BERKELEY (KPIX 5) — A Berkeley civil rights pioneer is finally getting the recognition he deserves.
William Byron Rumford was a pharmacist in Berkeley when he became the first black man from Northern California elected to the state Assembly. Once there, he authored the so-called “Rumford Act” banning discrimination in housing that would later become part of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964.
The corner of Sacramento and Ashby in Berkeley was closed Saturday for a party to unveil a statue of Rumford, who is no longer living and who most people here didn’t know.
“He made it possible that any of us can live where we want, legally, as long as we have the resources,” says Carole Davis Kennerly of the South Berkeley Legacy Project. “So, it was monumental.”
Rumford was the quiet type and the memory of his contribution has faded with time.
To preserve that memory, a group of neighbors commissioned artist and former KPIX-5 anchor, Dana King to create a bronze statue of the civil rights crusader.
King worked every day for months on this labor of love and says, like a parent, it’s a little hard to let it go.
“But until then I still feel like I’m carrying him,” says King. “It’s just not done yet, until this sculpture is unveiled. I know, that’s crazy, right?!”
And that’s why Saturday’s unveiling meant so much to her.
King’s sculpture now sits in the traffic median on Sacramento and Ashby, right across from the site of Rumford’s old pharmacy.
It’s as if Byron Rumford has returned to his old neighborhood, still standing quiet. His accomplishments speak for him.