Politics, Parks and the Law
Oral histories are used to understand historical events, actors, and movements from the point of view of real people’s personal experiences.
Mary Cook Hackman (1911-2005) was a prolific leader in Arlington, with a decades-long career that took on multiple paths.
Hackman moved to Arlington in 1949, and quickly became involved in local civic affairs such as the desegregation of Arlington Public Schools. Over the years she also held positions including president of the Rock Springs Civic Association and later served as president of the Arlington Civic Association. She also took part in politics as a committee member for Arlingtonians for a Better County (ABC), and as a member of the 10th District Women’s Democratic Club.
Mary Cook Hackman, circa 1958.
Hackman later entered the newspaper industry, creating a rival publication to what was then Arlington’s main newspaper, the Daily Sun. This new publication was founded in 1956 by Hackman and Anne Crutcher, and early investors included County Board member David Krupsaw and local lawyer and activist Edmund Campbell (also one of the interviewers of the subsequent oral history interview). The resulting weekly newspaper was called the Arlington Citizen and was distributed via mail to subscribers. After the Arlington Citizen eventually shut down publication, Hackman wrote a weekly political column in the Northern Virginia Sun.
Narrator: Mary Cook Hackman
Interviewers: Edmund Campbell and Cas Cocklin
Date: September 28, 1992
Note: The audio for this interview is currently unavailable.
Edmund Campbell/Cas Cocklin: Mary Cook, you had no printing office, you had no printing facilities, you had no clerks, how did you get out a newspaper?
Mary Cook Hackman: We found that there was somebody over in Georgetown, a printing company, and we hired them to do the printing. I don't remember what it cost but it was quite a lot. Anne and I would go over there every Wednesday morning with all of the typewritten pages that we wanted them to fit into this newspaper and then they would work on it a while and then we would say no, we want this story over to the left or up or down or something.
EC/CC: All your copy though, that you provided them was all written on the typewriter.
MCH: Yes, it was written by Anne or me.
EC/CC: On the typewriter.
Article from the May 2, 1957, edition of the Evening Star. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.
Hackman was later one of the two original members from Arlington on the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority – a group that was authorized by the Virginia Assembly in order to oversee land purchases by local governments that would eventually become public land for regional parks. Hackman served on the Park Authority for 11 years and assisted with milestones including the purchase of the first regional park in Viriginia, in Fairfax in 1959, and early work to develop Four Mile Run as a park.
EC/CC: Any experiences that you had on the Park Authority?
MCH: One of the things that taught me a great deal was the chairman, Ira Gabrielson, who was internationally known as a conservationist. He and I, we didn't have any staff, we didn't have anybody. He and I would go to the various governing bodies and ask for money and so we were in Fairfax and he got up and went up to, the case was called and went up and stood at the podium and he was so dull and didn't seem to understand the questions. And I thought should I go stand with him and explain all of this but something told me, “No, don't do that.” So I sat and the Board voted four to three to give us what we've been asking for and I thought, “Well, I'd better drive Gabe home because he obviously isn't well.” So we got out in the parking lot and Gabe's eyes were twinkling like always and I said, "What was the matter with you in there?" and he said, "I learned long ago when you have a majority of the votes in your pocket, don't say anything interesting."
From left to right: Peggy Fisher, Dr. Kenneth Haggerty, and Northern Virginia Regional Park Board members Mary Cook Hackman and Dorothy Grotos in 1968.
However, Hackman’s career didn’t end here. Though she hadn’t attended college, she was accepted probationally to the American University School of Law to take classes. And while she wasn’t initially permitted to earn a law degree, the university offered her the certification to complete the Virginia Bar following her passage of the coursework. She later passed the courses and the bar, and was eventually awarded a law degree. After that, she opened her own law practice and practiced law for over 30 years, into her eighties.
EC/CC: You did take your Virginia Bar and passed.
EC/CC: And then opened a law office.
MCH: Yes, because nobody hired women then. So I opened my own law office.
EC/CC: You've been practicing ever since?
EC/CC: That was approximately when, when you opened that?
The goal of the Arlington Voices project is to showcase the Center for Local History’s oral history collection in a publicly accessible and shareable way.
The Arlington Public Library began collecting oral histories of long-time residents in the 1970s, and since then the scope of the collection has expanded to capture the diverse voices of Arlington’s community. In 2016, staff members and volunteers recorded many additional hours of interviews, building the collection to 575 catalogued oral histories.
To browse our list of narrators indexed by interview subject, check out our community archive. To read a full transcript of an interview, make an appointment to visit the Center for Local History located at Central Library.