Senator Rosa Franklin – who made history as the first African American woman to serve as a Washington State senator – joined the community for a celebration as a new park sign bearing her name was unveiled Thursday morning.
Rosa entered the political scene following a 42-year career as a nurse who cared for wounded veterans, disabled children, newborns, and women from all walks of life. She put her dedication for community health to work in politics beginning in 1990 when she served in the House of Representatives on behalf of Tacoma’s 29th District.
In January 1993 she was appointed to the Senate to fill the remainder of late Senator A.L. “Slim” Rasmussen’s term. She was not only the first African American woman she was only the fourth African American who served in the Senate up to that time. She went on to secure her legacy when she was elected to that position in November of 1993, serving nearing two decades before her retirement in 2012.
Senator Franklin was also the first African American to be selected for the post of Washington State Senate President Pro Tempore. The prestigious position is responsible for presiding over the chamber in the absence of the Lieutenant Governor and wielding the gavel to direct Senate proceedings. She was the first African American woman to hold that position in any of the 50 states.
The Board of Park Commissioners voted unanimously to rename Tacoma’s Franklin Park as Senator Rosa Franklin Park in February 2021 in conjunction with the District’s Black History Month celebrations.
“Senator Franklin is without question an outstanding individual, who forged a path for herself through adversity and built connections to advance the causes of social justice, healthcare, and racial equity in Tacoma and throughout Washington State,“ Metro Parks Commissioner Aaron Pointer stated.
Commissioner Pointer was joined by Tacoma Mayor Victoria Woodards and Tamika Nimura, a freelance writer and public historian who authored Senator Franklin’s first biography as speakers at the renaming celebration. Together the three shared the senator‘s life experiences and legacy with the community before joining her to unveil the signage bearing the park’s new name – Senator Rosa Franklin Park.
Senator Rosa Franklin Park is located at 1201 S Puget Sound Avenue in Central Tacoma. It features play and spraygrounds, a baseball field, community garden, natural areas and walking trails. The park is also one of Tacoma’s Free Summer Lunch sites providing meals for youth 18 and younger each weekday.