Godfrey Park Renaming Opposition
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Few people in Alameda today knew Milton Collins Godfrey who died over 65 years ago. He was born in Alameda where his parents and grandparents also lived. He worked for an insurance company in San Francisco. In the 1930s, he emerged as one of the leaders of a movement in Alameda to clean up city politics. City council members had become corrupt and some would end up in prison. To bring honest government to Alameda, Milton Godfrey became a member of city council and later was elected mayor. He was a classic, citizen politician. He had no political ambitions beyond helping his city in its hour of need. He served on council for several years and then returned to his life with his family, his work, and his church. In 1945, he was honored by Alameda by having a park named after him in appreciation for his leading role in bringing honest government back to the city.
Milton Godfrey is now being accused of being a racist and some are suggesting that the Godfrey Park should be renamed. These accusations are related to the “projects” as public housing. The projects were temporary housing, which the military had built during World War II to house military workers. After the war, this temporary housing was turned into public housing. He left the council just before the war ended, so his role in the decisions of what to do with this temporary housing must have been very limited at best as he was no longer even on the City Council and had no decision making power at that point.
The current petition to rename Godfrey Park does not show any knowledge of the reason that the park was named for my grandfather. He was honored for his hard and selfless work to promote honest local government in the face of criminal corruption in the city government. Such work should still be honored.
The Godfrey family has a long history of service to the city of Alameda. In addition to Milton Godfrey, his father, Henry Godfrey, came to Alameda with his parents. He was a carpenter and served as a volunteer firefighter. Milton's wife, Ellen, did great things for this city and humanity in general. She taught English to Chinese immigrant women and how to shop, keep books and not be taken advantage of by illegal shopkeepers. She worked tirelessly for The Family Services in Alameda helping the poor and the underprivileged. Milton's son, William S. Godfrey, served the city in many ways, including as a member of the council and mayor. He led the work of closing the projects and building permanent public housing. He was the first, white member of the local chapter of the NAACP and won the Californian Citizen of the Year Award for his Humanitarian efforts. William's daughter, Nancy Godfrey McKinley, served on the board at Alameda Hospital, was a part of the Children's Hospital Branch, and worked as an Alameda public school teacher. His other daughter, Gayle Godfrey Codiga, worked in the public housing administration and also served on the board of Alameda Hospital.
In 1945, the Alameda City Council voted for Resolution No. 3115, which stated that land in the City of Alameda would be named Godfrey Park. In that resolution, Milton Godfrey was called “faithful, honest, and altruistic.” This history does not make the Godfrey family more important than any other citizen. However, it does mean that Milton Godfrey does deserve to be treated honestly and fairly and that the dedication of the park remain as it was initially intended.
Thank you for your consideration.
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