After graduating from the University of Texas in 1965, Carol Schwartz, born in Mississippi and raised in Midland, Texas, visited Washington, D.C. She was due to be married in Austin in January and had a job teaching special education there. After a very tough childhood, a happier, less stressful life stood before her. But things changed—with Carol doing the changing. As she puts it, “A magnetic pull drew me to D.C.” Carol began a journey that took her away from the familiar to D.C. and the dynamic world of local politics. Then a Republican in a city where Democrats made up nearly 80% of voters, she ran for Mayor and nearly beat Marion Barry in 1994 in the closest Mayoral election in the city’s history.
In Quite A Life: From Defeat to Defeat … and Back, Carol talks about growing up on the poor side of the tracks in that small West Texas town, where she was made to work starting from age eight in the family store. There were only a few Jewish families and some prejudice. Carol was often responsible, beginning at age six, for caring for her beloved older brother and only sibling Johnny, who was intellectually disabled. And sadly, she was also the target of a brilliant but full-of-rage father.
Carol describes life with her own family—her three kids and husband David, who suffered from severe depression. But despite that, he went from being a child of a limited-means family with student loans to becoming one of the more successful attorneys in a city made up of them. Depression, though, and Jack Daniels ultimately caused David’s tragic death when the children were teenagers.
Although wounded from her childhood, she leapt over ongoing insecurity and fear to run for the D.C. Board of Education in 1974, where she became an outspoken member and leader. Carol fought against the tide to help create Banneker Academic High School and usher in educational reforms 40 years ago when it was unfashionable and took lots of courage to do it—and which led to test scores increasing.
On the D.C. Council starting in 1985, she was a lone voice against bloated budgets that eventually led the city to the financial brink. Carol became an ethical watchdog in a government that too often battled corruption. Spotting government sweetheart deals, she helped root them out as a guardian of taxpayer dollars. And she spearheaded the unanimous passage of sick and safe leave for private sector workers, making D.C. the second jurisdiction in the country to have it. In doing so, she went from being a best friend of business to being viciously targeted by that community. Her passion for the city and its residents inspired her to run for Mayor several times in spite of the odds. But she picked herself up after defeat—as her tough childhood had trained her to do—and kept on … All the while she championed wins on behalf of the city and its residents in her continuing Council career.
Community responsibility has been a lifelong clarion call for Carol. She has volunteered to battle for people with HIV/AIDS and other marginalized groups, and served for nearly two decades on the Board of the Whitman-Walker Clinic, which was at the forefront of that crisis. She became the first woman president of the Metropolitan Police Boys and Girls Clubs in its 61-year history. Her volunteer work of 50 years has touched many people, animals and organizations, and continues.
Now an Independent and always a straight-shooter, Carol talks about her life with characteristic candor and her opinions with unbridled honesty—and usually with humor. As Carol says, “If you want someone to give you a sugar-coated synopsis of a life, go elsewhere. But if you want an outspoken personal autobiography—with pictures galore—that also talks about the history of D.C. since Home Rule, gives you behind-the-scenes accounts of chaotic campaigns, as well as the inner-workings of government—all rolled together—come on this ride with me.” It’s a journey of wins and defeats, and coming back with hope.