Barbara Evon Whiting-Wright, 83, a retired customs law specialist for the United States Customs Service, the first black woman in the agency’s history to hold that position, passed away peacefully on Thursday, November 7, 2019, at Howard University Hospital. She succumbed to colon cancer.
She lived a full, vibrant life dedicated to family, friends, the law and advocacy - the latter with a particular and sharp focus on black girls and women.
Barbara was born on July 28, 1936, in Tabb, Virginia, the third of five children, to the late William “Boo” Henry Whiting, Sr., a waterman, and the late Mary Ellen “Mamie” Banks Whiting, a homemaker.
Barbara received her early education in York County, VA and also Brooklyn, NY and then went on to matriculate at Hampton Institute, graduating in 1957 with a degree in business administration. Later that year, she moved to Washington, DC and worked at Freedmen’s Hospital (now Howard University Hospital) in the office of the chief medical officer while attending Howard University Law School. It was there that she earned a Juris Doctorate in 1963 - the only woman in her graduating class.
Barbara began her work at the U.S. Customs Service in 1964 and remained there until her retirement in 1996. She joined the National Bar Association in 1972. That same year, the organization approved a Women Lawyers Division, and in 1974, Barbara co-founded the Greater Washington Area Chapter (GWAC) of the division and was elected as its first President. As well, Barbara was a decades-long active member of the Howard Law Alumni Association, and in 1978, incorporated the school’s Alumni Dinner Committee Scholarship Fund. During her golden years, in 2004, she joined The Moles, a national black women’s club whose motto is Enjoy Yourself; It’s Later Than You Think. She reveled in time spent with the women of The Moles and took deep delight in the friendships she made as part of the sisterhood.
Barbara loved Washington and, over many years, dedicated herself to service of her city. Among her involvements, she was appointed to the city’s Public Employee Relations Board by Mayor Marion Barry and to the committee formed to advise the mayor on the creation of the D.C. Lottery & Charitable Games Control Board, she served on the board of Southeast Neighbors, was a Big Sister, and as well, taught and mentored at the Florence Crittenton Home for pregnant teenage girls. Young people of all walks of Washington life sought career and/or life advice from Barbara. She was a trusted confidant to many. Where there was a need, Barbara provided.
Barbara’s passionate interests included gardening, baking, cooking gourmet meals, antiquing, collecting figurines, golfing and skiing. She found special joy in decorating for the holidays with her grandchildren (her favorite companions). She was a doting friend to her many pets throughout the years. Barbara was also a devoted sports fan, a season-ticket holder of the Washington Mystics beginning with their first season, and since 1971, of the Washington Redskins, faithfully attending that team’s home games, which, over the last two decades of embarrassing failure, severely tested her wry sense of humor and considerable toughness. Her heart did smile, during her recent illness, watching the Washington Nationals take the World Series (her late father was a highly regarded pitcher for the all-Negro Seaford (VA) Saints but, of course, an unyielding Dodgers fan).
Predeceased by her father, William; her mother, Mary Ellen; a sister, Christine Gloria Whiting Slade; and her brothers Sterling Lloyd Whiting and William Henry Whiting Jr., Barbara leaves to cherish her memory: her son, Jeffrey Wright of Brooklyn, NY; her grandchildren, Elijah and Juno Wright, also of Brooklyn; her sister, Naomi Whiting of Washington, D.C.; her nephew and niece Carroll Glenn Slade of Yorktown, VA and Denise Slade-Foster of San Diego, CA: her great-nieces Nikkia Slade, also of Yorktown, Dionne Foster of Seattle, WA and Christy Slade of Yorktown; one great-great-nephew, Miles Cundiff-Foster, also of Seattle; her goddaughters, Donna Lewis-Johnson of Washington D.C. and Rev. Kimberleigh Jordan, PhD of New York City, NY; and a host of other loving relatives and friends.
A funeral service will be held at 11:00 a.m. Saturday, November 16, 2019, in Howard University Law School’s Dunbarton Chapel, 2900 Van Ness St., NW, Washington, DC. Local services will be held at 11:00 a.m. Monday, November 18, 2019, in Cary's Baptist Church,1615 Carys Chapel Rd, Yorktown, VA 23693.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made in support of GWAC Foundation, Inc. ℅ Greater Washington Area Chapter of the National Bar Association, PO Box77254, Washington, DC 20013, USA.
Arrangements under the direction of Stewart Funeral Home, 4001 Benning Road, NE, Washington, DC 20019. 202-399-3600 stewartfuneralhome.com and Whiting’s Funeral Home, 7005 Pocahontas Trail, Williamsburg, VA 23185. 757-229-3011 whitingsfuneralhome.com
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