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Albert J. Headley, Jr. Papers

Identifier: 035

Scope and Contents

The papers of Albert J. Headley, Jr. consist of materials dealing almost exclusively with the issue of urban development. The materials span the years 1945 to 1976, with the bulk of the items dating from 1955 to 1968. There are a few documents related to Headley, Jr.’s activities in the local Catholic Church and several hand-drawn family trees. Headley, Jr. collected the majority of materials. Community groups such as the National Conference of Catholic Charities, Downtown Progress, Federation of Citizens’ Associations, and the Southwest Citizens Association’s contributed newsletters, resolutions, and correspondence. Headley, Jr. also collected reports, meeting notices, legislation, and informational brochures from many government agencies including the Government of the District of Columbia, D.C. Redevelopment Land Agency, and the Washington Zoning Revision Office. Other materials include: groundbreaking programs, flyers, advertisements, court decisions, church programs, copies of public laws and bills, articles, public testimony, drafts, magazines, and newspaper clippings. Some of the topics that relate to urban renewal are: the Northwest and Southwest quadrants of DC, general issues of urban renewal in the U.S., freeway construction, housing developments, legislation, beautification, and relocation. Other urban issues touched upon include model schools, juvenile delinquency, traffic, and public transportation.


  • Creation: 1945-1976


Language of Materials


Conditions Governing Access

There are no restrictions to accessing this collection.

Conditions Governing Use

DC Public Library holds copyright to the Albert J. Headley, Jr. Papers. Noncommerical use is permitted. Please contact with questions.

Biographical / Historical

A native Washingtonian, Albert J. Headley, Jr. was actively involved with his community throughout his life. A leader in both civic and church organizations, Headley, Jr. became a “prominent community activist,” according to his obituary in the Washington Post. Albert J. Headley, Jr., was born in about 1905 in Southwest Washington, D,C., the son of Albert J. and Gertrude Headley.. His father was a well-known police officer who began duty as a bicycle officer in the Southwest area (then known as “Bloodfield”), instituted the first traffic regulations in Washington as head of the Traffic Bureau, and retired as Assistant Superintendent of Police. Headley, Jr., graduated from Eastern High School and attended Bliss Electrical School. Employed by the Potomac Electric Power Company in 1928, he rose to become a power station operator. In the mid-1930s he joined the Capital Transit Company as a claims attorney after earning his law degree from the National Law School. During World War II, Headley, Jr. served in the Office of the Provost Marshal General of the Army Air Corps as head of plant security in the United States. He received the Legion of Merit and the Order of the British Empire for his distinguished service. He joined the Veterans Administration (VA) in 1946, and retired in 1972. At the time of his retirement, he held a position with the VA’s Board of Appeals for Veteran Benefits. Headley, Jr. married Margaret Shireman Headley, a fellow Washingtonian who shared his interest in church leadership, in 1947.

Headley, Jr. also was the Southwest, D.C. representative to the Federation of Citizens’ Associations of the District of Columbia and the Vice-Chair of its City Planning Committee. Headley, Jr. was active in the St. Dominic Church, a member of the Holy Name Society, St. Vincent de Paul Society, and John Carroll Society. Headley, Jr. died of a stroke on August 24, 1978.

Barnes, William Robert. “The Origins of Urban Renewal: The Public Housing Controversy and the Emergence of a Redevelopment Program in the District of Columbia, 1942-1949.” Unpublished Ph. D. dissertation, Syracuse University, August 1977, p. 2.


5.75 Linear feet

12 Boxes


Series 1: Churches, Religious Organizations, and Personal Papers, 1959-1969 (0.25 linear feet) This Series contains Headley, Jr.’s collection of materials produced by churches or religious organizations. It contains written statements, reports, press releases, building plans for new churches, articles, Crises Downtown, and working drafts of the report by the Reverend Robert G. Howes. Also in this series are a number of personal items, including programs and invitations to church services, conference registration, a treasurer’s report, and hand-drawn charts of Headley, Jr.’s family tree. The materials span the period 1959 to 1969; the bulk of the items date from the early 1960’s. Topics include school prayer, local diocesan business, and prayer service. Urban renewal topics include relocation, building plans, and the effects of the changes on residents. The materials are arranged alphabetically by originating organization; within the folders the items are arranged chronologically.

