Stanley Tapscott started driving a cab in the early 1960s, when man hadn’t yet been to the moon, the Watergate was under construction and John F. Kennedy was serving out his fabled thousand days.
He’s been on the streets of Washington ever since.
“I may not be the oldest one out there, but I’m close to it,” said Tapscott, who turns 90 this month and is the city’s second-oldest cabdriver. The eldest is a year older, according to D.C. Department of For-Hire Vehicles records.
A single dad, former Navy Yard employee and chronic part-time cabdriver who took up the habit to help pay for his now-69-year-old daughter’s college education, Tapscott “bumped the curb,” as he puts it, through many of the signature events of the 20th century.
Tapscott, who is African American, met the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. during a planning meeting for the March on Washington.
“I didn’t have him in the cab, though,” Tapscott said.
Tapscott drove during the D.C. riots in 1968. At 14th and Euclid streets NW, not far from the riot’s epicenter, he pleaded with a group of young people rocking his car to let him go.
“I didn’t work too much during the riot,” he said.
He once drove a vice president but couldn’t remember which one. Even the most remarkable experiences of the past five decades can be a blur.
Now, however, a career that has spanned 10 presidencies is ending, Tapscott said. Citing competition from ride-hailing services and what he characterized as the overregulation of the cab industry, he will hang up his meter and idle the cab he owns at the end of the year.
“This used to be called a business,” he said. “They’ve taken it away from me.”
He started driving for Capital Cab in the 1970s, which he said was committed to giving rides to black people whom other companies would pass by.
“It doesn’t matter your color or how you’re dressed,” he said. “If you throw up your hand, it’s my job to pick you up.”
In 2000, already a septuagenarian, Tapscott was appointed to the District’s now-defunct taxicab commission by then-Mayor Anthony A. Williams. On and off for 16 years, when the commission was rechristened the “Department of For-Hire Vehicles,” Tapscott stood athwart the evolution of D.C. ground transportation, yelling, “Stop!”
Tapscott sued the city to stop the change to meters. He even tried to develop a zone meter that never got off the ground.
“That’s when the real change started,” Tapscott said of the switch to meters. “Ever since then, it’s been down, down, down.”
Tapscott also spoke out against regulation colors for cabs, police accused of targeting cabs for parking tickets, cabdrivers who don’t respect women and the sheer number of cabs allowed on the road — not to mention hordes of Ubers and Lyfts out there.
Jeff Schaeffer, the vice president of District cab fleet company Transco, has known Tapscott for more than 15 years. He described Tapscott as a “straightforward, industry-concerned gentleman” known for bringing different stakeholders to the table to ensure the future of the city’s cab industry. [MORE]