The Los Angeles Public Library Friday dedicated its Vermont Square branch to Rita Walters, the first black woman elected to the City Council, a longtime city library commissioner and a former teacher and member of the L.A. Unified School District Board of Education.
On Friday, local officials gathered at the library, at 1201 W. 48th St., to unveil a commemorative plaque marking the dedication, which was approved by the Board of Library Commissioners after a three-month consideration period.
“Rita Walters’ life and legacy is an inspiration, from her work fighting for racial integration in our schools as a member of the LAUSD Board of Education to her efforts to steward LAPL’s expansion on the L.A. City Council and the Library Commission,” said Mayor Eric Garcetti.
“She broke so many glass ceilings and contributed so much to our city. It is truly humbling to have the chance to honor her today.”
Walters, a former teacher, served on the LAUSD board for more than a decade before being elected to the City Council, filling the ninth District seat left vacant by the 1990 death of Councilman Gilbert Lindsay.
Councilman Curren Price, who holds the ninth District seat once occupied by Walters, said Walters “achieved many firsts throughout her life and opened the doors for others to follow.”
“She spent her life with a keen focus on the issues that matter the most to the people of District Nine and would not back down from getting into some good trouble. She was an advocate for children, workers’ rights, and for all of the undeserved members of society. Simply put, Rita Walters was a giant who laid the groundwork for Blacks and other people of color for generations to come,” Price added.
Walters held the City Council seat until 2001, and the next year she was appointed to the city’s Library Commission, on which she served for 15 years.
“The spirit of Rita Walters will forever be felt by our organization and the city,” said John F. Szabo, city librarian for the Los Angeles Public Library. “She was a fierce advocate for libraries and the vital role they play in strengthening communities throughout the city. Dedicating our Vermont Square Branch in Rita Walters’ honor preserves her legacy today and for future generations.”
Walters was a graduate of Shaw University, in North Carolina, and held a master’s degree in business administration from UCLA.
She was also a longtime civil rights advocate, working with groups including the American Civil Liberties Union and the NAACP. She taught adult- education courses and ESL classes in Watts before being elected to the LAUSD board in 1980.