Series 2: Businesses and Organizations, 1956-1975 (0.5 linear feet) This Series holds the manuscripts and printed materials that Headley, Jr. acquired from business and community organizations. It contains materials collected from several Washington, D.C. area neighborhood groups—including the Southwest Citizens’ Association and the Federation of Citizens’ Associations—local business organizations, political associations, and special interest groups. The materials consist of correspondence, public testimony, resolutions, reports, flyers, advertisements, and newsletters. Topics include citizens’ rights, the right for District residents to vote in Presidential elections, juvenile delinquency, city planning, zoning, development, mortgage loans, relocation, and resident grievances. Correspondence of the Southwest Citizens’ Association is responded to by the DC Redevelopment Land Agency in its file located in Series III. The files of the Southwest Community Council and the Southwest Neighborhood Assembly contain some materials published jointly. Items generated after 1962 by the Washington Housing Association are found under the group’s new title: the Washington Planning and Housing Association. The earliest materials date from 1956, the latest date from 1975. The majority of items span the years 1958 to 1965. Materials are arranged alphabetically by originating organization; within the folders the items are arranged chronologically.

Series 3: Local and Federal Government, 1945-1970 (1 linear foot) This Series includes materials Headley, Jr. received or collected from various local governmental agencies as well as from the United States Congress. The government agencies range from the Department of Buildings and Grounds, the Department of Highways and Traffic, and the Public Housing Administration, to the Federal City Council, the Government of the District of Columbia, and the Board of Commissioners. Also included are the National Capital Planning Commission and the District of Columbia Redevelopment Land Agency. Appendix C illustrates the varied relationships between the departments that controlled the Washington, DC urban renewal projects. Headley, Jr. collected not only maps, brochures, notices, and reports, but also invitations, copies of bills and public laws, court decisions, fiscal statements, and surveys of both land and people. Two items, a Christmas card and a small map, did not have a statement of responsibility. Since they were clearly governmental in origination, they have been placed in an artificial group entitled “Images.” Responses to correspondence with the District of Columbia Redevelopment Land Agency are located in the Southwest Citizens’ Association file in Series II. The Washington Metropolitan Regional Conference changed its name in 1961 to the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments; materials can be found under both folder titles. The earliest item in the series is a copy of the first urban renewal law passed in 1945 and the last item is dated 1970. The bulk of the items span the years 1956 to 1965. Materials are arranged alphabetically by originating organization; within the folders the items are arranged chronologically.

Series 4: Articles on Urban Renewal, 1952-1976 (4 linear feet) This Series contains articles collected or clipped by Headley, Jr. from magazines and newspapers. The articles contained within this series were written by staff writers. Magazine articles written by prominent leaders of organizations represented in the collection are filed with the organization’s materials. Magazines include Reader’s Digest, Time, and Life Magazine. The majority of newspaper articles were clipped from the Washington Post, the Washington Times, and the Washington Star. Headley, Jr. began his scrapbooks in 1952 and continued until 1976. Articles cover urban renewal projects both in the District of Columbia and in other cities. The magazines are arranged alphabetically and then chronologically. The newspaper clippings are roughly chronological, although Headley, Jr. rearranged some items published within days of each other in order to paste them on a page. It was assumed that undated items were appropriately placed by date when glued on the page.

Custodial History

The papers of Albert J. Headley were donated to the DC Public Library by Margaret S. Headley on July 9, 1991, in the memory of her husband, Albert J. Headley, Jr.

Related Materials

Collection 006: Washington Housing Association Records (1953-1961)
Collection 018: Adams Morgan Better Neighborhood Conference/Hollyday House Records 1930-1962
Collection 025: Downtown Progress Records (1960-1977)
Collection 027: DC Federation of Civic Associations Records (1960-1979)
Collection 036: Emergency Committee on the Transportation Crisis Records (1960-1978)

Other Washington areas facing similar problems to those in Southwest, DC can be found in the:
Collection 008: Edward A. Kane Papers (1953-1979)
Collection 019: Sarah E. Ellis Papers (1945-1979)
Collection 020: Ivy City-Trinidad Citizens’ Association Records (1966-1983)
Collection 031: Farnsboro Tenants’ Association Records (1972-1978)
Collection 042: Chillum Heights Citizens’ Association (1894-1989)
Collection P007: Joseph Owen Curtis Photograph Collection (1910-1989)

Collections housed in the DC History Center at the Historical Society of Washington, D.C include:
Harry S. Wender Collection, 1908-1985
John C. Nolan, Jr. Collection, 1898-1986
John P. Wymer Photograph Collection, 1948-1952
Garnet Jex’s Bulldozer and the Rose Slide Collection, 1957-1963

The archives of several of the government agencies involved in the planning process are maintained in the DC Archives. Included in these record groups are:
The U.S. Commission of Fine Arts
The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments—Information Center
DC Board of Commissioners
The Federal City Council
The D.C. Redevelopment Land Agency

Processing Information

Standard archival processing procedures were applied to the collection when it was processed.

Albert J. Headley, Jr.
An inventory of Albert J. Headley, Jr. at DC Public Library
Finding aid prepared by Leroy Graham/Anne L. Foster/Ryan P. Semmes.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the The People's Archive, Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Library Repository

901 G Street NW
4th Floor East
Washington DC 20001