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Seattle Parks and Recreation

Inspired by Black History Month

General Parks Information: (206) 684-4075 | Contact Us

February is Black History Month, and a great time to recognize the many contributions African Americans have made to the history and development of the city and Seattle Parks and Recreation.

Homer Harris Park, at 2401 E. Howell St., is named after one of Seattles most respected athletes and physicians, Dr. Homer E. Harris. Harris starred for Garfield High Schools football and track teams in the early 1930s and went on to earn All-American honors as a football player at the University of Iowa. Because the National Football League barred African American players, Harris chose to attend medical school in Nashville, Tennessee, and when he returned to Seattle, he quickly became one of the citys most prominent and beloved dermatologists.

Seattle Parks and Recreation bought the land for a Central Area park named after Dr. Harris with an unprecedented gift of $1.3 million from an anonymous donor. In partnership with the Seattle Parks Foundation, Parks is developed the site into a neighborhood park with paths, greenery and a childrens play area.

Also in Southeast Seattle, John C. Little, Sr. Park. Located at 37th Ave S, between S. Holly St. and S. Myrtle St., the park is named after the late Park Board member and champion of youth, John C. Little, Sr. Through a long career and a lifetime of community service, John created and developed opportunities for young people through the formation of the Central Area Youth Association, the 4-H program and other programs.

An annual award in John C. Little, Sr.'s honor, The John C. Little, Sr. 'Spirit' Award, recognizes a Seattle Parks and Recreation employee who exemplifies John's service to youth and community.

The celebration of Black History Month would not be complete without mention of the Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute and its namesake, famed African American writer Langston Hughes. Mr. Hughes was a brilliant poet, novelist, playwright, and essayist during the Harlem Renaissance in New York City.

The African American legacy at Seattle Parks and Recreation is a lasting one. The former leader of the department, Superintendent Walter R. Hundley, was a longtime City employee who in 1977 became the first African American to head a large parks and recreation department in the country. Prior to his superintendent role, Walt directed the Citys Office of Management and Budget. A graduate of Yale University, Walt came to Seattle to become a minister, but fortunately for us, he decided on a career in public service. He served as Superintendent until 1988. After retirement, he also served on our Board of Park Commissioners.

The Department was also lucky to have the services of Willis L. Ball, a recreation manager from the mid-1960s until 1987. Willis was the first African American graduate of Western Washington University in Bellingham, where he starred on the football team. In his honor, the Department established a scholarship and softball tournament, which continues to this day. Many other staff members have distinguished themselves in Parks department management and recreation work and have become leaders in the local African American community.

In addition to staff contributions, numerous Seattle parks are named after prominent African Americans. Most of these parks are located in Seattles Central Area. Among them are:

Al Larkins Park: after the Seattle teacher and jazz musician

Cayton Corner: Cayton Corner Park, at 19th Ave. and E Madison St, is named after a prominent newspaper publisher. The Seattle Republic, a newspaper directed at both white and black readers, at one point had the second largest circulation in Seattle. Horace Cayton,an ex-slave, came to Seattle in the late 1880s. The Caytons were a very prominent family in the African American community, promoting education and making significant contributions to the development of our city and its ethnic populations. This park is currently being developed. Click here for more details.

Dr. Blanche Lavizzo Park and Water Play Area: after a noted local physician and first medical director of Odessa Brown Clinic

Edwin T. Pratt Park: after the slain Seattle civil rights leader and executive director of the Seattle Urban League

Flo Ware Park: after the Central Area activist dedicated to social change in the education, health care, care for the elderly and jobs for the poor

Judge Charles M. Stokes Overlook: in honor of the late judge who was the first African American elected to the State Legislature from King County and the first African American elected to Seattle District Court

Langston Hughes Performing Arts Center: after one of the greatest American poets of the 20th century.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Park: named after the internationally renowned civil rights leader

Medgar Evers Swimming Pool: after the renowned Mississippi-based civil rights leader

Powell Barnett Park: after the pioneering black coal miner and community leader who first came to Seattle in 1906

Prentis I. Frazier Park: after the successful businessman and community newspaper publisher who helped develop African American businesses in Seattle

Sam Smith Park: after the long-time state representative and first black person elected to the Seattle City Council

Walt Hundley Playfield: after former Superintendant of Seattle Parks and Recreation the first African American to head a large parks and recreation department in the country

William Grose Park: after the black pioneer hotelier and restaurateur who arrived in Seattle soon after Seattle founders landed at Alki

Updated September 30, 2015

Homer Harris

Flo Ware
Flo Ware
Photo courtesy of
Friends of Flo Ware ParkThis link will take you off the City of Seattle web site

John C. Little, Sr.

Dr. Blanche Lavizzo
Dr. Blanche Lavizzo
Photo courtesy of
www.Historylink.orgThis link will take you off the City of Seattle web site

Sam Smith
Sam Smith
Photo courtesy of
www.Historylink.orgThis link will take you off the City of Seattle web site

Charles Stokes
Charles Stokes
Photo courtesy of
www.Historylink.orgThis link will take you off the City of Seattle web site

Horace Cayton Horace Cayton
Photo Courtesy of This link will take you off the City of Seattle web site

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