Last week former Houston Congressman Craig Washington was charged with aggravated assault, a felony.
Craig, who is one of the best trial lawyers I've ever seen, was one of a group of talented young minority and liberal white politicians who came to power in Houston in the 1970s, as the result of the enfranchisement of blacks and the political upheaval of the sixties. Washington, Mickey Leland, Barbara Jordan, Ben Reyes, Fred Hofheinz, Kathy Whitmire, and Lance Lalor all represented, in their individual ways, significant change from the old days in which Houston was controlled by a small group of Downtown businessmen, who literally met in a hotel room every week to decide the city's fate.
The careers of every one of these insurgents, except for Barbara Jordan, ended at a relatively young age, often in disgrace, or at least without having achieved the great things once expected of them. In Craig's case, it was clear that his downfall was ultimately accomplished because he crossed the Downtown crowd by voting against the funding of the space station, a sacred cow in Houston. The local establishment instigated a successful primary challenge by Sheila Jackson Lee, a city council member who was notable primarily for the number of times she had run for office unsuccessfully.
In his heyday, Craig Washington was the Barack Obama of Houston: a smart attractive figure who appealed to white liberals as much as he did to African Americans. I hope that he can overcome his current difficulties.