Site of the first rural chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Tinner Hill is named for Charles and Mary Tinner, an African-American couple who bought land there in the late 1800s. Their son Joseph Tinner organized the Colored Citizens Protective League (CCPL) in 1915, in response to the passage of a local law mandating residential segregation.
With the help of Dr. Edwin B. Henderson, another local resident, Tinner mounted a letter-writing campaign and filed a lawsuit against the city seeking to block the ordinance. Dr. Henderson requested a charter for a local branch of the NAACP, which was mounting a charge against Pres. Woodrow Wilson’s segregation of the federal government. The sustained pressure from African-American citizens prevented the Falls Church town council from enforcing the segregation ordinance, and in 1917 the U.S. Supreme Court nullified state laws making residential segregation legal.
Tinner became the first president of the Falls Church NAACP, and over the next 50 years he and Henderson spearheaded civil rights activities that set precedents for the rural South. African-Americans in Falls Church fought for a larger elementary school (1947), door-to-door postal service (1949), public sanitary sewers and water (1955), and street lights (1968). The Falls Church NAACP helped organized other rural branches in Arlington, Fauquier, Prince William, and Loundon counties.
In 1999, the Tinner Hill Heritage Foundation erected a fifteen-foot pink granite archway memorializing the founders of the Falls Church N.A.A.C.P. The design of the monument, by local artist John Ballou, honors Tinner, a stone mason who mined pink granite at the base of the hill on his family’s farm. Tinner’s specialty was building arches. His finest arch, at Oakwood Cemetery along Leesburg Pike (Route 7) in Falls Church, was demolished to make way for a car dealership that opened in 1964.
The Tinner Hill Heritage Foundation is currently trying to rebuild the old Tinner house, a two-story wooden clapboard structure partially destroyed in 1960. An annual Tinner Hill Street Festival on the first Saturday in June commemorates the 1915 campaign against the segregation ordinance.