2/18/21 – Black History Month – Grand Rapids First African American Mayor: Lyman Parks

Grand Rapids first African American Mayor Lyman Parks is remembered for his contribution to advancing African American's in politics and in society. Photo courtesy of the Grand Rapids Historical Society. 2/17/21

Former Grand Rapids Mayor Lyman Parks is remembered for not only being the first African American mayor of Grand Rapids, but also for his contribution during a difficult time in American history.   

Parks was elected to the city commission in 1968 and was selected by fellow commissioners to fill the vacant Mayoral role in 1961.  He ran for the office in 1963 against 10 other candidates.  He garnered the support of a large cross section of the community to win office showing the possibility of unity during such a turbulent time for race relations. 

Parks was born in 1917 in southern Indiana.  His family moved to Grand Rapids in 1966 and took over the pastoral role at First Community AME Church.  He retired from public office in 1976 and returned to full-time ministry.   

Park’s family moved to the Chicago area and he later moved to a small suburb where he passed away in 2009 following a stroke.