Born in Kingston, Jamaica to a mother of Chinese descent and a father of African descent, Denice Johnson completed architectural studies at Tufts and MIT in 1976. She married John Hunt, also an architect, in 1978; and they relocated to Seattle. They resided, with son Collin and daughter Julian, at 1104 8th Avenue West in Seattle’s West Queen Anne neighborhood.
After working in local architectural firms, Denice began to focus her career on urban design and large projects, in a series of positions with the City of Seattle — in her last professional role, as Deputy Chief of Staff to Mayor Norman B. Rice. With her unique gift for creating harmony among diverse ideas and people, she played a key role in shaping the policies and processes that produced some of the city’s major elements: development of the Seattle waterfront, the downtown plan, and Symphony Hall (later known as Benaroya Hall). The African American Heritage Museum — now known as the Northwest African American Museum — acknowledges the effectiveness of her efforts in bringing together resources that led to the Museum’s opening.
Denice’s professional concerns also included commitment to community service and education. She served on the King County Historic Landmarks Board, and studied in Rome in 1990 as a Fellow of the Northwest Institute for Architecture and Urban Studies in Italy (later known as Civita).
Denice became the first woman of African American heritage in the US to serve in the highest elected office of a local component of The American Institute of Architects (AIA), following her election as President of AIA Seattle 1995-96. As a founding member of the AIA Seattle Diversity Roundtable, she helped establish diversity programs in practice and education.
With her knowledge and wit and outstanding communication abilities, she received frequent speaking invitations from community and professional groups. She particularly enjoyed working with young people and sharing her story as a woman of color who brought her special cultural experience to rich expression in architecture and urban design. A much-admired role model, she helped create opportunities for young people of minority and disadvantaged backgrounds to study design and planning. With the kind cooperation of Denice’s family, AIA Seattle established (and the Diversity Roundtable later endowed) the Denice Johnson Hunt K-12 Internship at the University of Washington College of Architecture & Urban Planning (later known as the College of Built Environments), to support design and planning in K-12 teaching and learning programs.
Seattle’s Low Income Housing Institute named a Greenwood-area development the Denice Hunt Townhomes, honoring her commitment to community.
A tree and a plaque near Seattle’s Bell Street Pier honor her memory.
IN MEMORY OF
DENICE JOHNSON HUNT (1948-1997) Dedicated by the Port of Seattle in recognition of Denice Johnson Hunt’s commitment to enrichment of the Central Waterfront Project, the City of Seattle and the rejuvenation of Seattle’s historic waterfront.
This Magnolia tree is a living reminder of the power of one person to make the world a better place.