Grand Rapids unveils statue of first African American mayor

Grand Rapids’ first and only African American mayor will be memorialized in bronze Wednesday in the heart of the city he loved.

A 7.5-foot statue of Lyman Parks, who served as both Grand Rapids’ first African American city commissioner in 1968 and mayor from 1971-1976, will be unveiled at 5:10 p.m., July 17, at the pedestrian entrance of Grand Rapids City Hall at 300 Monroe Ave. NW.

The statue is part of Grand Rapids Community Legends, a series of 25 bronze sculptures planned throughout downtown Grand Rapids. The project is funded and endowed by the Peter F. Secchia Family Foundation. Speakers at Wednesday’s event include Parks’ son, Lyman Parks Jr., Mayor George Heartwell, Peter Secchia and Joseph Becherer.

Parks’ statue, sculpted by Toby Mendez, will be the fifth in the series, which already includes Grand Rapids historical figures Lucius Lyon, a land surveyor who developed the village of Kent; Noahquageshik, also known as Chief Noonday, who opened Michigan up for settlement; Jay Van Andel, co-founder of Amway; and Frederick Baraga, a Catholic missionary who first brought Christian faith into the area.

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