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*The birth of John Conna is celebrated on this date in 1836. He was a Black soldier, real estate agent, and head of the first Black family in Tacoma, WA.
Born in San Augustine, Texas, John Newington Conna fought in the American Civil War as part of the 1st Louisiana Native Guards. On May 4, 1865, a month after the war ended, a battle-hardened Conna was honorably discharged. His adventurous spirit led him first to New York City, where he resided briefly before moving north to Hartford, Connecticut. He met and married Mary L. Davis, African American and Indian American, in 1870. They lived in the Park River section of Hartford for nine years, when they had seven children.
In 1883, Conna traveled to the "City of Destiny" Tacoma and sold real estate. In 1884, he used his military service benefits to prove a 160-acre homestead in north Tacoma, which today is part of Federal Way, Washington. Shortly thereafter, he was hired by Allen C. Mason as a real estate broker. Conna, at 51 years of age, flourished in the role. The father of 14 children, he and Mrs. Conna donated 40 acres of land to the City of Tacoma as a Christmas gift in 1889. He held offices, including president of the John Brown Republican Club and the Washington State Protective League president.
Conna was also an attorney authorized to practice before the Treasury Department. He was appointed as Asst. Sergeant at Arms for the Senate in 1889, Washington's first Territorial Legislature: he was the first Black political appointee in the history of Washington Territory and was a delegate to the 1896 National Republican Convention. At age 64, he set up his real estate, mines, and mining property company in Alaska. John Conna died on October 21, 1921. He is buried in Fairbanks, AK.
In her history of the Tacoma area, Winnifred Owens writes, "He came to Tacoma in 1883 and became a wealthy real estate agent." The prominent newspaper publisher, Horace Cayton credited John Conna with framing the Public Accommodations Act of 1890 and lobbying for it. The Act entitled all citizens, including persons of color, to civil and legal rights such as access to accommodations at inns, theaters, restaurants, and public conveyances.