New Bethel Baptist Church; and Denise Rolark Barnes, publisher of the Washington Informer; have led efforts to assist Fauntroy’s family.
“We’re raising money to pay off the mortgage on the home the Fauntroys have shared for the past half-century,” said [Johnny] Barnes, who is the couple’s personal attorney. “We’re starting to raise money. There will be a series of events not just in Washington but probably all over the country.
“We’re planning to raise funds beginning with a full-page ad in The Washington Informer. We’ll continue with the use of social media, electronic address books and so on. I’ve been very encouraged by the amount of support that we’ve received already. People have just been willing to help because he’s helped so many. His help was given at great personal sacrifice. He made a lot of money in his career but gave most of it away. He was always a source as a member of Congress. He made money speaking all over the country but used it for a necessary good. He didn’t plan for a future. Some would say that’s foolhardy. It’s a fabric we see but most can’t wear.”
Fauntroy is a civil rights legend, was a confidante of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and served as a key figure in the city’s quest for autonomy and voting rights. He helped organize the historic March on Washington in 1963 and was active in the Free South Africa and anti-apartheid protests in the 1980s. While serving as D.C.’s delegate to Congress, he also pastored at New Bethel Baptist Church for many years.
In recent months, concern for him has ratcheted up with questions swirling about his whereabouts as well as his mental state.
Fauntroy’s nephew, Michael Fauntroy, recently posted this on Facebook: “I want to thank the many, many people who have reached out to me and the family in genuine friendship and concern regarding recent reports concerning the health and welfare of Rev. Walter E. Fauntroy. My uncle is a man of great faith and determination. He is also a man that has done so much for so many for so long. Whatever circumstances he faces in the winter of his life, we are confident that his great work has created a wonderful legacy that many people appreciate.
“As anyone with an 82-year-old relative traveling alone would be, we are concerned about his well-being. While we are uncertain of his current whereabouts, we remain hopeful that he is well and will return soon to his beloved District of Columbia, the city of his birth and where he built a deep reservoir of good will through a lifetime of service. We ask for his many friends to pray for him and his safe return to the District.”
Attorney Barnes, Fauntroy’s former chief of staff when he served in Congress, said he’s in touch with Fauntroy and sought to dispel a number of the rumors.
“I have had a regular stream of communication with the congressman by email, sometimes every day, and sometimes by telephone,” he said. “He sounds like the congressman to me. I’ve heard the rumors like you do but I’m a lawyer not a mental health expert. He sounds like the congressman who I worked with for 15 years and have known for more than 30.”
There have also been queries about where Fauntroy currently resides.
“I believe with all sincerity that he’s in Dubai. He has represented to me his lawyer, and his wife that he’s there,” Barnes said. “I have received packages from DHL addressed there and I have sent him packages.”
Any income Fauntroy’s receiving is coming from his pension and gifts from friends, he said. Barnes said he’s seen and heard news stories about Fauntroy’s passport being revoked by the State Department and the issuance of a bench warrant in Prince George’s County for a $50,000 bounced check.
“Based upon the indicators I have, the suspension of passport is a rumor,” Barnes explained. “He’s had three different passports: diplomatic, official and personal. He has never said to me, ‘I don’t have a passport.’ On the strength of the rumors, I checked public no-fly lists and he’s not on any of this. Homeland security has a private list. I can’t imagine him being on that no fly list. I treat that as rumor.
“He has indicated on several occasions that he’s coming home and he’s changed his mind. I don’t believe that any potential trouble he might have with would stop him from coming home. He doesn’t fear arrest. He genuinely believes he can accomplish his projects where he is. He’s a dreamer. He lives his life with the faith of a mustard seed.”