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Elsie Rumford

Suicidologist Elsie R. Rumford was born in Berkeley, California, on January 15, 1945; her mother, Elsie R. Carrington Rumford, was a teacher in Berkeley, and her father, pharmacist William Byron Rumford, was the first African American elected official in northern California. Attending Longfellow Elementary School, Burbank Junior High School and Berkeley High School, Rumsford earned her B.A. degree in Spanish and sociology from San Francisco State University in 1967, and her M.S.W. degree from the University of California at Los Angeles in 1973.

Rumford’s graduate thesis on the rising black suicide rate challenged popular thinking on the subject. After speaking before the Charles R. Drew Post Graduate Medical School, Martin Luther King Hospital, and the Suicide Prevention Center of Los Angeles in 1974, Rumford presented to the California State Senate Subcommittee on Medical Education and Health Needs in support of SB1814, the Suicide Prevention Act of 1974. Rumford appeared on many television and radio talk shows to discuss black suicides and worked as a script consultant to a suicide-related episode of The Jeffersons in 1976. Rumford worked as a clinical social worker for the Dignity Center, a Los Angeles Suicide Prevention Center program, from 1974 to 1975, and El Nido Services from 1976 to 1981. From 1985 to 1988, Rumford was a school-based counselor for the Carson Child Guidance Partnership Program for the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), and from 1988 to 1996 she was their outreach coordinator. After1997 Rumford began working as a team leader/DIS Counselor at the Los Angeles Unified School District’s School Mental Health.

A member of the American Association of Suicidology; the National Association of Black Social Workers; and the National Association of Social Workers, Rumsford received the Carson Coordinating Council’s Outstanding Service Award in 1996. Rumford, who had three sons, remained a resident of Los Angeles.

Elsie Rumford was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on April 2, 2005.

Accession Number

A2005.095

Sex

Female

Interview Date

4/2/2005

Last Name

Rumford

Marital Status

Divorced

Schools

Berkeley High School

Burbank Junior High School

Longfellow Middle School

University of California, Berkeley

University of California, Los Angeles

San Francisco State University

First Name

Elsie

Birth City, State, Country

Berkeley

HM ID

RUM01

Favorite Season

Summer

State

California

Favorite Vacation Destination

Palm Springs, California; Jamaica

Favorite Quote

Don't Count Your Chickens Before They're Hatched.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

California

Birth Date

1/15/1945

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Los Angeles

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Gumbo

Short Description

Suicidologist and school social work coordinator Elsie Rumford (1945 - ) presented to the California State Senate Subcommittee on Medical Education and Health Needs in support of SB1814, the Suicide Prevention Act of 1974. Rumford worked with several public health and suicide prevention organizations to help raise awareness about the rising prevalence of suicide within the African American community.

Employment

Los Angeles Unified School District

Suicide Prevention Center

El Nido Services

State of California Dept. of Employment

City of Oakland, California

Favorite Color

Light Blue

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Elsie Rumford's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Elsie Rumford lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Elsie Rumford describes her mother's family background, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Elsie Rumford describes her mother's family background, pt. 2

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Elsie Rumford talks about her maternal grandparents and her grandmother's life in Oakland, California

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Elsie Rumford talks about her maternal family's professional and educational achievements

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Elsie Rumford describes her father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Elsie Rumford describes how her parents met and married

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Elsie Rumford talks about her father's role as a civil rights advocate and his election as the first black assemblyman in Northern California

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Elsie Rumford talks about her father's career as a pharmacist and his election to the California State Assembly in 1948

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Elsie Rumford describes her parents' personalities and how she resembles them, pt. 1

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Elsie Rumford describes her parents' personalities and how she resembles them, pt. 2

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Elsie Rumford talks about her father's achievements as one of the first African American pharmacists in the San Francisco Bay Area in California

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Elsie Rumford describes the sights, sounds and smells of growing up in Berkeley, California

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Elsie Rumford talks about her brothers

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Elsie Rumford talks about her family's involvement with First AME Church in Oakland, California

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Elsie Rumford recalls the music, movies and television shows she enjoyed while growing up

