Don DeArmon is an award-winning freelance writer who spent 28 years on Capitol Hill working for members of the U.S. House of Representatives, followed by six years as a lobbyist representing non-profit organizations and local governments. He and Ann, a public school teacher, have four grown children and reside in Frederick, Maryland.
Don's hitchhiking experiences began as an interest in hiking and backpacking. In 1970, as a 15-year-old, he and his traveling companion, Erich Caron, backpacked over 300 miles on the Appalachian Trail. The term "thru-hiker" had not yet been invented; fewer than 100 people had hiked the entire AT. Don and Erich had planned a longer trip, but an injury cut their summer short. That successful experience motivated them to backpack in national parks in the western U.S., and hitchhiking was their means of transportation. Those cross-country trips in 1971 and 1972 — when they hitchhiked all the way to Alaska — are recounted in Keep Going. At the advanced age of 61, Don is now an AT "section hiker," and he still hitchhikes to reach the trailhead for many of his AT day-hikes.
Don was born on June 1, 1955 in Frederick, Maryland, where his father worked as a civilian employee of the U.S. Army at Ft. Detrick and his mother was a homemaker. His father was transferred to Edgewood Arsenal (later part of Aberdeen Proving Ground) in 1960, and his family moved to Bel Air, Maryland, which Don considers to be his hometown. He was educated in Harford County public schools, graduating from Bel Air High School in 1973 as class president and editor-in-chief of the school paper. Beginning with his Appalachian Trail hike in 1970, his high school summers were devoted to travel and adventure; it was in 1971 and 1972 that he took his cross-country hitchhiking trips with Erich Caron, whom he had met in Scouts.
Don's father was transferred to Rock Island Arsenal in 1973, and his parents moved to Davenport, Iowa, which coincided with Don's matriculation at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. During his four years in Chapel Hill, Don continued his hitchhiking travels, thumbing cross-country once again on his own in the summer of 1974. At Carolina, he was a member of Chi Phi fraternity, and he worked all 8 semesters and in the summers at McDonald's, as well as two semesters at the Carolina Population Center, to help with college expenses. Don spent the summer of 1975 enduring Officer Candidate School at Quantico, Virginia, for the U.S. Marine Corps, having enrolled in their Platoon Leaders Class program, but he later decided to head directly to Capitol Hill instead of being commissioned.
Shortly after graduation from UNC in 1977, Don accomplished two things in short order: in May, after an intensive door-knocking job search on Capitol Hill, he got his first job in a congressional office; in July, he married Ann Watson in Bel Air at a ceremony attended only by the two of them and his childhood minister, Rev. Richard Shreffler. It would be incorrect to say they eloped because they had been engaged since November 1976 (but it was a small wedding). Ann hailed from Winston-Salem, NC, and Don and Ann met during their UNC years at a fraternity-sorority mixer in the fall of 1975.
Don spent the next 28 years in a succession of Capitol Hill jobs, punctuated by several of his own political campaigns. He won Democratic primaries in 2000 and 2002 to become the Democratic nominee for Congress in the Sixth Congressional District of Maryland, but lost in both cases to incumbent Rep. Roscoe Bartlett.
Don with local Allegany County officials and U.S. Senator Barbara Mikulski in 2000.
In addition to short tenures for home-state Rep. Barbara Mikulski in her first term in the House, and for Rep. Les AuCoin from Portland, Oregon, Don worked 8 years for Rep. David Price (Chapel Hill and Research Triangle Park area of North Carolina), 4 years for Rep. Vic Fazio (Sacramento area of California), and 7 years for Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (Los Angeles). Between 1990 and 2005, his legislative work focused on the powerful House Appropriations Committee. His legislative accomplishments included enactment of bills he helped draft to increase food safety, to improve California flood control, to control agricultural fumigants, and to combat underage drinking.
Despite the time demands of Capitol Hill and Don's daily commute to Washington on MARC commuter trains, Don was active in the upbringing of his children. Don and Ann's children were born in 1981 (Belle), 1984 (McCamie), 1988 (Alexandra), and 1992 (John). Two of his children were born at home, and three were born with midwives providing the obstetrical care. After many years as a stay-at-home mother, Ann obtained her Master's degree and teaching certification from Hood College and teaches English Language Learners at Frederick High School, which just happens to be right across the street from the DeArmon home.
Beginning in 2006, Don retired from the federal government but remained active on Capitol Hill by working as a lobbyist on behalf of non-profit organizations and local governments. His clients ranged from community hospitals and health associations to national non-profit organizations to a major port and a small municipality. Working as a freelance writer since 2012, Don has maintained a relationship with two consulting firms, one based in Los Angeles and one based in Washington, D.C. He has delivered presentations on the congressional committee system and hearing process to groups of federal managers on behalf of The Woods Institute, and he pens a regular op-ed column in the Frederick News-Post. He is also a member of the board of advisors for the Center for American Politics and Citizenship at the University of Maryland at College Park.
Keep Going is Don's first book. He claims it will not be his last.
Belle, McCamie, Alexandra, Ann, Don, John DeArmon in 2008.