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Archive for June 20th, 2020

kingpetersonrd

Ellicott Mall properties shown in red. King Peterson Road shown in orange.

Given what is going on these days, we are featuring streets named after our Black brothers and sisters this month here on Discovering Buffalo, One Street at a Time.  Specifically, this is Part 4 in a series of  four streets built in the 1990s in the Ellicott Neighborhood.  To read more about how the Ellicott Mall urban renewal project changed this neighborhood and to learn about Minnie Gillette, please read Part 1.  Part 2 is about Delmar Mitchell and can be found here.  Part 3 looks at Ora Wrighter and can be found here.  Part 4 is about King Peterson Road.

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King Peterson’s portrait on the Freedom Wall.  Source:  Albright Knox

King W. Peterson was born in July 1915 in Pelham, Georgia to Samuel and Aurilla Carter Peterson.  The family moved to buffalo and King attended Buffalo Public Schools.  Following his graduation from Hutchinson Technical High School, he attended Morehouse College in Atlanta Georgia.  Morehouse is a historically black men’s college that was founded in 1867, right after the Civil War.  At Morehouse, Mr. Peterson was a member of the Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity.  He founded the Buffalo Alumni Chapter for the fraternity.

 

Mr. Peterson worked at the Buffalo Assembly Plant of Ford Motor Company.  He was elected to the Union Bargaining Committee.  He was also appointed International Representative of the United Auto Workers (UAW).

He began his public service when he was elected to the Erie County Board of Supervisors, representing the old Fifth Ward in the City of Buffalo. He served two terms on the Board and was then elected to the Buffalo Common Council as the Ellicott District Councilmen.  While on Council, he served as Chairman of the Legislation Committee and was President Pro Tem.  In 1956, he served as Acting Mayor for 10 days while Mayor Pankow and Common Council President William Law Jr. were attending the Democratic National Convention.  Under Council rules, when the Mayor and Council President were out of town, the President Pro Tem serves as Acting Mayor. While temporary, he was the first African American to serve in the capacity of Mayor of Buffalo.  There was some opposition to the idea of having an African American mayor, even for just a few days.  A public meeting was held to discuss the issue.  Only one person attended the public meeting – Rufus Frasier – who was black himself and attended to support Mr. Peterson.  Acting Mayor Peterson’s term as Acting Mayor of the second largest city in New York State was significant enough that it was reported in national newspapers of the time.

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Acting Mayor Peterson with Luke Easter (on the left), Dick Fisher and Joe Caffie. Source: Buffalo Courier

While serving as Acting Mayor, Mr. Peterson issued a proclamation to designate August 24, 1956 as “Luke Easter – Joe Caffie Night” in Buffalo.  Luke Easter and Joe Caffie were two black baseball players on the Buffalo Bisons.  A special celebration was held that night during the game at Offerman Stadium.

In 1967, Mr. Peterson was elected as a delegate to the New York State Constitutional Convention, representing the 55th Senate District.  He also served as Assistant Project Manager for the City of Buffalo where he executed the Hamlin Park Neighborhood Improvement Program.  The Hamlin Park program was one of the more successful of the City’s Urban Renewal Programs, as large scale demolition didn’t occur in Hamlin Park the way it did in the Ellicott neighborhood.  If you’re interested in a more in depth look at Urban Renewal and how it shaped the Hamlin Park neighborhood, I recommend this series by Mike Puma that can be found on Buffalo Rising. 

Mr. Peterson was a member of First Shiloh Baptist Church from the age of ten.  He served on the Board of Trustees for the church, and was named Trustee Emeritus.  He helped to establish the food pantry at First Shiloh, which still serves the community by providing food and clothing for those in need.  Mr. Peterson also served as a member of the building committee for the congregation when they built a new sanctuary and educational facility in 1965.

Mr. Peterson retired from public service in 1979, but was still involved with the community.  He served as President of the Buffalo Central Home Finders, Director of the United Way, Director of the Food Back of WNY, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Towne Garden Housing Development, Director of Shiloh Housing Development Corporation.  He was also a member of Buffalo Urban League and NAACP.

97918711_137864513074Mr. Peterson was married to the former Jannie McCarley.  They were married 72 years and had three children – Kenneth, Lawrence and Lorraine.  Jannie was the daughter of Reverend Burnie McCarley, the founder of St. John Baptist Church in Buffalo, and the namesake of the McCarley Gardens apartments.  Mr. Peterson died a few months after his wife, on September 23, 2012.  His portrait is represented on the Freedom Wall at Michigan and Ferry Streets.  Both King and Jannie are buried in Forest Lawn Cemetery.

Our next series of streets will continue to focus on the Ellicott Neighborhood and urban renewal, as we move on to the Frederick Douglass Towers.  Stay tuned!  To read about other streets in Buffalo, please check out the Street Index.  Follow the blog on facebook at https://www.facebook.com/buffalostreets.

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