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Elsie Rumford talks about her father's civil rights involvement, pt. 1

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Elsie Rumford talks about her father's service civil rights involvement, pt. 2

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Elsie Rumford talks about her father's interest in public health

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Elsie Rumford recalls her experience at Longfellow Elementary School in Berkeley, California and the ethnic make-up of her childhood neighborhood

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Elsie Rumford explains why her mother and her maternal aunts are her role models

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Elsie Rumford talks about attending Burbank Junior High School in Berkeley, California

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Elsie Rumford remembers attending Berkeley High School in Berkeley, California

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Elsie Rumford discusses her interest in sociology and Spanish

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Elsie Rumford talks about the rise of the black power movement in Berkeley, California in the 1960s

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Elsie Rumford remembers the rise of the Black Panther Party in Northern California in the 1960s

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Elsie Rumford talks about her coursework in sociology at San Francisco State College in San Francisco, California

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Elsie Rumford recalls various cultural movements in the San Francisco Bay Area of California in the 1960s

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Elsie Rumford recalls her experience reporting discrimination while working for the State of California, department of employment

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Elsie Rumford talks about her brief employment with the City of Oakland, California

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Elsie Rumford remembers her graduate school experiences

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Elsie Rumford talks about her master's thesis on black suicide, pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Elsie Rumford talks about her master's thesis on black suicide, pt. 2

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Elsie Rumford talks about the findings of her master's degree thesis on suicide in the black community

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Elsie Rumford talks about the recognition that she received for her master's thesis on suicide in the black community

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Elsie Rumford talks about her social work career in Los Angeles, California

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Elsie Rumford reflects upon the challenges of parenting

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Elsie Rumford talks about helping parents whose children are diagnosed with attention deficit disorder

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Elsie Rumford reflects upon her role as a psychiatric social worker in the Los Angeles Unified School District

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Elsie Rumford describes her concerns for the African American community

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Elsie Rumford reflects upon her life and career

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Elsie Rumford reflects upon her legacy

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Elsie Rumford talks about her sons' and her parents' responses to her career as a social worker

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Elsie Rumford reflects upon her parents' personal and professional success and the values they instilled in her

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Elsie Rumford describes how she would like to be remembered

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Elsie Rumford narrates her photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$4

