Roney, Henry

(1929 - 1996)

Seattle builder and part-time designer, Henry "Hank" Roney was an advocate of civil rights for African Americans and other minorities who changed the construction business practices in Seattle during the late 1960s. The ninth of ten children, Roney was born in Winnsboro, Texas in 1929. He served in the Army Air Forces following World War II, and then went to work for relatives in the home remodeling and construction business in Texas. Reportedly after attending five different trade schools for carpentry, plumbing, masonry and electrical, in 1954 he moved to Seattle where he and his brother founded one of the area's first minority-owned construction firms. He built and remodeled houses mainly in the Central Area of Seattle, and often worked with fellow African American architect, Benjamin McAdoo.

Roney played an active role in civil rights protests of the 1960s and established a “racially mixed dialogue” organization, called “The Group” which pushed City, County and State officials to consider fair and equal treatment of minority groups. They also strived to empower more minority owned businesses and created several make-work projects including building duplexes in the Central Area. In 1980 Roney and his peers helped the City and State pass "set-aside" policies requiring that twenty percent of public-construction contracts be awarded to minority businesses.

Roney's construction firm built many houses and he worked on the low bridge to West Seattle, Metro's sewage-treatment plant in Renton, new Interstate 90 floating-bridge pontoons, and several Port of Seattle terminal projects.

He co-founded the Central Contractors Association, and in the late 1980s served as president of the Northwest Chapter of the Association of Minority Contractors. Roney passed away in Seattle on November 14, 1996.

- Michael C. Houser

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