Who is King County named after?

I’d heard political folks in King County (where Seattle is located) nonchalantly imply that King County was named after the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. over the past few months we’ve lived here. Now, I won’t pretend to know a lot of State and Local history about Seattle, but come on. King County has been around for 150 years. No way it can be named after Dr. King! Right?

Well, I finally decided to look into it the other day and here’s what I discovered.

Sure enough, King County was *NOT* named after Dr. King 75 years before he was born. Go figure.

However, it was REnamed after Dr. King earlier this year (April 2005).

So, here’s the story. In 1986, the King County Council decided to rename the county after Dr. King. They passed motion 6461, justifying the rename. Originally (in 1852) the county was named after William Rufus DeVane King – thirteenth vice-president of the United States, from North Carolina. Since VP King owned slaves (and Dr King did not), Dr King takes the day and the county. Plus, no need to change the letterhead.

It took a very long time from 1986 to April of 2005 when Gov Christine Gregoire signed the name-change into law by signing State Senate Bill 5332. But that’s where we are… in Reverend Martin Luther King Junior County.

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