PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — A newly redeveloped park in Northeast Portland is being renamed to honor a prominent black female leader, removing a moniker with racist connotations.
The green space and playground formerly known as Lynchview Park will be called Verdell Burdine Rutherford Park, city officials announced Wednesday. It honors Rutherford, a civil rights leader and historian who lived in Oregon from 1913 to 2001, The Oregonian/OregonLive reported.
As president of the Portland chapter of the NAACP she helped pass the Public Accommodations Bill, also known as the Oregon Civil Rights Bill, which in 1953 outlawed discrimination in public places on the basis of “race, religion, color or national origin.”
The park was recently renovated with a new playground, picnic shelter, paved pathways, public art and a soccer field.
Renaming the park was a project kickstarted by former city Councilor Nick Fish, who directed a naming committee before his death in January. The committee was made up of nine local community members.
Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler announced the new name in a news release Wednesday, in the midst of protests that have spread through city parks, bridges and streets for two weeks in response to the death of George Floyd, a black man killed after a white Minneapolis police officer knelt on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes.
“I am honored to recognize Verdell Burdine Rutherford’s role as a leader and historian for the black community by selecting her name for the first Portland park named after a black woman,” said Wheeler.
The park was originally named for Patrick Lynch, who in the late 1800s donated land for the park and adjacent Patrick Lynch Elementary School, which still bears his name. Three other elementary schools named for the Lynch family were renamed in 2017.
At the time, Centennial School District Superintendent Paul Coakley said many newer families coming into the district associated the name with America’s violent racist history.
“Mom rightfully considered herself a local historian,” Verdell’s daughter, Charlotte Rutherford, said in the news release. “She was a hardworking volunteer and community activist who did not seek the limelight, but she would have accepted this honor humbly, knowing that this park will provide a place for the community to gather together.”