House Joint Memorial 4010, which heads to the Senate for consideration, would name Highway 99 after black Civil War veteran William P. Stewart of Snohomish.
OLYMPIA — Inspired by South Carolina pulling the Confederate flag from the front of its Statehouse last year, an effort by Washington state lawmakers to remove a symbol of slavery passed the House unanimously Monday.
House Joint Memorial 4010, which heads to the Senate for consideration, would name Highway 99 after black Civil War veteran William P. Stewart of Snohomish. Stewart fought for the Union in an infantry unit comprised of black men, according to the bill.
Markers along what used to be Highway 99 near Blaine and Vancouver, Clark County, once honored Jefferson Davis, the first and only president of the Confederate States of America.
The highway currently has no official name and the markers, blessed by state officials in 1940, have since been taken down. But Rep. Hans Dunshee, D-Snohomish, said it’s an important gesture to re-christen the highway.
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“I think it’s a statement about our values as opposed to what they were in 1941 at the height of the Jim Crow era,” Dunshee said after the vote.
Dunshee first tried to name the highway after Stewart in 2002. He said a previous effort never cleared the Senate, which in 2002 was controlled by Democrats. When South Carolina removed the flag in July after the killings of nine black church members in Charleston during a Bible study, Dunshee said it was time to try again.
The markers sit in Jefferson Davis Park next to Interstate 5 near Ridgefield, according to the private park’s website.
Highway 99 was the major north-south route through Western Washington before Interstate 5 opened in the 1960s. Many parts of Highway 99 were replaced by I-5.