My father’s name was Emmette Emmery Hunt. It was 1959. Blacks had started to move into the neighborhood. People told my father to move out while the getting was good. My father said he was in no hurry to move until he found out who he was running from, and then 2:30 one morning he found out. There was a noise in the alley he did not like. He opened his bedside desk drawer and removed his German semi-automatic that he had captured in World War II.
He went outside in his pajamas and he saw four black men, all with guns, all wearing pajamas. None had ever met. My father was the only one who had lived on the block for more than a week. They performed an impromptu identification to their mutual satisfaction. They organized a search of the block. They identified “scratches” at one basement window. They decided whoever or whatever the noises were from had decided to leave. (I would too if five armed men were looking for me.)
They then retired to the basement of one of the owners. They set their guns down, the owner broke open a bottle of whiskey and they proceeded to drink and get to know each other until the sun came up the next day. My father said that he liked the new neighbors moving in better than the ones moving out; besides anyone with a gun can’t be all bad. My father thought blacks only needed two things: to own land and to own guns.
It is my belief that that morning a civilian militia as envisioned by the Second Amendment was formed. That group of five grew to eight, then twelve, then about twenty. They knew who was sick; who was away on vacation. No kid could do mischief, without the parents being told. Property values increased 25% in one year during a time of 2% inflation. By the end of 1960 my neighborhood was 95% black. According to the FBI statistics, the area has the lowest crime rate for all of DC except for Bolling Air Force Base. It has an 85% to 90% voter turnout on election day as compared to 55% to 60% in the rich white areas “west of the park”.
My father had also said in 1943 that he thought he would live to see people walk on the moon. Americans walked on the moon in the summer of 1969. My father died in October 1969. At the funeral there were my mother’s family; people from my father’s job; and half of the neighborhood. At one point at the funeral home, all of the men of the militia (all black) stood up in single file and each one addressed my mother and then me, with the same words; “if you ever need anything; a ride, money, anything, just let me know”. And they meant it.
And in the 1980’s when my mother became very ill, they again came to help. Instead of losing a father, it was like I now had four or five fathers. I already knew years before that if my parents were not around and one of them told me anything I had better jump.
My father saw a high correlation between responsible gun ownership and responsible citizenship. He viewed people he would meet in the middle of the night wearing pajamas and carrying guns just because there might be a problem as people he could count on for any problem, and as people he would offer help to for any problem. He saw the whites moving out as people who did not care for their neighborhood. He saw the new black neighbors as people who did care for their neighborhood.
There was one more incident and introduction a month later: A young black woman who just moved in across the street chose our house (without knowing us) to run to when confronted by a white man in a Maryland car who exposed himself. My mother called the police. My father got a description of the man and car; got his gun and got in his car and started looking. He was going to make a citizen’s arrest. Well, apparently the word during this time period got out that either we were very good citizens or very crazy, because in the following 38 years I know of only two other problems: (1) a domestic argument; (2) an elderly gentleman smashed his car into a parked car while drunk (no police report—family members agreed to take his car keys away permanently and pay for damages.)
Our next door neighbor was elderly and lived alone and had no gun. But she had the block. Even if someone knew she lived alone, to cause trouble with her meant flirting with a danger greater than the prospect of being arrested in six months, namely the prospect of not getting off of the block alive. To cause trouble with the weakest meant trouble with the strongest.
While my father never found time to upgrade the wiring in our house, he did find time to rewire several of our new neighbor’s houses for free. My mother over the years gave free tutoring in remedial reading and arithmetic to many neighborhood kids. The average family moving in had three incomes (the mother worked, the father would have two jobs). Most of the new neighbors did home improvements such as brick flower beds and ornamental fences. New house prices in 1955 were $15,000. Between 1959 and 1960 prices went from $17-18,000 to $23-24,000. They are now around $120-135,000.