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St. Paul to name the ‘George Latimer Central Library’

Latimer was mayor from 1976 to 1990, and has become a revered elder statesman.

Former St. Paul Mayor George Latimer will be honored next month when the city formally renames the historic downtown Central Library the “George Latimer Central Library.”

Latimer, 79, was mayor of St. Paul 1976-1990 and has become a revered elder statesman in the city.

Reached at home this morning, he said, “When (current Mayor) Chris Coleman told me about it, I was kind of embarrassed at first. … But I’ll get over it.”

He’s always been so good with a quote.

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Latimer also said, “I was so moved when he told me that I really was speechless. Coleman said: ‘I always wondered what it would take to silence Latimer.'”

A plaque with the library’s new name will be unveiled at a June 10 ceremony.

Construction of the library, facing Rice Park in downtown, began in 1914, with railroad magnate James J. Hill paying for much of it.

Latimer noted that libraries are very special to him, as they are to many, dating back to his early years in Schenectady, N.Y.

“When I was a little kid in the 1940s, a librarian there was so nice to me. I remember her making me cocoa in the winter when I’d stop in to read on the way home from school,” he said.

He’s asked the Schenectady library to verify the librarian’s name for him, so we can expect to her about her in his speech at the naming ceremony.

Speaking about his initial embarrassment at learning of the library naming honor, Latimer recalled a conversation he had the Rev. Jerome Boxleitner, the Catholic priest who ran the Dorothy Day homeless shelter in St. Paul for decades:

“I talked with him shortly before he died because we wanted to name something after him. He said absolutely not; that you should never name something after someone until they’ve been dead for 10 years, to be sure you haven’t made a mistake.

“I’m glad Chris Coleman and the others aren’t taking that advice.”