By guest-author Rochelle James, King County Records Management Specialist
Celebrating Black History Month: King County’s logo
King County logo adopted February 27, 2006.
Dr. King fought for Black Americans to be treated equally by their government. He envisioned a world where “little black boys and little black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and little white girls as sisters and brothers” and where justice, peace and equality were afforded to all people.
As County employees, we hope serve our communities in a way that is just, fair and inclusive of all of our residents. We proudly display the image of Dr. King on our websites, written materials and buildings. But Dr. King’s likeness was not always the County logo. So, how did we get here?
The King County Archives has a collection of records related to the events that led up to adoption of the current logo on March 12, 2007.
Originally, in 1853, King County was named after Vice President of the United States William Rufus DeVane King, a slave owner and supporter of the Fugitive Slave Act. For 134 years, King County carried his name until 1986 when Councilmen Ron Sims and Bruce Laing introduced proposed Motion 86-66 (adopted as Motion No. 6461) to the Council.
King County Council Motion 6461, adopted February 24, 1986. Series 306, King County Council Motions, Item 306.101.37, King County Archives.
It read in part, “NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT MOVED by the Council of King County: The King County Council, Hereby, sets forth the historical basis for the ‘renaming’ of King County in honor of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., a man whose contributions are well-documented and celebrated by millions throughout this nation an world, and embody the attributes for which the citizens of King County can be proud and claim as their own.” Motion 6461 passed on February 26th, 1986.
The Imperial Crown
King County’s imperial crown logo, 1968 and 2004
The imperial crown remained the logo for our County, and over the next two decades, with a significant movement beginning in 1999, community members and County leaders worked to make Dr. King’s image the official logo of King County.
Activism and civic engagement
The records of Councilmember Larry Gossett document the movement.
“at the 17th annual Martin Luther King Celebration Rally and March at Garfield High School, a crowd of 2,000 people challenged me to sponsor an ordinance to change the logo” — Councilmember Larry Gossett letter to constituents, September 13, 1999.
Letter from Councilmember Larry Gossett, September 13, 1999. Series 555, Larry Gossett administrative working files, Box 4, King County Archives.
Clipping from The Facts Newspaper January 17, 2000. Series 555, Larry Gossett administrative working files, Box 4, King County Archives.
Clipping from The Facts Newspaper, February 9, 2000. Series 555, Larry Gossett administrative working files, Box 4, King County Archives.
Making the case
The effort to change was not without controversy. Some people questioned the need to spend tax dollars to pay for a logo change when the name change was adopted back in 1986. In a letter to supporters, Councilman Gossett warned of the potential for an uphill battle.
Fact sheets were provided to help supporters advocate for the change.
Detail from fact sheet from Councilmember Gossett’s Office for use in advocating for the logo change, circa 2000. Series 555, Larry Gossett administrative working files, Box 3, King County Archives.
One flyer argued that the three-million dollar estimate for the logo change did not account for new low-cost printing technology and a plan to use up existing printed material.
Informational flyer, circa 2000. Series 555, Larry Gossett administrative working files, Box 4, King County Archives. [Left box appears to have been a lighter version of the image that did not reproduce in photocopy.]
Known as a bridge builder, Councilmember Gossett over time was able to secure support from a diverse group of community members and politicians.
Detail from first of six-pages listing individuals and organizations supporting the logo change, circa 2000. Series 555, Larry Gossett administrative working files, Box 3, King County Archives.
Clipping from the Seattle Gay News January 7, 2000. Series 555, Larry Gossett administrative working files, Box 4, King County Archives.
Another issue that needed to be addressed was the State of Washington’s formal recognition of the 1986 name change. After mounting public pressure, the State of Washington made it official on July 24, 2005.
With the name change recognized at the State level, the public continued to pressure the King County Council to adopt Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s image as the new County logo. On February 27, 2006, King County Ordinance 8227, sponsored by Councilmembers Larry Gossett and Larry Phillips, was passed. The intent of the ordinance was “to promote Dr. King’s legacy of nonviolent social change and to effectuate the prior legislative policy decisions of Washington state and King County to honor Dr. King’s memory by renaming King County.”
Because of the work of elected officials and our diverse community members, we are able to work for a County whose values can be recognized and understood by simply looking at our logo. Archival records document this history.
To quote Maya Angelou, “The more you know of your history, the more liberated you are” and for that reason, we must protect and preserve it.
For more on the history of the King County logo, see King County’s page, background about the logo.
See also proclamations of February, 2017, as Black History Month by the King County Council and by King County Executive Dow Constantine.