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City Council chambers named for Nelson M. Polite Sr.

Nelson M. Polite Sr.

City Council on Tuesday officially renamed the chambers in which it meets for one of Lancaster’s most revered Black civil rights and political leaders: Nelson M. Polite Sr.

“We are incredibly proud” to honor Polite, Council President Amanda Bakay said just before the unanimous vote. “He and his family have made a great impact on the city of Lancaster.”

Nelson M. Polite Sr. third from right, takes part in a 1963 march protesting segregation at the pool at Rocky Springs Amusement Park. (Source: LancasterHistory)

Polite (1923-2016) was a member of City Council for 14 years, including two as president, and also served on the city’s Planning Commission. He was a lifelong member of Bethel AME Church and served on numerous community and nonprofit boards, including the Urban League, NAACP Lancaster Branch, United Way of Lancaster County and the Recreation Commission.

Deborah Polite Miller

As City Council’s resolution notes, he was committed to serving the local community and was “a lifelong advocate for equality and social justice.”

He was not a physically large man, the Rev. Roland Forbes said Tuesday, but “Nelson Polite had big shoulders on which all of us stand. … His memory shall always be with us.”

Lancaster “was his beloved place,” Polite’s daughter, Deborah Polite Miller, said.

The renaming, enacted to coincide with Black History Month, “is just the first step,” Mayor Danene Sorace said.

The city plans to make some renovations to council chambers to reflect its new name. They will be unveiled during a celebration of Polite’s legacy that is being planned for his birthday month of October.

Earlier Tuesday, as it does annually, City Council passed a resolution honoring Black History Month. This year’s resolution lists more than a dozen individuals of significance in Lancaster’s Black history, ranging from William Whipper and Stephen Smith, who helped rescued runaway slaves in the 1840s and 1850s, to contemporary local historian and archivist Leroy Hopkins.

Lancaster County recognized Black History Month with a proclamation on Feb. 7.

Blanding Watson, president of the NAACP Lancaster branch, speaks to City Council about Black History Month on Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2024. Behind him are, from left, the Rev. Roland Forbes, Charles Christian, Joshua Hunter and Tyresa Bailey. (Photo: Tim Stuhldreher)