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Joy at Prince George's County Hall

Anne Bartlett

In Upper Marlboro in Prince George's County, the nation's wealthiest black jurisdiction, many lapels at the county government building yesterday sported Barack Obama buttons. A security guard and custodian flipped through of a copy of the Washington Post together. "I'm going to keep this," the guard exclaimed.

A regularly scheduled county council meeting that drew about 100 people kicked off wth a speech by chairman Samuel H. Dean (D-Mitchellville), with a montage of photos of President Elect Obama displayed on a big screen behind his head.

Dean told the crowd he "could not be more pleased by election results," and the audience broke into vigorous applause.

County Executive Jack B. Johnson (D), addressing a group of residents joining citizen committees, recalled his youth in rural South Carolina. "I'm just so excited," he said. "Yes, yes," exclaimed some of the residents.

Johnson, who grew up in rural South Carolina, said that when Obama's picture was displayed on television with the notation "the nation's 44th president," an "indescribable feeling" went through him.

"It was like someone had shocked me," he said.

Johnson, 59, remembered his childhood on Wadmalaw Island, S.C., where he had worked in the fields, attended classes in an antiquated all-black schoolhouse, and was barred from many jobs, even sdriving the local bus.

The first white South Carolinian he met, Johnson said, was in Takoma, Wash., while he was serving in the Army. "South Carolina was as divided as South Africa. It was an apartheid system...To see how everything has unfolded -- the restaurants opened up to us, the University of South Carolina started admitting black students, hspital boards now have black members, but oh, my God, the presidency says so much about how far we have come."

Johnson said he spoke Tuesday night with his daughter. The two discussed that Johnson's grandson who will turn 2 in December, will spend his earliest years knowing only a world in which the country is governed by a black president.


By Anne Bartlett  |  November 6, 2008; 9:45 AM ET
Categories:  2008 Elections , Rosalind Helderman  
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