In 1986, thanks to the efforts of Ron Sims, Larry Gossett and other elected officials, King County was renamed to honor Martin Luther King Jr. instead of William Rufus King, an Alabama slave owner and U.S. vice president.
This is a good precedent for our state, named after George Washington, the first president. There is another George Washington who was the son of a slave, not a slave owner. This Washington migrated from Virginia to Washington Territory and founded Centralia. This Washington married a widow of Black and Jewish descent. Together, they platted Centralia and established Centralia’s public square, first church and cemetery. This Washington offered loans at no interest and provided work when no other was available. During the panic of 1893, this Washington organized a relief program for needy residents. This Washington declined to foreclose on mortgages and when other properties went up for auction, he bought them to save the town from absentee ownership. Thanks in large part to this Washington, Centralia rebounded from that depression.
We don’t need to change the name of our state. We just need that name to honor our own George Washington.
John Burbank, Seattle