Seattle City Councilmember Debora Juarez has filed a proposed ordinance to name a new pedestrian bridge for the late U.S. Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., who endured violence and jail during the 1960s movement for Black voting rights.
The $56 million bridge over Interstate 5 will connect North Seattle College and the Licton Springs neighborhood to Sound Transit’s Northgate light-rail station, which opens Oct. 2.
“While Rep. Lewis represented Atlanta in Congress, his natural constituency was disadvantaged people everywhere,” wrote Juarez in a memo to colleagues. His nonviolent advocacy influenced civil-rights movements as far as Seattle, where thousands marched against police brutality last year, and Washington state which, pioneered an accessible vote-by-mail system, the memo said.
Juarez called Lewis “a true bridge-builder who could work across the aisle to achieve progress.”
Naming the span the John Lewis Memorial Bridge would begin to remedy a lack of public facilities named for Black and Indigenous heroes, especially in the city’s north end, Juarez argued.
She proposed that the council’s Transportation and Utilities Committee consider the legislation in public session Aug. 4.
While no opposition has emerged, some city residents have suggested a local person’s name on the bridge.
For instance, former Mayor Mike McGinn has suggested former Metropolitan King County Councilmember Larry Gossett, who led sit-ins against exclusion at the University of Washington and co-founded the Black Student Union, before directing the Central Area Motivation Program.
Another worthy namesake is Al Sugiyama, a civil-rights activist and first Asian American member of the Seattle School Board, said McGinn. Sugiyama died of cancer in 2017.
“It would be good in Seattle for us to not just honor a local person, but to remember the struggle is local too. In Seattle we have problems with racism and discrimination that’s ongoing,” McGinn said.
Gossett himself tops Juarez’s list of community leaders who endorse the Lewis name.
“Every day you hear about people getting into ‘good trouble’ and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, and the tremendous moral standing that he had,” Gossett said in an interview.
Gossett said he and Lewis first met in 1966 in New York City, while listening to a speech by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Gossett said the two remained friends and often chatted on their mutual birthday, Feb. 21.
Gossett said he’s flattered to be mentioned, but looks forward to joining a bridge-name celebration for Lewis. “I get enough recognition,” he said.