King County's new face By Judy Chia Hui Hsu Seattle Times staff reporter His steady gaze emerges from the black and white relief. The portrait of Martin...

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His steady gaze emerges from the black and white relief. The portrait of Martin Luther King Jr. — part of a new King County logo — will soon be found on county stationery, vehicles and buildings throughout the area.

The Metropolitan King County Council approved the proposed logo in a unanimous vote today. The image of King appeared on the county Web site shortly after it was adopted this afternoon.

On a rainy Sunday afternoon, about 500 people filled the pews at Seattle’s Mount Zion Baptist Church to celebrate the logo’s unveiling.

With clapping hands and raised voices, the gospel choir DaNell Daymon & Royalty welcomed the crowd, their energetic songs mirroring the audience’s joyous mood.

Then government and community leaders paid tribute to King and reminisced about the nearly 20-year-long struggle to name the county after him.

“I can only imagine the smile on Dr. Martin Luther King’s face as he looks down on us,” said Gov. Christine Gregoire, adding she was very honored to have signed the bill in 2005 that formally named King County after him.

King County Executive Ron Sims and former King County Councilman Bruce Laing, who were instrumental in the county’s ceremonially renaming itself after King in 1986, also took the podium. It took nearly two decades for the state to make the change official.

The Rev. Samuel McKinney, King’s college classmate and colleague, gave the invocation, praying that those who have problems with the new logo will “get over it.”

King County Councilman Larry Gossett, who formally proposed the logo change in 1999, believes that those opposed to the King emblem will change their minds. “This is a symbol that all the residents of King County will grow very proud of,” he said.

Replacing the current gold-crown logo will cost about $600,000 and the new image will be phased in over five years. The new logo will first appear on new county park signs and corrections-department uniforms, according to Carolyn Duncan, a spokeswoman for the county. The King logo will replace the gold-crown logo on stationery as it runs out and on Metro buses when they are replaced.

The county was originally named after William Rufus DeVane King, a U.S. vice president, who died in 1853. William King was also a slave owner.

The speakers emphasized that Washington state, named after George Washington, and the city of Seattle, named after Chief Seattle, both have logos with images of their namesakes.

Roberto Maestas, director of El Centro de la Raza, concluded the celebration with this: “Viva Martin Luther King! Viva Rosa Parks! Viva Mount Zion! Viva Martin Luther King Jr. County!”

Judy Chia Hui Hsu: 206-464-3315 or jhsu@seattletimes.com