This was a letter to the editor of the Spokesman-Review on March 8, 2018. The letter was published on March 20, 2018.
Spokane is building a bridge that connects East Central with the University District. The names under consideration range from uncreative to downright boring, so I would like to offer another suggestion: Carl Maxey Bridge.
In the first half of the 20th century, when blacks moved to Spokane, they were steered to East Central—the black neighborhood.
It was Carl Maxey, more than any other single person, who desegregated Spokane. Despite growing up in an orphanage, Maxey attended Gonzaga where he graduated with a law degree. As Spokane’s first black attorney, Maxey was eager to defend those impacted by racist policies and to challenge the structures that perpetrated them.
He took on the school district for refusing to hire black teachers, and he won. He took on barber shops that would not serve black customers, and he won. He took on important social clubs that denied blacks membership, and he won. He took on racist housing policies that had segregated Spokane, and he won.
The New York Times credited Maxey with “virtually singlehandedly desegregating much of the inland Northwest.” Although he did not work alone, this claim is hardly an overstatement.
The new bridge should be named Carl Maxey Bridge.