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Norm Rice. Seattle Mayor. Husband. Husky Alumnus.

Photo courtesy of Seattle Municipal Archives. Norm Rice Campaign Photo. Identifier: 77389

African American legacies, contributions, and histories have long been excluded from the stories we share in formal and informal education systems. Black History Month seeks to change that by paying tribute and shedding light to generations who faced, and are still facing, impacts of systemic racism.

This month, we honor people who left or are still leaving an insurmountable impact on Seattle and our transportation system.


Mayor Norm Rice, often referred to as Mayor Nice, is known for his compassion and ideas.

As a University of Washington (UW) and Evans School Graduate, Rice ran for Seattle City Council in 1978, where he helped pass the Women and Minority Business Enterprise and worked to create more support for people experiencing homelessness.

Rice became Seattle’s mayor in 1990 with a plan for urban villages to increase affordable housing to 25%. He focused on reforming the education system and revitalizing downtown.

In his time as Mayor, Rice welcomed some notable guests.

Rosa Parks and Norm Rice walking together under an umbrella
Photo courtesy of Seattle Municipal Archives Norm Rice and Rosa Parks. Identifier: 77391

In the above photo, Rice can be seen with Rosa Parks. Parks visited in 1990 as a keynote speaker for the Northwest Minority Student Leadership Conference, hosted by Seattle University. According to a 1990 article by the Seattle Times, in introducing Parks, Rice said:

“Let us rise and welcome a hero.”

Here’s a look at some notable transit history in Seattle and the surrounding region during Rice’s term from 1990 to 1997:

  • 1990: Downtown Transit Tunnel (now home to the Link light rail) opens.
  • 1991: University of Washington begins planning for a U-Pass. Today, Seattle’s ORCA program is robust, serving UW students and many others across Seattle.
  • 1992: Metro ridership reaches 75.6 million.
  • 1996: After Rice directs a major reorganization of city departments, SDOT is born. Before that, we were the Seattle Engineering Department.
Norm Rice at LINC Ceremony in Ballard with Martha Choe and John and Ruth Nelson
Norm Rice at LINC Ceremony in Ballard with Martha Choe and John and Ruth Nelson. Identifier: 172458

Above, Rice can be seen on the LINC, or the Local Initiative for Neighborhood Circulation, in Ballard. While the name brings up images of our current Link light rail system, the LINC actually referred to Metro buses launching in Ballard, with routes starting at Ballard’s Bergen Place.

After his time as Mayor, Rice went on to be VP and then CEO of the Federal Home Loan Bank while continuing to focus on affordable housing. He chaired a committee on the redevelopment of Yesler Terrace, and served as president and CEO of The Seattle Foundation.

We thank Norm Rice for his legacy that continues to shape Seattle.