The late Calvin Woodland, Sr. was a legendary figure in Southeast Washington. He spent more than 30 years of his life keeping kids off the streets of Anacostia, which is still considered to be one of the poorest sections of the Nation’s Capital today!
I grew up on Hartford Street, S.E., where the Woodland’s lived, and was very close friends with Calvin’s youngest daughter, Bootsie. We were together so much that I became part of the family. I never knew who I would see when I went to their house. I recall seeing the late, Mayor for Life, Marion Barry, boxing great, Sugar Ray Leonard, community activist, the late Petey Green and News 4 anchorman, the late Jim Vance, all sitting in their living room on different occasions, kicking it with Calvin. I even saw boxing promoter, Don King, there one time.
Not only was I in awe of all the important people Calvin knew, I was also in awe of the passion he had for children. Every year he took carloads of the neighborhood kids to Kings Dominion, Sandy Point beach and Six Flags. He handed out Thanksgiving baskets each year to families in need. If one of the neighborhood kids got locked up, Calvin would write letters to the judge on their behalf and go to court with them.
Calvin was a mentor to hundreds of kids, and the only father figure that many of the players on his football team, the Woodland Raiders, ever knew. He had a makeshift boxing ring built on top of the hill, where he taught boys how to box and trained them to compete in his annual junior Olympic programs. His football players, cheerleaders, and boxers were honored in parades and cheered by hundreds of spectators. Calvin held annual awards banquets where he gave out trophies and jackets to team members and the cheerleaders. Those jackets were worn with pride. To this day, I have a Woodland Raider jacket hanging in my garage that I refuse to get rid of because of the Memories it holds.
In October 1999, I mailed a letter to the old Hartford Street crew suggesting we plan a surprise Tribute to Calvin to thank him for everything he’d done for us growing up. Everybody agreed and were all on board. Calvin found out about the “surprise” celebration we were planning and was so excited that he insisted the first meeting be held at his house! When we were leaving the meeting, Calvin called me to the side and said, “Thanks Linda!” I said, “Thanks for what?” He said, “You know nothing happens on Hartford Street that I don’t know about.” I said, “Um, okay, but I still don’t know what you’re talking about.” And, he said, “I know about the letter you sent, okay, and want to thank you for putting this together. It’s gonna be big!!!”
Unfortunately, Calvin did not live to see the Celebration because on April 4, 2000, he passed away at the Potomac Rehabilitation Center, in Arlington, after suffering a stroke. He was 60 years old.
Hundreds attended his funeral, including the late Father of go-go, Chuck Brown, Marion Barry, Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes-Norton, local politicians, boxing legends and promoters were all speakers.
Three months following his death, we held a Celebration of Life Banquet in Calvin’s honor at the Panorama Room and it was standing room only! Most, if not all, of the speakers at his funeral attended the spectacular event.
The following year, the Calvin Woodland SR Foundation was established to keep his legacy alive. It is committed to developing and imparting programs and services that remove the barriers that negatively impact the lives of low-income residents along with providing activities and services for the children of Ward 8 in Southeast, D.C.
On September 27, 2008, officials of the District of Columbia showed their appreciation for Calvin Woodland Sr., by renaming the street where he had lived to Calvin Woodland Sr. Place. More than 100 residents and city officials were in attendance. It was a fitting tribute to a man who had given his life to helping others in need.
May 13, 2020