Postcard circa
Hagerstown , Maryland -- 1700 Dual Hwy (U.S. 40)

The Hagerstown Restaurant was a mid-1950s location. It was very similar to the dozens of other stand-alone locations that were operated during the era, and unremarkable except that it was the site of an international incident in 1961 involving the Charge d' Affaires of Sierre Leone!

The African diplomat, Dr. W. H. Fitzjohn and his driver had stopped at the Hagerstown Howard Johnson's Restaurant for a bite to eat in route to Pittsburgh. Needless to say they were refused service even as the Howard Johnson Company had a policy of non-discrimination. The matter was handled by the Department of State and other U.S. departments, and even involved the President. President Kennedy and other top governmental officials contacted Howard D, Johnson at his private estate in Miami where he offered a public apology. Finally Hagerstown officials and the Howard Johnson's Restaurant invited Dr. Fitzjohn to be their guest, and the individual incident was resolved. In the larger scheme of things, the Fitzjohn affair and other Route 40 discrimination incidents invloving African diplomats served to hasten the Civil Rights legislation that ended legal segregation in the United States.

Here are links to some information about the episode in our history: 1, 2, 3.


Photographs June, 2003: Courtesy of Phil Edwards
Amazingly Phil Edwards discovered that the Hagerstown Restaurant was still standing in 2003! It had been converted into a bank branch and mortgage office.