Financial trouble at the Postal Service will soon hit the St. Louis area:
A number of St. Louis-area post offices have landed on a list of 3,700 retail offices the U.S. Postal Service is studying for possible closure to help cut its budget deficit.
The Postal Service, which has 32,000 retail offices nationwide, lost $8.5 billion last year and has already cut its payroll and closed retail locations. (Source)
Two of the St. Louis area post offices are located in depressed neighborhoods in north St. Louis. I had seen one before, but not the other. Â I decided to see both up close.
My first question was, who are the people these locations are named after? I had seen the Jordan W. Chambers Post Office (above) in the last few years, although I didn’t know the name at the time. Â Here is the answer for this one:
Chambers, Jordan W. â€” of St. Louis, Mo. Democrat. Delegate to Democratic National Convention from Missouri, 1944, 1952 (alternate), 1956, 1960. Presumed deceased. Burial location unknown. (Political Graveyard)
I checked Find-A-Grave and found more information,Â Jordan W. Chambers (1896-1962) is buried at Saint Peters Cemetary in Normandy:
Chambers was active in politics for many years. He worked in Ward 19 to organize precinct captains to ensure that all in his ward got out to vote. He organized the Young Democratic Club. Chambers owned the Peoples Undertaking Company in St. Louis–his political headquarters were next door. He was elected Constable and Democratic Committeeman of the 19th Ward in 1963, making the first Black Committeeman in St. Louis. He worked to get the Black vote for Harry S. Truman. Chambers worked tirelessly for better jobs for Blacks & was instrumental in the integration of the Circuit Court & the St. Louis Housing Authority. He owned Club Riviera–a meeting place for many big name stars and prominent politicians. He never retired from politics or civil rights work and when he died, Governor John Dalton gave the eulogy. President Kennedy and Vice-President Johnson sent telegrams of condolence.
Impressive! The 4,000sf post office bearing his name, at 901 N. Garrison Ave, was built in 1959, three years before his death. Was it named for him while still living? Â This post office is located in the 19th ward where he was politically active. Chambers Park is located to the west.
One of the first things I noticed when I visited the Gwen B. Giles post office located at 1409 Hamilton Ave was the nameplate attached to the building, likely covering the original name. City records online do not indicate the year the building was built, I’d guess sometime in the late 1930s based upon the detailing.
Gwen B. Giles was born in Georgia in 1932, so the post office was named for at least one person before her:
Gwen B. Giles was the first African American woman to serve in the Missouri Senate. She lived in St. Louis, Missouri, and was elected senator in 1977. Giles was also the first woman and the first African American to be appointed St. Louis city assessor, a position she held from 1981 until her death. Gwen Giles devoted her life to public service. She worked steadfastly to secure civil rights and improve living conditions for the citizens of St. Louis. (Source)
Giles died in 1986:
During her distinguished career in politics served as Missouri’s first African American female senator, representing the Fourth District, where she chaired the Interstate Cooperation Committee and was a member of several other legislative committees. She was also the first woman and the first African American to be appointed St. Louis city assessor, a position she held from 1981 until her death. She devoted her life to public service working steadfastly to secure civil rights and improve living conditions for the citizens of St. Louis. She came to St. Louis in 1935, later graduated from Saint Louis University. Beginning in the 1960s, she promoted involvement of St. Louis religious leaders in the civil rights movement. She was a member of the Archdiocesan Commission on Human Rights. In 1973, St. Louis Mayor John Poelker appointed her commissioner of human relations. In this position, she updated a city ordinance to protect women, the elderly and people with disabilities, and promoted passage of the 1976 Comprehensive Civil Rights Ordinance. Among her accomplishments was the appointment by President Jimmy Carter to a task force to assist in selecting talented women for positions in the federal government. She died in her St. Louis home in 1986 from lung cancer. A park and a U.S. Post office have been named after her to honor her achievements and involvement in the community. She will continue to be a pioneer as well as a role model for women in generations to come. (Find-A-Grave)
Also very impressive! Senator Giles was part of the fight to keep the Homer G. Phillips Hospital open:
On August 17, in a massive display of force, city officials sent 120 policemen in riot gear to Phillips Hospital to deal with approximately one hundred protesters during the final transfer of the remaining forty-seven Phillips acute-care patients to City Hospital. Police arrested seventeen pro- testers under charges of failure to obey a police officer when at least fifty people sat down in the main hospital driveway to prevent transfer vans from leaving. Pearlie Evans, aide to U.S. Repre- sentative William Clay, was present at the protest; her sentiments, quoted in the Post-Dispatch, captured the feeling of that day: â€œthe squad was brought in to overpower poor, helpless people whose only concern was that they have some place to go near their homes when they get sick.â€ Missouri State Senator Gwen B. Giles, also quoted in the Post-Dispatch, took note: â€œConway declared war on black St. Louis today.â€ (Source: ‘‘To Serve the Community Best”: Reconsidering Black Politics in the Struggle to Save Homer G. Phillips Hospital in St. Louis, 1976-1984)
“[Virvus] Jones was appointed assessor in April 1986, after the death of Gwen B. Giles” per the St. Louis Post-Dispatch November 23, 1988.
- Steve Patterson