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County Council recognizes Golden Anniversary of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s only visit to Seattle


Celebrating the lasting impact of county’s namesake


On November 8, 1961, at the request of a college classmate, America’s foremost civil rights leader landed in Seattle for a two-day visit. Today, with that college classmate in the audience, the Metropolitan King County Council celebrated the Golden Anniversary of the only visit by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to the County that would bear his name 25 years later.

“This is a celebration and remembrance of the impact the life of one man can have on not only a city but a nation,” said Council Chair Larry Gossett, the sponsor of the proclamation. “Seattle had its issues surrounding segregation in 1961 and Dr. King saw those issues up close, but he also saw a community working together to get better. It’s fitting that this city is now in a County that bears Dr. King’s name.”

“Many hearts and minds were opened as Dr. King encouraged brotherhood and equality through creativity and peace,” said Rev. Aaron Williams, Senior Pastor of Seattle’s Mount Zion Baptist Church. “The work continues, and it is inspiring to know that the impact of Dr. King's visit is still strong 50 years later. I honor Rev. McKinney for bringing Dr. King and his dream to this great county.”

The Rev. Dr. Samuel Berry McKinney was the Pastor at Mount Zion in 1961 when he invited Dr. King, his classmate at Atlanta’s Morehouse College, to come to Seattle and meet with the public about the city’s struggle for civil rights.

“We were a long way from the action, but Dr. King understood that racism was not unique to the South, and a lot of good came out of his visit,” said Rev. McKinney, who was also recognized at today’s proclamation ceremony. “Dr. King taught this County, the country and the world in ways that we still appreciate today.”

Dr. King was scheduled to speak at First Presbyterian Church in downtown Seattle, but the church withdrew its invitation. Temple De Hirsch Sinai, located in Seattle’s Central Area, opened its doors and hosted the event.

“It was an honor to host Dr. King in 1961 and provide him with the opportunity to address our congregation as well as the community at large,” said Rabbi Aaron Meyer, representing Temple De Hirsch Sinai.

During his stay in Seattle, Dr. King also spoke to students at the University of Washington and Garfield High School. He also held a public rally at the Eagles Auditorium in downtown Seattle.

There was a standing invitation for Dr. King to return to Seattle, but his schedule prevented him from ever making a second trip to the region before his assassination in 1968.

In 1986, in recognition of his contribution in breaking down the walls of segregation and improving civil rights—human rights—throughout the world, King County was redesignated as Martin Luther King, Jr. County.

“Dr. King’s visit to Seattle was a milestone in the political and social history of King County, and I am proud that he is now our County’s namesake,” said King County Executive Dow Constantine. “We must never forget Dr. King’s challenge to all Americans to live up to the ideals upon which this nation was founded.”


WHEREAS, on November 8, 1961, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. arrived in Seattle for his only visit to our city; and

WHEREAS, the visit had been arranged by his college classmate and fellow clergyman, the Rev. Samuel B. McKinney, Pastor of Mount Zion Baptist Church; and

WHEREAS, Rev. McKinney urged Dr. King to come to speak and encourage our community to work for the achievement of civil rights in Seattle; and

WHEREAS, after being denied the opportunity to speak at First Presbyterian Church, Dr. King received a warm reception from students at the University of Washington and Seattle’s Garfield High School; and

WHEREAS, Dr. King also spoke to audiences at the Eagles Auditorium and Seattle’s Temple de Hirsch; and

WHEREAS, even though he had a standing invitation to return to Seattle, events in his life prevented Dr. King from making a second trip; and

WHEREAS, it is in recognition of Dr. King’s legacy as one of America’s outstanding civil rights leaders that on February 24, 1986, the King County Council redesignated King County as Martin Luther King, Jr. County;

NOW, THEREFORE, we, the Metropolitan King County Council and the King County Executive recognize and celebrate November 9-10 as the

Golden anniversary of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s visit to Seattle

and encourage those who recall his visit to share their memories with friends, family, and the community in remembrance of Dr. King and the sacrifice he made to help America get closer to his “Beloved Community.”

DATED this seventh day of November, 2011.

Council Chair Larry Gossett and County Executive Dow Constantine with guests shortly before the proclamation recognizing the 50th Anniversary of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King. Jr.’s visit to Seattle. (l-r) Former King County Councilmember Bruce Laing, Rabbi Aaron Meyer, representing Temple De Hirsch Sinai, Mount Zion Baptist Church Senior Pastor Aaron Williams, Chair Gossett, Rev. Dr. Samuel McKinney, Pastor Emeritus of Mount Zion and Executive Constantine.
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