DAStory

1$4

DATitle
Elsie Rumford talks about her father's career as a pharmacist and his election to the California State Assembly in 1948
Elsie Rumford recalls her experience reporting discrimination while working for the State of California, department of employment
Transcript
(Simultaneous) Tell us about the Appomattox Club [Oakland, California]. Let's see, D.G. Gibson was one of the men that worked with your father [William Byron Rumford] (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) Oh yes, D.G. Gibson, Frances Albrier. There were so many people that, let's see, Evelio Grillo is still around.$$Evelio Grillo?$$Yeah.$$How do you spell that (laughter)?$$E-V-E-L-I-O.$$Evelio, okay.$$Evelio Grillo, G-R-I-L-L-O. As a matter of fact, I think he wrote the foreword, didn't he write the foreword for this book ['William Byron Rumford, The Life and Public Services of a California Legislator: A Biography,' Lawrence P. Crouchett]? But he--.$$Now, is he an African American?$$Well, you know, I think that, you know I can't remember if it was Puerto Rican or Cuban descent, but he certainly identified and I don't know, you know, he was a light brown person and-- (laughter).$$He probably, I don't know, I'm thinking a lot of times, you know, anybody brown was discriminated against, you know, in terms of if you weren't white, you know, so--they tried to break down these covenants that restricted blacks from (unclear)--.$$Right, right, and one of the main things they were trying to do is to get somebody to run for office, and Tom [L.] Berkley, who died, let's see, he died in 2001, but he was major, major in the [San Francisco] Bay Area [California] as well. He's an attorney and he was part of that group. There was, they used to meet and get together to try to see how they could break down the barriers, and they were considering Tom Berkley because, you know, he had been very active but then he declined to run for office, this assembly seat that was vacant, and so my aunt, my mother's [Elsie Carrington Rumford] sister, who was, actually she ended up being a teacher in Berkeley [California], she wasn't a teacher at the time, but she nominated my father and he ran for the seat and he won the seat.$$What year is this when he wins the seat?$$He--1948. He was elected into the [California State] Assembly.$$Okay.$$He was a pharmacist, I should mention too. He was a pharmacist and had a drug store in Berkeley and I think that's real important because while he was an assemblyman, he never gave up his career as a pharmacist. When he was in Sacramento [California], he was working the drug store (laughter).$$What was the name of his drug store?$$Rumford Pharmacy. (Laughter) And it's still there, but they changed it to a health center and they named it after him. The building is still there. But actually, when he first opened, what happened he worked as a pharmacist for someone else in the early years, and then they retired and he bought the drug store from them, and then several years later, I guess 1950, he, it was a small store so he moved across the street and had a much bigger drug store, and that was where he could be found. (Laughter) That's where you found your assemblyman, in the drug store. And people would come down, you know, you want to talk to your assemblyperson, you just go to the drug store.$$Okay. And so you were three years old when he was elected?$$See, that's it. I was three years old when he was elected, so all of my life that, all my memory from the time I was three to the time I was a young adult in '66 [1966], he was in the assembly, and my whole recollection of him was as an assemblyman.$When you graduated from San Francisco State [College; San Francisco State University, San Francisco, California], in (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) San Francisco State. January '67 [1967].$$--in January '67 [1967], okay, and you went to Howard [University, Washington, D.C.] for grad school?$$Well, no, actually I worked--.$$You worked for the City--.$$I worked for the City of Oakland--I worked for the California state--State of California for a while, and the department of employment, where I ran across discrimination, and was naive enough to be surprised that employers were requesting white only, and I reported it to my--I was a minority rep [representative] and reported it to my minority rep boss who was based out of San Francisco [California], and they had a big investigation of the City of Oakland [California] department of employment and confiscated files and it was a real big thing, a real big thing. And, but, I think, I always look back on that now and I think, oh, my gosh, that was because I grew up in that whole civil rights thing where, you know, this is wrong, you can't do--and I didn't even try to smoothly talk to my supervisor and say well, you know, can we do something about--I was like indignant and youthful, you know, right out of college.$$That is something to be indignant about, if you look back at it. They've been doing that since they started it.$$But my boss later told me, my local boss in Oakland said, "[HistoryMaker] Elsie [Rumford], why didn't you come to me and say something to me?" I went to the minority employment rep in San Francisco, who was also my boss in a way, but I guess they wanted to handle it in house, and my minority employment rep boss in San Francisco reported to Sacramento [California]. I mean, it was just a problem to file. It was a big deal and my, the chief of the department of employment in Oakland ended up resigning early and I was so naive I went to his retirement dinner, you know, 'cuz I was like, I don't know, stuff just kinda, I didn't really see how I think it affected so much in my tunnel vision of like wrong, that's it, they shouldn't do this, and you know--.$$Well, you know that's by the same token they should have known it was wrong.$$Well, they did.$$It's a policy that was wrong from the time of its inception until we showed up and when we showed up it should have been a signal, hey, maybe we should change some of this before somebody blows a whistle (laughter).$$Like me. And then I was kind of, at that point, I was pretty much untouchable because of my dad [William Byron Rumford], you know, although I wasn't doing it for--it was wrong. People stopped speaking to me. Oh, my gosh. There was a lot of pressure. It was a really difficult time. Even my mother [Elsie Carrington Rumford] said something to me. She said, you know--these are peoples' livelihoods. They're gonna have to--you know, she was worried people were gonna get fired and what they might do to me. You be careful, is what she said.$$But is there really an unrisky way to create a social change of that kind?$$Well, I don't know. In hind sight, you know, maybe I could have gone to the local Oakland people and tried to work it out, but--$$You know, the usual mantra is be patient.$$No, but I wasn't--and the only thing, the young people, there were about three or four young people who worked in the office, it was a big office, and they kinda stuck with me through it, but it was, it was difficult. It was some real, real difficult times. I ended up moving to a different office, but I wasn't gonna move out till I was ready. They didn't move me out. I just waited, but there was a lot of pressure, lots and lots of pressure.