“I have always felt that my community is no better or worse than what I help make it, likewise, my country. I can’t delegate my own responsibility. I can’t assume anyone else’s.” Powell Barnett, 1883-1971
This was the motto and creed of Powell S. Barnett, the son of a former slave, who came to then Washington Territory in 1888 at the age of five. His father, Powell Benjamin Barnett, had uprooted his family to work the coal mines of Roslyn, Washington, and the Barnett family has resided here ever since. Powell S. Barnett married Katherine Conna of the pioneering John N. Conna family in 1906, and they settled in Seattle. Therein followed a lifetime of community work as encapsulated in the list below.
Gold Card member/NAACP
Lifetime member/Mt. Zion Baptist Church
Board Member/Volunteers of America, 1901-08
Founder-Mgr/Royal Colored Giants baseball team
Democratic Precinct committeeman, 33rd District/15 years.
Board member/Lee House for Senior Citizens
President/Seattle Urban League, 1948-1950
Air Raid Warden, 1941-1945
Chairman, Committee to establish East Madison YMCA
Board member, East Madison YMCA
Treasurer, King County USO, 1944-1961
Executive Committee, United Good Neighbors, 1942
Chairman, Committee to amalgamate Local 76 (white) and Local 493 (black) Musician’s Union, 1956
Founder/President, Leschi Improvement Council
Chairman, Welcoming Committee to integrate Japanese American citizens after World War II
Jackson Street Community Council “Man of the Year” 1964
Seattle Urban league Annual Award
Founder/Pacific Northwest Baseball Umpires Association
During his lifetime, Mr. Barnett received commendations and awards from the Jackson St. Community Council, King County Council on Aging, Seattle Urban League, the Mayor of Seattle, and the Seattle City Council. In 1969, the 4.4 acre park on Martin Luther King Way which formerly served as a running track for Garfield High School, was named Powell Barnett Park. Powell Barnett died on March 16, 1971, having lived a rich, full, and substantial life.
Over the years the park fell into disrepair, and a massive community fund raising effort led by his grand-daughter, Maisha Barnett, was successful in raising $1.3 million dollars. Over a one week period the park underwent a massive overhaul resulting in a children’s park of nonpareil status.
The park was re-opened in 2006 with Mayor Greg Nickels presiding. It is generally recognized as one of the top five children’s parks in the country.