Seattle Parks and Recreation remembers Sam Smith

Sam Smith with a group from VFW in his office, May 1989. Photo courtesy of the Seattle Municipal Archives.

Sam Smith with a group from VFW in his office, May 1989.
Photo courtesy of the Seattle Municipal Archives.

In September 1998, the central portion of the I-90 lid was renamed Sam Smith Park to honor Seattle’s first African American City Councilmember.

In the course of a political career that spanned 34 years, Sam Smith served five terms in the Washington State Legislature (the second black member) and five terms on the Seattle City Council.

Smith represented the 37th district in Olympia beginning in 1958. One of his priorities in Olympia was promoting a bill that banned discrimination based on religion and race in the rental or sale of homes.

When Smith became a City Councilmember, he continued to focus on civil rights. In his first year, he successfully championed the adoption of a municipal Open Housing Law. Throughout his career, Smith also pushed for the hiring of African American police officers and firefighters, and, as the long-time chairman of the Utilities Committee, opposed the increase of power, water and garbage rates for low-income residents. He served as City Council President from 1974-1977 and again from 1986-1989, and chaired the Public Safety Committee, Housing and Human Services Committee, and the Labor Committee, in addition to Utilities.

Smith is remembered for his many efforts to promote social justice and to bridge the cultural and political gulf that separated Seattle’s black and white communities.

The I-90 lid was named for Smith based on the nominations of citizens, the Washington Black Heritage Society and the Urban League of Greater Seattle.

Sam Smith Park encompasses the largest and most central part of the I-90 lid. It has a play area for children, picnic tables and tennis courts. It is the site of Blue Dog Pond and the Urban Peace Circle, a sculpture by Seattle sculptor Gerard Tsutakawa, dedicated to children killed by gun violence in Seattle’s inner city.

Seattle Parks and Recreation remembers Powell Barnett

Powell Barnett being shown development plans by John O. Andrew, former Chair of the Board of Parks Commissioners (left), Hans A. Thompson, superintendent, Roy Lehner, designer, David Jensen Association. Photo courtesy of the Seattle Municipal Archives

Powell Barnett being shown development plans by John O. Andrew, former Chair of the Board of Parks Commissioners (left), Hans A. Thompson, former Seattle Parks and Recreation Superintendent, and Roy Lehner of the David Jensen Association in October 1970.
Photo courtesy of the Seattle Municipal Archives

The 4.4-acre park that lies between East Alder and East Jefferson streets was named for civil rights activist and community leader Powell Barnett in 1969.

Barnett’s father, an ex-slave, was recruited to work in the coal mines in Roslyn, Washington in 1889. Barnett worked in the mines as a young man, but moved to Seattle in 1906 to explore other opportunities. He worked as a sub-foreman installing street car lines and later helped build downtown hotels. He clerked for State Senator Frank Connor and served as a maintenance man at the King County Courthouse before retiring at age 71.

Barnett is remembered for his passion to improve race relations in the city. He organized the Leschi Improvement Council and became the first president in 1967, in addition to organizing the East Madison YMCA and serving as board chairman.

Barnett helped bring together different races in the YMCA and was the first African American to become a member of the once all-white Musicians Union, Local 76.

Powell Barnett Park has a children’s play area, summer wading pool, basketball hoops and tricycle maze.

Seattle Parks and Recreation remembers Dr. Blanche Seller Lavizzo

Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

This February, to commemorate Black History Month, Seattle Parks and Recreation will be honoring some of the African American men and women who helped shape our city’s history for the better. There are 16 facilities in our parks system named for these leaders and throughout the month, we’ll be telling a few of their stories on our blog.

“Quality care with dignity.” That was the Odessa Brown Children’s Clinic’s motto coined by Washington state’s first African American woman pediatrician, Dr. Blanche Seller Lavizzo. [Read more…]

Seattle Parks and Recreation invites you to explore Black History Month outdoors

The Seahawks’ Super Bowl win is dominating headlines and offers of Valentine’s Day discounts are clogging inboxes. With so much going on, it could be easy to lose sight of another important event taking place.

February is Black History Month, a time to recognize the achievements of local African American heroes and heroines. This year, Seattle Parks and Recreation invites you to celebrate by visiting one of the many parks named for Seattle’s African American leaders and learn about their contributions to the city.

Flo Ware Park, a vibrant play area for children, was named for Flo Ware, a community activist who was dedicated to social change in health care and education systems for the poor and elderly populations 

Homer Harris Park held its grand opening ceremony in 2005 to honor Dr. Harris E. Homer, a dominant athlete and physician. Homer began his athletic career at Garfield High School in the 1930s and later became an All-American football player at the University of Iowa. Because the National Football League was banning black players at the time of his graduation, Homer decided to pursue medical school and went on to become a prominent dermatologist in his hometown of Seattle.

Judge Charles M. Stokes Overlook, a beautiful green space and picnic area in the I-90 lid, honors Charles Moorehouse Stokes. Stokes was elected to the Washington legislature in 1950 and served as the first black legislator from King County. He was appointed judge in 1968 and was the first black person on the King County District Court.

Pratt Park, a neighborhood playground in central Seattle, memorializes Edwin T. Pratt, the founder of the Central Area Motivation Program and the Seattle Opportunities Industrialization Center.

Walt Hundley Playfield, a community area that includes soccer fields, tennis courts and baseball fields, was named for Walter R. Hundley, the first African American superintendent for Seattle Parks and one of the first African Americans to head a major parks and recreation department in the United States. Hundley held his position from 1977 to 1988 and was instrumental to acquiring the High Point playfield that was later named after him.

We want to hear from you! If you visit a Seattle Park this month that honors one of our African American leaders, share your photos with us! Twitter: @SeattleParks Facebook: SeattleParks

To learn more about Black History Month and for a full listing of parks and community centers honoring African Americans, visit