"Building bridges with entrepreneurship,
community action and humanitarian spirit"

Association Action to Memorialize
Wormley’s Entrepreneurial and Humanitarian Spirit,
Decency, and Commitment to Educational Values

sponsored by
The Agribusiness Council

All Rights Reserved

James Wormley’s remarkable life as a prominent 19th century entrepreneur in the nation’s capital began on January 16, 1819 in a small, two-room, brick building located on E Street near 14th in Washington, DC. Wormley was born free. His parents had come from southern Virginia in 1814. From his first job with the family’s hackney carriage business (started by his father, Peter Leigh Wormley), young James leaned skills and virtues of hard work which enabled him to rise to fame and leadership at Washington’s center stage during the Reconstruction era. Wormley’s travels and adventures – from gold mining in California, to the Court of St. James (London) to haute cuisine kitchens in Paris – propelled him to an intersection with destiny in 1877, immortalizing his name in U.S. history with the Wormley Agreement.

The Wormley Hotel
In 1871, following successful ownership of a restaurant, Wormley purchased a hotel at the southwest corner of 15th and H Streets NW, hear the White House (with help from U.S. Representative Samuel J. Hooper (R-MA)). The Wormley Hotel quickly became a favorite for Washington’s rich and famous, attracted by "well-managed rooms," renowned cuisine (turtle soup and seafood hauled in daily from the Chesapeake Bay) and amenities such as the first hotel elevator (later first hotel telephone) in the city. Wormley had learned his finely tuned service skills through stints as a steward (Metropolitan Club) and caterer.

During the drawn-out, disputed Election of 1876, Wormley’s Hotel became the venue for the secret meetings between emissaries from the Hayes and Tilden camps which culminated on February 26, 1877 in the Wormley Agreement which settled the stalemate in favor of Hayes.

The so-called "bargain" comprised a series of political trades, the most important of which led to the withdrawal of federal troops from three contested states (Florida, South Carolina, Louisiana) and a tilt by southern Democrats for Rutherford B. Hayes (R) in exchange for "control of their states affairs," signaling the end of the Reconstruction era.

Beyond Cynicism to Role Model
Wormley continued to operate his hotel after it was written into history. He also expanded his activities, purchasing other properties, registering patents and inspiring his community by example. Wormley’s friendship with politicians and city business leaders, including U.S. Senator Charles Sumner (R-MA), made him an effective activist for black public education.

The first taxpayer-formed Negro school in the District of Columbia resulted from a resolution Wormley authored with help from congressional friends. Wormley died in Boston on October 18, 1884 after an operation for kidney stones at Massachusetts General Hospital.

At this juncture of American history, with diversity and family virtues under pressure, James Wormley’s decency, honesty and humanitarianism inspire. As a family man whose four children became college-educated and nurtured larger families of extremely productive citizens, Wormley’s role as a strong father and model for fundamental values against a backdrop of adversity cannot be overstated. His lion-like character shines like a beacon from one of our nation’s bleakest periods of cynical betrayal. Wormley’s enlightened entrepreneurship and activist citizenship serves as a reminder that hard work and character can build a strong foundation for generations.

Recent Developments
The newly established JWRP successfully conducted a series of memorial events honoring Wormley on February 26, 2001 (anniversary of Wormley Agreement) at the American Bar Association (ABA) and the Charles Sumner School and Museum, and the Old Ebbitt Grill (once owned by Charles E. Gibbs, who later purchased the Wormley Hotel in 1893).

WORMLEY REMEMBERED - Freida Wormley reads lobby poster in the American Bar Association building with ABA's Robert Evans (right) and Nick Hollis (left) of ABC.

ABC president Nick Hollis and Mrs. Frieda Wormley addressed a packed conference at the ABA which sparked interest in the national media (see David Shribman’s article in The Boston Globe, 2/27/01, p.A3). The ABA Washington office stands on the exact site of the old Wormley Hotel! A number of businesses in the neighborhood, including First Union Bank NA and Clyde’s Restaurants provided support.

Links with Black Education
On July 21, 1871 James Wormley’s resolution for black education led to the creation of the Wormley School in Georgetown at 34th and Prospect Streets (now owned by Georgetown University). As an early activist for publicly-support Negro education in the United States, James Wormley merits more recognition. Similarly, the Wormley School, like the Charles Sumner School, deserves to be renovated and preserved for future generations in symbolic recognition of Wormley’s sacrifices and crusades for a better America through inspired leadership and community action.

The James Wormley Recognition Project (JWRP) provides a framework and a platform to chronicle and memorialize Wormley’s contributions to the nation’s history, his intersection with destiny (Wormley Agreement), and related issues of Reconstruction and reconciliation (i.e., black education/suffrage). Programs are blended with ongoing efforts of other ABC-sponsored projects aimed at stimulating discussion/good citizenship/civic interest among young people as the program/lecture series is nonpartisan in nature.

The Wormley project is generating positive insights and inspiration for individuals and institutions interested in elevating the legacy of James Wormley during the aftermath of the contested Election 2000 and the tumultuous run-up to Election of 2020 (also see "The Last Time A Presidential Election Nearly Tore the Country Apart," New York Magazine/Intelligencer, September 7, 2020, by Ed Kilgore).

Method of Operation
The James Wormley Recognition Project (WJRP) is achieving its objectives through a lecture series, research and memoranda/report circulation focused on the issues, life and times of Wormley with links to the present. Research will be coordinated with D.C. Public Schools, universities and leading Wormley scholars where Wormley’s life is still remembered – and celebrated. The program is supervised by a trained historian with advanced degree education and public policy experience.

The JWRP enlists financial and research support from individuals, foundations, businesses and other institutions known to be interested in James Wormley and/or promoting entrepreneurial skills, family values and community action/education he espoused.  Partial support for this web site and educational outreach to inner city youth has been provided through a grant from the Humanities Council of Washington, DC.



Contributions to the James Wormley Recognition Project (JWRP)
are tax-deductible under IRS Code 501(c)(3) with checks payable to:

The Agribusiness Council - JWRP
P.O. Box 5565
Washington DC 20016

Questions may be directed to the project secretariat:

Tel: (202) 296-4563



"Building Bridges with Entrepreneurship, Community Action and Humanitarian Spirit"