Vivian Leona Caver (1928 – )

Vivian Leona Caver is a civil rights activist in Seattle, Washington.  She directed the Seattle Human Rights Commission between 1975 and 1981, and served briefly in the Washington State Legislature in 1994. Caver was born Vivian Leona Mead in 1928, in Jackson, Tennessee.  Her mother Christine was a social worker for the YMCA, YWCA, and USO.  Her father, Kenneth, who pursued a Ph.D. at the University of Washington, was a high school principal and a college dean.

Caver graduated from Garfield High School in 1946, and then attended Morgan State College in Baltimore, Maryland, and the University of Washington in Seattle.  While she was a student at UW in the late 1940s, she worked for the Seattle Urban League as it sought to integrate the workforce of Seattle department stores.  Through the League, she became the second black woman on the sales floor at Frederick and Nelson’s.  She finished her college degree in Germany, where she married Monroe Starkey Caver in 1954.

In the mid-1960s, Vivian Caver established race relations councils in white neighborhoods with a goal of opening housing to ethnic minorities.  The groups petitioned the Seattle City Council to endow the City with the authority to investigate housing discrimination claims.  The City Council passed an ordinance in 1968 to establish a Human Rights Commission, and Caver was hired that year.  She was promoted in two years to assistant director, and, in 1975, to director.  From 1981 to 1993, she served as administrator for the Girl Scouts of Western Washington.

In 1986 and 1990, Caver campaigned for Washington State Representative, for the 37th Legislative District, Position no. 1.  She lost both times in the Democratic primaries.  But in January 1994, she was appointed to Position no. 2 after it was vacated by Gary Locke, who had been elected King County Executive.  Her appointment ended after she lost the Democratic primary in November 1994.

Today, Caver is the chair of Women in Unity, an organization of black women that evaluates candidates for public office.  The Vivian Caver Diversity Award is given each year by the Girl Scouts of Western Washington.

 

Source:

Author interview of Vivian Caver, December 3, 2008; Trevor Griffey, "Vivian Caver," Seattle Civil Rights and Labor History Project (Seattle: University of Washington, February 24, 2005); Daryl Strickland, "Civic Activist Chosen For House Seat -- Nominee To Serve Gary Locke's Term," Seattle Times, December 28, 1993.