By C.N. Staff Writer
Longtime Ward 8 activist James Bunn died Thursday, August 1, 2013. Bunn, the father of two sons and two daughters, ran Congress Heights Main Streets and the Ward 8 Business Council. He was 71, according to Doxie McCoy, a spokeswoman for Mayor Vince Gray. There was a wake on August 8th and his funeral on August 9th held at Matthew Memorial Baptist Church. Many DC residents, city officials, and family and friends attended the services to honor Mr. Bunn.
Mr. Bunn moved to the District from Baltimore in 1970 and immediately charted his own future as a budding businessman and entrepreneur. He migrated to Washington, D.C. where he married and raised his family. He has distinguished military background and continues to serve in many capacities.
Bunn has a long entrepreneurial history in the District of Columbia. When he moved to the District, he purchased a building, which later became known as the Bunn Building on Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue. He rented space to businesses in his Bunn Building on Martin Luther King Jr. Ave SE. He opened several other businesses in the working-class neighborhood of Congress Heights, such as a grocery store, carryout, and barbershop.
Bunn was a Mayor-appointed Trustee on the District of Columbia Retirement Board of Trustees. He began his term in March 20, 2012. He served as Vice Chair of the Board’s Strategic Planning Committee, and also a member of the Legislative Committee, the Investment Committee, and the Fiduciary Committee. Bunn was previously a DCRB Trustee from 1991 through 1995, when former chairman of the D.C. City Council Chair, John Wilson, appointed him.
Bunn was the Chairman of the Congress Heights Main Streets Organization, the Ward 8 Contractors Business Council, and a member of the William Lockridge Foundation. He became a business advocate and has focused on economic development in Ward 8, where he served as the Executive Director of the Ward 8 Business Council, board member of the Anacostia Economic Development Corporation, and board member of the Far SE Community Organization.
Mr. Bunn also served as an advisory neighborhood commissioner representing the former single-member district 8D02 in the Bellevue section of Ward 8 from 1987-1991. He had been involved with the following task forces: The City 20 Year Plan for St. Elizabeth (East and West Campus), St. Elizabeth Consulting Party, and the Ward 8 Transportation Task Force.
In a statement on Bunn’s death, Gray described him as “one of the finest public servants in Ward 8.” Mayor Gray will ask the D.C. Council to honor the deceased Ward 8 activist James Bunn by renaming a street after him. He announced such plans at his memorial service.
Gray’s request, if successful, would change Esther Place SE at the intersection with Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue to Bunn Street. Gray also awarded Bunn with a posthumous mayor’s medal of honor. “I don’t know who Esther was, maybe you all do,” Gray said at the ceremony at Matthews Memorial Baptist Church. “I sure as heck know who James Edward Bunn was.”
Mr. Bunn was also an associate of Mayor-for-Life-turned-Ward 8 Councilmember Marion Barry. Yesterday, Barry recalled seeing his friend at Anacostia restaurant Georgena’s earlier the week he passed. “Number one, he’s my constituent,” says Barry. “But number two, he’s my friend. So we’re going to miss him.”
D.C. Council member David Grosso (I-At Large) said that Mr. Bunn’s death is the city’s loss. “The District of Columbia and the Ward 8 community have lost a great man today,” said Grosso, 42. “His voice in the community and advocacy work has helped to spur economic development and lift the civic discourse.”
Grosso’s colleague, D.C. Council member Anita Bonds (D-At Large) agreed. “A genuine Ward 8 champion and proud Democrat, I can remember when Mr. Bunn welcomed me with open arms when I was a Ward 8 resident,” said Bonds, 68. “The District could always rely on Mr. Bunn to advocate for its hopes and concerns in the promotion of business opportunities for entrepreneurs.”
D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) said that Bunn’s death comes at a time when the projects he fought for are now coming to fruition.” I was grateful that Mr. Bunn had lived to attend the opening of the first federal building east of the Anacostia River,” said Norton, 76. “Mr. Bunn was at the opening of the Coast Guard headquarters that he helped shepherd, just as he had been one of the leading businessmen east of the river for decades.”