William Byron Rumford was a pharmacist and prominent politician. Rumford served as the first black elected to a state public office in Northern California.
Rumford was born on February 2, 1908, in Courtland, Arizona, which at the time was a mining town. His father left the family when Rumford was still a young boy. Rumford graduated from a segregated high school in Phoenix in 1926.
After completing high school, he moved to San Francisco and worked a year before enrolling in Sacramento Junior College. He was later accepted to the school of pharmacy at the University of California, San Francisco. Rumford was a member of Alpha Phi Alpha.
When few blacks were being hired to work for the State of California, Rumford passed the examination for employment. He also took the examination for the investigator on the California Board of Pharmacy. He passed the written portion twice but failed the oral portion.
Rumford was appointed in 1942 by Mayor Laurance L. Cross to the Emergency Housing Committee, which worked to find housing for wartime laborers. While in office, Rumford pushed for more integrated housing. He also helped form the Berkeley Interracial Committee, a citizen’s committee whose purpose was to “placate and to welcome some of the people and to ameliorate some of the problems that did arise as a result of the influx” of Southerners.
One of Rumford’s most important achievements was the passage of the California Fair Employment Practices Act, which outlawed employment discrimination.