Ralph Collins (right), shown here with his wife, created the Friendly Cab Company when he recognized that residents of their Green Valley community needed reliable transportation to the hospital. (Source: Collins family photo)

Friendly Cab Stand


In the 1940s, Arlington, Virginia, was deeply entrenched in Jim Crow segregation, manifesting discrimination against African-Americans in eating establishments, businesses, recreation facilities, and even medical care. Arlington Hospital, by 1944, boasted a diverse medical staff of 115 physicians, including several women and at least four African-Americans. However, the hospital maintained segregated wards, limiting services available to black patients, and imposing restrictions such as barring African American mothers from the maternity ward, compelling them to travel to hospitals in Washington, D.C., or Alexandria for childbirth.Amid these challenges, Ralph Collins recognized the pressing need for transportation solutions to assist black residents in reaching hospitals. 

In 1947, he founded the Friendly Cab Company, addressing the transportation void that arose due to racial restrictions on accessing medical facilities in Arlington. While originally a non-radio company using Chryslers and employing off-duty Black firemen as drivers, the company soon evolved into a radio-dispatched service. Beyond catering to Freedmen’s Hospital, Friendly Cab Company provided transportation to various destinations across the region, emphasizing its vital role in overcoming racial barriers. Ralph Collins, a visionary entrepreneur, expanded his endeavors to include Friendly Restaurant, Friendly Hair Salon, and ventures in ice and coal sales. Tied closely to the community, Collins demonstrated innovation and commitment by contributing to local churches and softball teams. 

Today, the Friendly Cab Company remains a family-owned business, with the Collins family continuing its legacy. Despite changes in leadership over the years, the company's enduring preference among customers reflects its historical significance in serving Arlington's African American community during a challenging period of racial inequality.

Excerpted from Boundary Stones Weta's Local History Website.