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More on Maxey
Carl Maxey was an influential man in the Northwest, known by thousands. Following the publication of Carl Maxey: A Fighting Life, a number of people have shared more information about him. Here's a selection:
A sheaf of adoption and orphanage documents turned up recently (2016) which shed new light on Carl Maxey's parentage. These documents, which came to light as the result of the research we were doing on the KSPS-TV documentary version of the book, establish that Carl Maxey's mother was not Elizabeth Cooper, as I previously wrote. His mother was Marian Alfred, a 13-year-old Tacoma girl. Elizabeth Cooper was, in fact, Marian Alfred's mother and Carl Maxey's grandmother. I am not sure why Elizabeth Cooper was listed as the child's mother in the 1927 adoption decree (my original source for his mother's name), although it was possibly because Marian Alfred was a minor. These new documents establish beyond a shadow of a doubt that Marian Alfred gave birth to Carl at the White Shield Home in Tacoma, a home for unwed mothers. The father's identity is less certain. It is listed in several documents as Casper Mann, a Portland waiter, although other possibilities are mentioned as well. If I can make changes in subsequent print editions (not a certainty), I will do so. Otherwise, please consider this a correction for the record.
Charles Z. Smith, the former Washington State Supreme Court Justice, attended my reading at the Northwest African American Museum and sent me a kind and thoughtful letter. Here are some excerpts:
"I closed the book with the feeling that I now know most of Carl's life journey from his days in the orphanage until his death (and the events following his death).
You captured not only Carl's own words from your own skillful interviews and research, but also wove into the narrative the thoughts and words of Ninon Schults, Mrs. Lou Maxey, Bill Maxey and Bevan Maxey -- his significant family. Then there were others in his life whom I knew -- most particularly Milton Burns -- who presented probation reports in cases before me in the King County Superior Court. I never knew of his lifetime association with Carl.
... Carl was a magnificent human being. Your book has chronicled his complex life with great dignity and intelligence.
Gwen Hill, the wife of Carl Maxey's longtime friend, Al Hill, sent me a touching letter in which she recounts some more stories about Maxey's life and also adds an important detail about Frances Scott. Here are some excerpts from her letter:
"Besides working at the City Club at the same time, Carl and my husband Al Hill worked as waiters one summer of their high school years on the Great Northern Railroad. They were on the run through Glacier Park when they left the train on a brief stop. They were late and missed getting back before the train left without them. I'm not sure that caused the end of their railroad careers. At any rate, the next year they both left on the train for the Army in World War II.
... You did mention Frances Scott, but I wished you'd also said she was the first black woman to earn a law degree in Spokane. When the American Association of University Women put out a book of biographies of Spokane women in 1989. I wrote the piece about her."
I recently was sent a clipping from the Lewiston Morning Tribune in Idaho, May 24, 1968, quoting a searing speech that Carl Maxey gave in front of a crowd of 150 in Moscow, Idaho. It reflects his bitterness in the aftermath of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., less than two months earlier. Clearly, Maxey's belief in non-violence was being sorely tested. Here are some excepts, as quoted by the paper:
"Racism means so many things. Blacks cannot join the Elks, the Moose, the Eagles; they are degraded by mean mayors, impossible school administrators and poor city councils. Negroes will continue to march and pray and to demand jobs. What would you whites do? Could you live in poverty? Could you sing, 'I Shall Overcome' in the face of tanks and guns? Would you allow your church to be bombed or your leaders to be killed? Why can't America give graciously what might have to be taken violently? Violence begets violence. I want to go the non-violent route, but if that doesn't work, other avenues will be tried. Why should your homes be secure when ours aren't? Negroes and the non-whites should fight you tooth and nail. That isn't violence, it is justice. And you should not have any peace unless you change."
The following anecdote about Carl Maxey comes from Rosemary Johnson, the sister of Jim Reilly, one of Carl's teammates on the championship Gonzaga University boxing team. It took place when Carl was about 11 or 12, and it was told to her by Carl himself on two different occasions:
"Carl was at a carnival at the fairgrounds, which in those days, were in the big parking lot behind and just west of where the Public Safety Building is today. Carl got into a 'shell game' and lost every cent he had. Dad (who was a plainclothes detective at the time, later assistant chief of the Spokane Police Department) was standing back watching all this, and when it was all over, he stepped up, showed his badge and said, 'Give the kid his money back.' I still get choked up when I think about that. From that time on, Carl sort of thought my dad could walk on water."
Raymond Brinkman, who works at the Coeur d'Alene Tribe's Language Center, wrote that he has always regretted that he did not speak to Maxey about his impact when he had great opportunity to do so one day:
"We both attended a speech by Anita Hill, sponsored by Gonzaga Law School, not that long before Carl Maxey died. During the course of the evening I convinced myself that I needed to go up to him afterwards, introduce myself, explain my employment, and say, "Sir, I wish that I could tell you just how many times your name comes up in conversation with Lawrence and Felix (Aripa) and others, and how well-regarded and fondly remembered you still are on the Coeur d'Alene Reservation." However, I didn't and I wish that I had, because I think he might have needed to hear it."
It was common throughout Carl Maxey's life for people to say that he was Spokane's first black lawyer. However, recent research by Dale Raugust, a longtime Spokane lawyer, has turned up evidence that at least one black lawyer practiced in Spokane around 1913. An article in the Spokesman-Review on Jan. 2, 1913 said, "John Adams, Negro attorney, pointed out the opportunities for Negroes in the Northwest, and declared his readiness to show any enterprising young Negroes places on a nearby Indian Reservation where they can take up homesteads and become independent." Intrigued by this item, I did some sleuthing of my own and found that Adams was listed as a real estate attorney in the City Directory for three years from 1913 to 1916, but then it appears that he either moved away or died. I could find no other information about him. However, this was enough to remind me that care must be taken whenever calling somebody the "first." Maxey was undoubtedly Spokane's first prominent African-American attorney, and the first African-American to pass the bar exam in Eastern Washington. But the first to ever practice law in the city? That's not so certain.