The late U.S. Rep. John Lewis of Georgia, who tirelessly marched, suffered, and eventually legislated to secure civil rights, has had schools and streets — even a ship — named after him. Now a move is afoot to add his name to Seattle’s new Northgate Station bridge.
The 1,900-foot-long structure, supported in part by a white overhead truss, is likely to become an instant landmark over Interstate 5, connecting a Sound Transit light-rail stop to North Seattle College, when it’s hoisted later this month.
Seattle Councilmember Debora Juárez, who represents the north-end’s District 5, said she’s heard local support to honor Lewis, which would serve the city’s wish to acknowledge history and the “indigenous and African-American footprint.”
“We are hoping that the community will come back with some names,” said Juárez, an enrolled member of the Blackfeet Nation, during a council briefing Tuesday. “We would like to think about having it named after Rep. John Lewis.”
So far, there’s no city legislation or formal public outreach about bridge names.
The $56 million bridge is scheduled to open by the time train service begins at Northgate, Roosevelt and U District stations Oct. 2, said Ethan Bergerson, spokesperson for the Seattle Department of Transportation.
Lewis, a Black son of sharecroppers who represented Atlanta in Congress, died last summer at age 80, still encouraging younger Americans to defend democracy. He spoke at the civil-rights march on Washington, D.C., in 1963, and survived a skull fracture in 1965, when state troopers in Selma, Alabama, attacked nonviolent voting-rights marchers. Last year he supported street demonstrations, sparked by the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer.
Lewis didn’t possess enduring connections to Seattle, where some residents might prefer a local luminary’s name on the Northgate bridge. On the other hand, the whole state and Seattle’s Highway 99 bridge were named for George Washington, a Virginian.
Lewis did speak at the University of Washington in 2017 about his graphic novel “March,” and the need to stir up “good trouble, necessary trouble.” Years before, he rallied with a crowd of 30,000 in Portland to oppose war in Iraq.
Transit-board chair Kent Keel said he hasn’t been contacted about naming the bridge, which is owned by the city.
“The contributions that John Lewis made to this country are monumental, and anything I can do to help memorialize that, and help people remember him and his work, I would be for that, and open to that discussion,” said Keel, who is Black and a councilmember from University Place near Tacoma.
The two main spans will be hoisted onto columns this month. A northbound I-5 closure is scheduled Friday, June 11 at 11:30 p.m., until Sunday, June 13 at 4:30 a.m., followed by a southbound closure the next weekend.