Federal City College
Washington, District of Columbia
In its short history, most newspaper accounts of Federal City College tended to focus on the problems and issues it faced—those of politics, academic freedom, academic standards, finances, or facilities. The seal is courtesy of the University of the District of Columbia.
Federal City College grew out of a John F. Kennedy administration review of higher education in the nation’s capital. According to the University of the District of Columbia website, The Chase Commission “found a definite and compelling need for public higher education in the District of Columbia. There was a demand for instruction that was affordable, and there was an over whelming desire for learning that would enable residents to participate fully in the unique life of the city.” Congress passed the Public Education Act in 1966, creating two new colleges—Washington Technical Institute and Federal City College-- “to serve the needs of the community by directing the resources and knowledge gained through education toward the solution to urban problems.” Federal City College opened its doors in 1968. More than 6,000 persons applied for the 2,400 available places, so that admission was determined by lottery. Awarded land-grant status, F.C.C. was accredited in 1974. Enrollment reached 4,500.
But among articles decrying the problems of an open-enrollment urban college, the LA Times—Washington Post News Service (January 3, 1970) reported that there was a remarkable surge in interest in art among F.C.C. students. With limited resources (three pianos for 75 piano students and a converted warehouse for an art center, for example) enrollment had tripled in art and music courses. The article noted that the members of the F.C.C. concert band had received the formal training that allowed them to form the top dance and rock bands in the area.
After only ten years of existence, Federal City College was combined with District of Columbia Teachers College and Washington Technical Institute to form a single university unit called University of the District of Columbia., which opened in the fall of 1978
Bricks and Mortar
While seeking a permanent campus, Federal City College was housed in temporary locations around the city. One of these locations was a 1940’s federal building at the corner of E Street NW and Second Street NW. This was termed the Language Arts and Natural Sciences Building.
By the 1980’s, after it was no longer used by the college, this building was described in a UPI release as “now a fire trap crawling with rodents and roaches.” But it became a center of a contest between the Community for Creative Non-Violence—who supported its use as a homeless shelter—and the federal government. Ultimately the government promised renovations and leased the building to the C.C.N.V. for $1 a year. After a 14 million dollar renovation, the building was turned over to the city. It now houses a variety of services under the C.C.N.V. Some of these services include meals, drug and alcohol rehabilitation, health care, employment and job training, shelter for women, legal advice for homeless, and arts and education. Above all it shelters more than 1,300 homeless each night.
Team name: Panthers
Colors: Black and Gold
Federal City played varsity football from its beginning in 1969 until its merger. In eight seasons, Federal City teams enjoyed little success. The initial team had a 6-0 record against club sides. The 1976 team went 6-2. On the other hand, the 1974 and 1975 teams were a combined 4-16.
The most successful sports team from Federal City was the women’s basketball team. The Washington Basketball Blog notes that despite having no home gymnasium and limited financial support, the Pantherettes played in the national AIAW tournament. Even with a 19-3 record, they were paired with top seeded Delta State in the opening game, losing by two points.
Former Celtics star Sam Jones was hired to develop a strong men’s basketball program at F.C.C. Plagued by eligibility issues and lack of facilities, his team went 2-24. Among his players was Randolph Horton.
Randolph Horton (Courtesy of Washington Basketball Blog)