Arthur A. King

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*Minor edits made since the initial printing of this profile in the mid-1980s. bpf

In November 1966, Arthur A. King was a single black candidate in an election for representatives to the Maryland General Assembly from Prince George’s County. His candidacy was of historic proportions in its significance to county history. Not since the early 1900s had a black politician’s influence and activity been so important. Neither William Beckett in the 1880s, William Watkins of the 1890s, nor Jeremiah Hawkins of the early 1900s were able to successfully overcome racial barriers in local politics.

Arthur King won his election of November 1966 and became the first black person from Prince George’s County elected to the Maryland General Assembly. Of is victory, Martha Angle of the Washington Post wrote: “Among the winners in the 2nd District House of Delegates race was Arthur A. King, the first Negro ever sent to the legislature by Prince George’s County voters. He placed third among the seven Democratic victors in his race.”

An independent thinker, a scholar, scientist, businessperson, lawyer and politician, Arthur A. King would open the doors to black political activity in Prince George’s County. His victory was the culmination of those efforts begun in March 1870, when black men began active participation in politics in Prince George’s County.

However, the road was not easy in a county that up until that time did not allow equal political participation for its black residents.

Arthur A. King was born on July 8, 1931, in Beltsville, Maryland. He was the son of Eugene and Hester V. King. His mother, Hester, was the founding president of the Prince George’s County Chapter of the National Association of the Advancement of Colored People.

A graduate of the Prince George’s County public schools, King went on to receive a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Maryland Eastern Shore in 1952. King received a Master of Science degree in Tropical Animal Husbandry from the College of the West Indies in Trinidad. The consummate intellectual and scholar went on to attend Catholic University’s Law School. He received his law degree in 1973.

As a scientist, King, along with his brothers Julius, Eugene, and James, formed JEJA Inc. As a privately-owned family corporation, JEJA, Inc. was a primate farm and laboratory. It provided medical science research groups with conditioned monkeys, baboons, and chimpanzees for experimental purposes and immunology, toxicology, neuropsychiatry, radiation biology, drug testing, the production of vaccines, and the space program.

In a 1966 article for Ebony Magazine, King said, “Our company operates under two systems. One is simply to condition the animals for research by ridding them of diseases and maladies caused by removal from their natural habitat. The second system is to condition the animal and board it at the farm for our own projects.”

With the establishment of his family business, politics became the next frontier for King. Upon his election to the General Assembly, King became a force in the political arena of the times. It was a period in which a duly elected black politician was a new phenomenon in the county.

In a 1972 article in the Washington Post, reporter Richard Cohen authored a story on private Democratic patronage sessions in the county. In his article Cohen wrote: “The county’s top democrats—members of the County Council and Democratic Central Committee, senators, delegates and the Maryland Secretary of State—gather for breakfast every other Monday in an effort to speak with one voice on the question of political appointments.” In the article, Delegate King said, “he never heard of them and had never been invited.”

In March 1 972, the Washington Post reported on efforts by black lawmakers in Maryland to develop a sense of unity on issues affecting the black community. Leading this effort was State Senator Clarence Mitchell III, Annapolis Delegate Aris Allen, and Arthur King. The article recounts the difficulties, the disagreements, and the need for unity at a time when the real black political empowerment was a possibility. King spoke of the need for increased funding for black colleges, increased awarding of state contracts to black businesspeople, and increased employment opportunities.

By 1974, Arthur King was ready to move from Delegate to State Senator. To that extent, he entered his name in as a candidate to the State Senate in the 25th Legislative District.

In a Washington Post article dated March 24, 1974, reporter Harold J. Logan described Arthur King as a “maverick Democrat” and King’s opponent, Tommie Broadwater, as a “self-described Democratic Party loyalist.”

The creation of the 25th Legislative District was the result of a court-approved redistricting plan. The 25th district encompassed Glenarden, Fairmount Heights, Kentland, Columbia Park, Palmer Park, Dodge Park, North Brentwood, Brentwood, Colmar Manor, Cottage City, Mount Ranier, Seat Pleasant, parts of Cheverly and Bladensburg. At the time, it was estimated that Black people comprised almost 70 percent of the 90,000 residents of the 25th District.

In June 1974, Washington Post reporter Harold Logan authored an article on black support for the candidacy of Arthur King to the State Senate. However, reporter Logan noted that candidate Tommie Broadwater would probably receive the support of the Democratic Blue-Ribbon Committee which selected a slate of candidates for the party to endorse.

On September 12, 1974, the Washington Post reported the primary returns. With seventeen precincts in the 25th district reporting, Tommie Broadwater had defeated Delegate Arthur King in his bid to a seat in the State Senate. Broadwater received 3,275 votes and King received 1,275 votes.

Not since Jeremiah Hawkins of North Brentwood had a black politician forged the ground that Arthur King did. Unlike the southern states during Reconstruction, no black politician was ever elected to a political office above the mayoral level of local black incorporated towns. To do so, like Jeremiah Hawkins, one had to be gutsy, outspoken, articulate, and willing. It was not a role that county politicians were used to seeing in black men. To that extent, Arthur A. King achieved the things that black politicians of the past paved the way for him to do. He was a pioneer.

Sources:

The Evening Star, November 9, 1966. “Democrats in Prince George’s Win All Races for Legislature.”

NAACP 50th Anniversary and First Annual Humanitarian Awards Dinner Program, Prince George’s County Chapter, October 25th, 1985

The Washington Post, January 4, 1972, “Top Democrats Dine, Decide Patronage Sessions in Prince George’s”

The Washington Post, March 25, 1974, “2 Seek Seat in Predominantly Black District”

The Washington Post, June 25, 1974, “Prince George’s Group Endorses Black Candidate”

Maryland Manual, 1973-1974 Edition

Ebony Magazine