Penfield Tate II was the first and only black mayor of Boulder from 1974 to 1976.
Penfield Tate II was the first and only black mayor of Boulder from 1974 to 1976.
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Boulder is renaming its municipal center for Penfield Tate II, the city’s only Black mayor.

Tate in 1971 became the first Black person elected to Boulder City Council. He served from 1972 to 1976 and was elected mayor in 1974, according to information from the city. Tate, who died in 1993, was known as a civil rights champion who stood up for marginalized communities.

The city during Tuesday’s Boulder City Council meeting announced it is moving forward with fundraising efforts for the $29,000 project and says it will begin the name change during the winter. Boulder hopes to host an in-person commemorative event in the spring or summer, depending on COVID-19 restrictions. Prior to moving forward with the project, Boulder asked for community input on Be Heard Boulder.

“Almost all responses reflected overwhelming support for the proposal,” City Council assistant Taylor Reimann said.

Tate helped pass the city’s human rights ordinance, which protects residents against illegal discrimination within Boulder city limits. Penfield Tate III, Tate’s son, who lives in Denver and spoke during Tuesday’s meeting, said it was a no-brainer for his father. However, despite Boulder’s identity as a “liberal bastion,” Tate III said the backlash against the human rights ordinance changed his father’s life.

“The firestorm that ensued and the recall effort essentially ended his political career. Everybody forgot the work he did helping to start the Pearl Street Mall.  Everybody forgot the work he did trying to promote affordable housing,” he said.

Still, Tate III thanked the city for its effort. Tate III is certain his father would never have expected to be honored this way, but he said it makes a lot of sense considering how much time his father spent in the municipal center, preparing for and participating in council meetings.

“He didn’t do these things to get recognized. He did them because he just thought he was doing the right thing,” Tate III said.