African American History Month: Councilmember Sam Smith

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Seattle Municipal Archives Feature

Sam Smith was born in 1922 in Gibsland, Louisiana, and came to Seattle while serving in the Army during World War II. He earned degrees from Seattle University and the University of Washington, and then worked at Boeing before being elected to represent the 37th District in the Washington State House of Representatives. He served five consecutive terms in the legislature, often focusing on issues important to minority and low-income constituents. In 1967 he became the first African-American elected to the Seattle City Council, and was subsequently reelected five more times. During his 24 years on Council, Smith chaired the Public Safety Committee, Housing and Human Services Committee, Labor Committee, and the Utilities Committee, and was particularly proud of shepherding an open housing ordinance into law. He served as Council President in 1974-1977 and 1986-1989. Smith died in 1995.

The Seattle Municipal Archives holds records from his tenure on City Council, including correspondence, subject files, and committee records. Please see the finding aid for more information about these records.

The Washington State Archives interviewed Smith as part of its oral history program; the transcript of the interview is available online.

Additional information aboput Sam Smith can be fournd on

Councilmember Sam Smith with visitors, May 22, 1989

Sam Smith with a group of visitors in his office – May 22, 1989

A group of students from [then] Seattle Pacific College, including Santa Claus, presents umbrellas to City Council – Dec. 12, 1977

Sam Smith meeting with a group of students at the conference table in the Municipal Building Chambers - Oct. 23, 1989