For over 100 years, Arlington Presbyterian Church has been a place where people of vision, connected with the community, have heard and responded to the needs of our neighbors. Ronda A. Gilliam is one among many who had the courage to step beyond the comforts of the status quo to serve our neighbors.
Ronda A. Gilliam (1906-1970) resided in Arlington View, served at Ft. Myer and worked at the National Archives. In 1960, one year after the desegregation of Arlington County schools, he became the first African American member of Arlington Presbyterian Church. He served as a church Elder as well as an Elder Commissioner to the Washington City Presbytery. In 1970 Mr. Gilliam founded a clothing assistance program to serve school children and those in distress. After his passing in 1970, the Clothing Bank at APC was named in his honor. To this day, the Clothing Bank distributes thousands of clothing items each year.
His efforts in the community expanded well beyond the church. In 1965 Mr. Gilliam served as neighborhood conservation steward in his Arlington View neighborhood, working with a committee to survey and report upon his changing neighborhood and how to preserve and improve the life of its residents. In 1964 he joined with alum from the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternal organization to form the first northern Virginia chapter of the service organization, the Theta Rho Lambda. To this day the chapter supports the Ronda A. Gilliam Education Foundation. He was also a member of the Arlington Laymen's League and the D.C. Friends of Liberia.
To honor the legacy of the people of Arlington Presbyterian Church and their visionary ways, we submit the name of Gilliam Place for APAH's consideration. This represents our ongoing care and concern for our neighbors as revealed in offering our land and building for new affordable housing. Much like Gilliam, and following his example, we listened for the needs of our community and responded in a radical way. The name of this humble and dignified individual who strived to make his neighborhood better, aptly represents our legacy. Naming the building after Mr. Gilliam will continue the story of APC, a story of visionary men and women carrying on the tradition of radical willingness to trust God, woven into the history of the development of community along Columbia Pike.