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Dr. William B. Rumford Jr.

“I’m living my dream!”

Those words came over the short-wave radio when Bill rounded our Valiant 40 sailboat at the Pacific Ocean and Juan de Fuca Strait. That was 1996 and the beginning of our love affair with the Gulf Islands. Bill had just retired as chief of security with the Golden Gate Bridge District, and his dream was to sail north from San Francisco to the San Juan and Gulf islands. We embraced the healing spirit of Pender Island so much so that in July 2004, we moved there from San Francisco and began the operation of the Pender Island Inn.

The son of renowned Berkeley, Calif., lawmaker Byron Rumford, the first Black state legislator from the Bay Area and author of the first fair-housing law in the U.S., Bill co-produced a film highlighting his father’s political accomplishments, Fair Legislation The Byron Rumford Story. Before the move to Canada, Bill enjoyed a distinguished and diversified career in law enforcement and public administration in the San Francisco Bay Area. He began his career with the Berkeley Police Department as an officer, and an early beat took him by the offices of the legendary jazz station KJAZ, at the time the “greatest jazz station in the world,” according to famed jazz trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie. There, he made many fast friends in their mutual enthusiasm for music.

He then served as an agent (federal narcotics) for the U.S. Treasury. In the late 1960s, the Bay Area Rapid Transit District (BART) was developed with the intention of linking San Francisco and Oakland by mass transportation. Bill joined BART as a real estate appraiser, and as the project developed it became evident to Bill that security and possibly police services would be needed. He presented his ideas on police services to management and was appointed assistant chief of BART Police Services in 1970.

In 1976, Bill was appointed chief of police for BART and served in this capacity until 1979. In this same period, Bill was a member of the Berkeley City Council. His more significant contributions include: one of the first “No Smoking in Public”’ ordinances that prohibited smoking in buildings with public access; the removal of the Santa Fe Railway tracks from Sacramento Street, ensuring safety and removing a barrier to the unification of the African American community and the larger community of Berkeley; and the creation of community services for seniors that are still operational.

In the 1980s, Bill sought to further his law enforcement career and became the chief of security for the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District until his retirement in 1996. There, he met and married former Omaha Affirmative Action Officer Margaret Heaston (aunt and godmother to Reader Publisher/Editor John Heaston). She had left Omaha for career opportunities, having endured threats for her work integrating the first Black female into the Omaha Police Department. The two were early investors in The Reader.  You might not be reading this in this media if it weren’t for Bill taking a chance on an upstart publication in 1994.

Bill also educated future leaders as a professor with Golden Gate University and the University of San Francisco. From 1998 until 2003, Bill was the executive director of Timothy Murphy School in Marin County, an alternative education site north of San Francisco for boys with emotional and mental challenges. He often stated that this was one of the most rewarding experiences for him.

He didn’t sit still in retirement, joining the Emergency Preparedness Program on Pender Island, and at the age of 78 he made his debut on the big stage as Obadiah Llewellyn in Noel Coward’s Nude with Violin at the local Solstice Theater.

Not only did he live his dream, he made the dreams of others possible as well.


Subscribe to The Reader Newsletter

Our awesome email newsletter briefing tells you everything you need to know about what’s going on in Omaha. Delivered to your inbox every day at 11:00am.

Become a Supporting Member

Subscribe to thereader.com and become a supporting member to keep locally owned news alive. We need to pay writers, so you can read even more. We won’t waste your time, our news will focus, as it always has, on the stories other media miss and a cultural community — from arts to foods to local independent business — that defines us. Please support your locally-owned news media by becoming a member today.

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