Rename Highway 99 to honor an African-American veteran of the Civil War who fought to preserve the Union.
AS communities across the South pull down Confederate flags and Civil War memorials, it is time — indeed long overdue — for this state to honor a local veteran of that bloody conflict.
House Joint Memorial 4010 asks the Washington State Transportation Commission to rename Highway 99 the William P. Stewart Memorial Highway. The measure passed the House 97-0 and was sent to the state Senate Transportation Committee.
Stewart, an African-American farmer in Snohomish after the war, had volunteered for service in the 29th U.S. Colored Infantry Company. He “fought with Gen. William Smith’s 18th Corps, which saw almost daily combat as it battled near Petersburg, Virginia,” according to the memorial legislation.
State Rep. Hans Dunshee, D-Snohomish, is seeking this recognition. He first tried in 2002. Passion ran strong against renaming the highway — a primary roadway that once had sections memorializing Confederate leader Jefferson Davis.
Time changes, however slowly. Recent violence against blacks in the South humiliated people still proud of their region’s history and lore. In July, the South Carolina Legislature voted to remove the Confederate flag from the statehouse grounds after a devastating, racially motivated massacre of nine people in a Charleston church. Flags and memorials were suddenly seen as vulgar representations of murderous intolerance, not nostalgia and an independent spirit.
Stewart is buried in the Grand Army of the Republic Cemetery in Snohomish along with 200 other Civil War veterans who founded the cemetery, the bill explains.
The Senate should support this memorial act, and ask the state Transportation Commission to proceed with a hearing toward approval.
This is a good and worthy change to honor the spirit and history of the state.