King W. Peterson, a pioneering African-American politician who served on the Common Council as well as the former Erie County Board of Supervisors, died Sunday in Doctors Community Hospital, Lanham, Md., after a short illness. He was 97.
Mr. Peterson began his public service career when he served two terms on the Board of Supervisors – the predecessor to the Erie County Legislature – representing the old Fifth Ward in the City of Buffalo. After that, he served as Ellicott District Common Council member from 1955 to 1959. While on the Council, Mr. Peterson served as chairman of the Legislation Committee and president pro-tem. In the latter capacity, he was acting mayor of the City of Buffalo for 10 days in 1956, the first African-American to fill that role.
In 1967, Mr. Peterson was elected a delegate to the New York State Constitutional Convention. He also served as assistant project manager for the city, where he developed the federally funded Hamlin Park Neighborhood Improvement Program.
Mr. King retired from public service in 1979 but continued to be involved in the community. He was a director of the Food Bank of Western New York for 10 years, chairman of the board of directors of Towne Garden Housing Development for 10 years and director of Shiloh Housing Development Corp.
He was a member of the Buffalo Urban League, a life member of the NAACP and a member of Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity as well as a founder of the fraternity's Buffalo alumni chapter. He became a member of First Shiloh Baptist Church at age 10 and had been an active member.
In addition to his public service, Mr. King was active in the labor movement. He began at Ford Motor Co.'s Buffalo Assembly Plant, where he was elected to the union bargaining committee. He later was appointed international representative of the United Auto Workers and represented General Motors union members at the Foundry and Forge plants.
Born in Pelham, Ga., Mr. Peterson relocated to Buffalo as a child, graduated from Hutchinson-Technical High School and attended Morehouse College in Atlanta.
Mr. Peterson had moved to Maryland a couple of years ago to be closer to family. His wife of 72 years, Jannie McCarley Peterson, died in January. Survivors include a daughter, Lorraine P. Rue.
Services will be at 11 a.m. today in First Shiloh Baptist Church, 15 Pine St.