Doris Topsy-Elvord

Doris Topsy-Elvord, was the first African American woman elected to the Long Beach City Council, among other accomplishments.

Vice Mayor Rex Richardson announced today, Monday, he will ask the City Council to rename the new Houghton Park Community Center for Doris Topsy-Elvord.

Topsy-Elvord, who will turn 90 years old on June 17 this year, has served Long Beach as vice mayor, City Council member, Port of Long Beach Harbor Commissioner and a leader in the city's African American community.

“Mother Doris laid the foundation for leaders across the city,” Richardson said in a release. “She is recognized as a ‘mother of equity,’ having introduced the concepts of economic inclusion and equity to City Hall, as she was instrumental in expanding the Port's Small Business Enterprise Program and the Green Port Policy. Her … legacy will be felt for generations to come.”

Richardson is the Ninth District City Councilman, and spear-headed the rebuild of the Houghton Park Community Center. A companion Center for Families and Youth, a rebuild of the current health center, is underway now, and would be included under the Topsy-Elvord name.

Topsy-Elvord was born in Mississippi, but moved to Long Beach in her childhood, and graduated from St. Anthony High School. She worked in social services, and received a bachelor's degree in social welfare in 1969 — 20 years after graduating high school — before earning a master's in criminal justice administration in 1981 from Chapman University. She worked for 19 years as a probation officer for Los Angeles County before retiring in 1988.

In 1992, she became the first African American female elected to the Long Beach City Council, representing the Sixth District. She served as vice mayor for four years after being elected unanimously in both 1996 and 1998.

Topsy-Elvord termed out of office in 2000. In 2003, then-Mayor Beverly O'Neill appointed her to the Long Beach Harbor Commission, where she served a five-year term.

She served on multiple other commissions and committees over her career, and was a co-founder of the African American Heritage Society.

Richardson said Monday that more than 50 community leaders had signed his request to the council to consider the naming. The request will go before the council April 6, and would be referred to the Personnel and Civil Service Committee.

Harry has been executive editor of Gazette Newspapers for more than 26 years. He has been in the newspaper business for more than 35 years, with experience on both weekly and metropolitan daily papers in Colorado and California.

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