US 2016 ELECTIONS
NORFOLK, Virginia: Forty-five years ago this summer, a Mrs. Jones walked into the office of the Oakdale Apartment complex near Wards Corner. The morning newspaper had carried an ad for the rental units, which were owned by Trump Management. The company president was a New York businessman, Donald Trump, according to a federal court filing.
No vacancies, the apartment manager told Mrs. Jones. A unit might come available in a month. Jones and her husband could fill out an application, if they wished.
Shortly after Mrs. Jones left the office, Ellis and Klara James entered and similarly asked about renting an apartment. The manager offered them one immediately and said they could move in the following week.
The difference between the couples: The Joneses were black, and the Jameses were white.
The July 1971 incident, described in federal court papers, was one of numerous examples of “testing” by an organized group of open-housing activists. They had been battling for years against discriminatory practices in Hampton Roads that blocked blacks and Filipinos from renting or buying homes in what some viewed as whites-only neighborhoods.
Although the federal Fair Housing Act of 1968 banned such discrimination, there was widespread resistance in southeast Virginia and many other regions of the country.
“We were trying to break the back of Jim Crow in open-housing,” remembered Ellis James, head of the independent Tidewater Fair Housing Inc., who reported the Oakdale Apartments encounter to the local FBI office.
The long-ago incident might have been forgotten except that it resurfaced in this year’s presidential campaign. The New York Times revisited the case in an August 27 report that noted the Justice Department sued Trump Management in 1973, accusing the firm of discriminating against blacks. The now Republican presidential candidate was its president and his father, Fred Trump, its chairman.
The bulk of the case involved properties in New York but included two Norfolk properties, the newspaper reported.
The second Norfolk incident, according to a filing in the housing lawsuit, involved Richard Foard, a black man assigned to Norfolk Naval Station.
Foard told the FBI he had attempted in June 1973 to rent a two-bedroom unit at Ocean Air Apartments in Ocean View after learning about it from a white man, who had just rented an apartment.
Ocean Air’s rental office declined to show Foard a model apartment and told him to come back in a month or two if he wanted to fill out an application, the court document said.
Donald Trump called the accusations in the suit “outrageous lies” in the 1973 affidavit. The Times report stated he has steadfastly denied any knowledge of discrimination at Trump properties.
“There is absolutely no merit to the allegations,” said Alan Garten, Trump’s general counsel, in an email response by the presidential campaign last week to The Pilot’s request for comment.
“This suit was brought as part of a nationwide inquiry against a number of companies, and the matter was ultimately settled without any finding of liability and without any admission of wrongdoing whatsoever,” he said.
The new reports about the past litigation come to light at the same time Trump has been attempting to persuade more blacks to vote for him, arguing he can do more to address issues affecting African Americans than Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.