The Wash

One smile at a time: Dupont crossing guard spotlights more than just school route safety

Thomas Tate has been brightening people’s days at the corner of New Hampshire and R Street for nearly 15 years.

His job is to keep children safe on their way to and from Ross Elementary School. But Thomas Tate is doing much more than that for the community.

Tate said he came out of retirement to work as a crossing guard after he asked his daughter to find him a part-time job to get him out of the house.

“She couldn’t have found me anything no better,” Tate said.

Tate said he tries to greet every person who crosses his path, focusing extra time on those who walk by without a smile.

He said the people that he interacts with are adding years to his life.

“I don’t consider it a job,” Tate said.

Tate said he often has people stop to take pictures with him and tell them about their lives on a daily basis. He said the connections he’s made are invaluable.

Tate said he’s always liked people and he’s been able to connect with community members from all ages and backgrounds.

“I’ve always been this type of person. It takes a person like me to deal with the public,” Tate said.

With traffic deaths spiking in the District, and 2021 being the deadliest year in over a decade, Tate’s job is more important than ever.

Though it may seem like he prioritizes greeting people on the street, at the end of the day, he’s there to protect his community.

“That is the most important part of the job. Keeping the children safe,” Tate said.

Fourth-grade student Olivia Link said she looks forward to chatting with Tate on her way to school.

“It is a nice way to start the day,” Link said.

Olivia’s mom, Alisoun Meehan said she allows her daughter to walk to school, knowing Tate is there as a check-in point.

She said she feels comforted knowing there’s a friendly face there.

“Part of the journey to get to school is to say hi to Mr. Tommy,” Meehan said.

At 82-years-old, Mr. Tate said he isn’t sure when he will retire, but he will continue to stand on the corner for as long as he can.

Mr. Tate said he feels truly blessed to have the opportunity to connect with the community and show people some kindness.

“What goes around comes around,” Tate said.


Heidi Kirk

Heidi Kirk is a Washington, D.C.-based reporter interested in covering human interest and politics. In the past, Heidi has reported for The Arkansas Traveler, Work It Daily and has held multiple broadcast television internships.

Heidi is currently a graduate student at American University, where she reports for the Investigative Reporting Workshop. She covers Dupont Circle for The Wash.

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