Former mayors and prominent Washington, D.C., figures spoke about Mark Plotkin’s legacy in the District during a memorial service at GW.
By Briahnna Brown
The memorial service for journalist, political commentator and George Washington University alumnus Mark Plotkin, B.A. ’69, was planned out five years ago on a napkin.
Mr. Plotkin’s close friend, D.C. Councilmember Jack Evans (D), planned the service with Mr. Plotkin during a conversation at Morton’s Steakhouse in Georgetown where Mr. Evans asked Mr. Plotkin what he should do in the event of Mr. Plotkin’s death.
So, everything from the location (Mr. Plotkin wanted the memorial service to be at GW) to the songs played during Wednesday’s memorial service in Jack Morton Auditorium was requested by Mr. Plotkin himself. Mr. Evans described Mr. Plotkin as “a true friend but a real character.”
The auditorium was filled with friends and colleagues of Mr. Plotkin on Wednesday afternoon. The stage was lined with memorabilia from Mr. Plotkin’s apartment including books, awards, press passes, his degree from GW, a bust of George Washington and T-shirt advocating for D.C. statehood, for which Mr. Plotkin was a well-known advocate.
GW President Thomas LeBlanc spoke at the service about Mr. Plotkin’s commitment to Washington, D.C., the Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award Mr. Plotkin received and the collection of papers Mr. Plotkin donated to GW last year, which includes commentaries, personal documents and an Edward R. Murrow Award for excellence in writing.
“We are grateful to have been part of Mark’s history, and we are honored to be entrusted with preserving his legacy,” Dr. LeBlanc said. “Mark’s papers will endure here at GW as Mark said he wanted.”
The stage in Jack Morton Auditorium was lined with memoribilia from Mark Plotkin's life, including photos, awards and his degree from GW.
D.C. Councilmember and former Mayor Vincent Gray (D), B.S. ’64, was a classmate of Mr. Plotkin, and the two were Tau Epsilon Phi fraternity brothers when Mr. Gray was president of the fraternity. Mr. Gray shared some memories during the service, including how Mr. Plotkin was animated and vocal during every GW basketball game. Mr. Plotkin would shout at everyone down to the opposing team’s mascot, Mr. Gray said, and elbow whoever sat next to him while sharing commentary on the game.
"He was, as some have described him, cantankerous, a character, he was absolutely relentless,” Mr. Gray said. “It all, frankly, redounded to the benefit of those of us who lived in the District of Columbia and watched him operate."
Former Mayor Sharon Pratt spoke on Mr. Plotkin’s advocacy for D.C. statehood, and how she was always amazed that someone from Chicago became consumed with the mission to bring full citizenship rights to D.C. residents and make D.C. the 51st state. Mr. Plotkin spearheaded the campaign to change the slogan on D.C. license plates to “Taxation Without Representation.”
She said it was poetic that the D.C. Council formally called for statehood during a hearing on Sept. 19 in the House of Representatives—the first of its kind in more than 20 years—and Mr. Plotkin died just three days later. Ms. Pratt said that Mr. Plotkin could be uplifting and quite irritating at the same time, but his passion was never driven by animosity or hostility—it was driven by purpose.
“We who live here and claim this as our home were blessed indeed because his all-consuming purpose was that we of the District of Columbia should one day enjoy political empowerment and political equality,” she said. “We should enjoy statehood."
Mr. Evans concluded the service by sharing how much he would miss his close friend and the moments they shared over the years, especially the regular phone calls for which Mr. Plotkin was known.
“Mark is gone, but he will live in our memories, and that's what he wanted more than anything,” Mr. Evans said. “Mark, I know you're up there, and I know your passions and all that you shared with us will remain with us forever."