A downtown mural's larger-than-life historic moment

A worker Tuesday morning put finishing touches on a black-and-white, six-foot-by-28-foot mural that shows several thousand people gathered in Ledger Square to learn results of the 1926 World Series. The mural is part of a grassroots effort that recently succeeded in naming the pocket park adjacent to City Hall after the late editor and historic preservationist Ben Gilbert.

Gilbert died at age 89 on Feb. 28, 2007, at Hospice House in Tacoma. He had battled breast cancer, which spread to his lungs. According to an obituary published March 1, 2007, in The Washington Post, Gilbert worked at the Post for 30 years. In addition to being “a tough and exacting” city editor, he was also deputy managing editor and associate editor of the editorial page. The obituary notes Gilbert “pushed to expand the newspaper’s coverage of race relations, and in 1968 he helped direct coverage of riots in the city after the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in Memphis.”

“He was a hard man to love, but he was a hell of a newspaperman,” said Benjamin C. Bradlee, managing editor of the Washington Post, in the obituary. Bradlee and Gilbert often clashed in the newsroom, but Bradlee added, “He got things done.”

Gilbert also served on Tacoma’s Landmarks Preservation Commission and was an advocate for the hard-of-hearing.

On Oct. 28, 2009, the City of Tacoma’s Landmarks Preservation Commission approved a recommendation to name the park, where the mural is installed, after Gilbert. On Nov. 24, Tacoma City Council approved the recommendation and the park was officially named in Gilbert’s honor.

For more information, visit http://www.tacomahistory.org/SpecialProjects/Ben_Gilbert_Park.html .