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William Byron Rumford is Born

Today in Masonic History William Byron Rumford is born 1908.

William Byron Rumford was an American politician.

Rumford was born in Courtland, Arizona a now defunct mining town on February 2nd, 1908. Rumford's father left the family when Rumford was young, leaving his mother and brother in Arizona.

Rumford's maternal side of the family were some of the first American settlers in Arizona. His maternal grandmother ran a boarding house in Tombstone. When talk started the schools in Arizona needed to be segregated, Rumford's grandmother led the fight for desegregation. She lost the fight and schools started to be segregated. She moved part of the family to Los Angeles stating "she was not going to bring those kids up in a segregated environment."

Rumford stayed in Arizona with his mother where she remarried. By then they were living in Phoenix.

In 1926 Rumford graduated from a segregated school in Phoenix. He was inspired by his high school teachers to attend the University of California, Berkley. One of those teachers was Ellis Knox, the first African American to receive his PHd from a west coast school.

After graduation he headed to San Francisco where he attended Junior College and worked for about a year before being accepted to the school of Pharmacy at the University of California, San Francisco. He paid his way through school by working two night jobs. He graduated in 1931.

In 1933, Rumford passed the test to become a state of California employee. He attempted several times to take the oral exams to become certified, the written exam he passed every time. Of his attempts to get certified, Rumford declared he felt the board was just trying to get rid of blacks. During his last exam irrelevant questions like his opinion of Joe Louis were asked by board members. Rumford reached out to one of the board members, with his help and going to the courts, Rumford overturned the boards decision and he became certified.

In 1942, while still working as a VD investigator (his job was to track down individuals who were spreading STD's), Rumford purchased a pharmacy. For a short time he tried to run the business and work for the state. Doing both required too much of his energy though and he decided to focus on his business.

Also in 1942 he was appointed to Berkley Emergency Housing Committee. In 1944 was appointed to the Rent Control Board. With both appointments Rumford worked to integrate housing. He helped organize the Berkley Interracial Committee.

In 1948 Rumford ran for the California Assembly. Initially he lost the election. He took it to court though and the court overturned the election results. Rumford was declared the winner.

In his first year Rumford successfully got a bill desegregating the state National Guard. The bill was thought to be DOA in the Senate. Rumford personally lobbied members of the senate and was able to get the bill passed. The desegregation though did not happen. This was due to African Americans who already held rank and position in the segregated units not wanting to give up their rank. No new segregated units formed and eventually the California National Guard became fully integrated.

Throughout Rumford's political career he either spearheaded legislation or was actively involved in the research for new legislation. Two of his bigger bills were the 1959 Fair Employment Act which outlawed employment discrimination in California and Rumford Fair Housing Bill. The Rumford Fair Housing Bill started it's way through the legislative process in 1963 after several amendments it finally passed and was signed by governor Pat Brown.

Opponents to the Rumford Fair Housing Bill instead of trying to amend the bill out of existence, they tried to change the California Constitution to make housing discrimination legal. This was overturned by the California Supreme Court and the United States Supreme Court.

Rumford also traveled to Detroit to work on clean air standards for California. He also traveled to Germany to review public transportation to bring back ideas to the United States.

Rumford passed away June 12th, 1986.

Rumford was a member of the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of California.

This article provided by Brother Eric C. Steele.