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.