July 19, 1997 in Nation/World

Community Mourns Carl Maxey Autopsy Confirms Suicide Of Man Who ‘Made A Difference’

Julie Sullivan Jim Camden Contribute Staff writer
 

From the chambers of Spokane County Superior Court to the West Central street where he practiced law, shock turned to mourning Friday for Carl Maxey.

Maxey, an orphan who became the most recognized trial attorney in Spokane, will be remembered Monday at public services at the Ridpath Hotel’s Empire Ballroom.

In a rare gesture, Superior Court judges voted to act as an honor guard.

Maxey shot himself in the head Thursday, an autopsy confirmed. He was 73.

Family and friends declined to discuss motives for the suicide. He had appeared to be in sound health, they said.

Judges asked that the flag at the county courthouse be lowered but the building’s managers refused, saying that honor is reserved for prominent public officials.

West Central neighbors posted their own tribute outside Maxey’s Broadway law office: “He made a difference.”

With Maxey’s death, Spokane has lost three of its most established black leaders in the past year - including James Sims and the Rev. Clifton E. Hamp.

“The old order passes,” said Tony Westbrook, a longtime liberal activist. “These guys had the nerve to stand up and be counted. They were giants.”

Maxey though, was unique in his abilities.

“There will never be another like him,” said Roland Chase, a court bailiff and son of late Spokane mayor Jim Chase.

“He knew where the power lay. We could carry the signs but he knew you have to do it through the courts.”

Maxey sued to open job slots, housing covenants, publishing rights - even stores on Sunday.

“A type-A Ghandi” his paralegal, Debbieann Erickson, said. He was probably best known for his accessibility to the ordinary person, willing to write a letter for nearly anyone who needed it, often pro bono.

Maxey’s daily habit was to read three newspapers then clip and fire off “Maxeyisms” to make points all over town.

Childhood friends marveled at his ability to recall them.

“I used to love to go to his office,” said Hank Burnette, who competed against the Gonzaga Prep star in high school. “He’d tell everyone how good I was in track. It made me feel so good. Even I had forgotten what I did.”

At the home Maxey shared with his wife of 22 years, mourners smiled Friday at a photograph taken last October as he accused the county prosecutor’s office of racism.

In the picture, Maxey’s lips are pursed, head cocked, wearing what his circle calls “his war face.”

“I look on life as a war and not a game,” he once told the newspaper. “I have a basically competitive nature against the establishment. It’s a challenge to me, but on the other hand these were important causes that we should make the moral commitments to resolve.”

Maxey is survived by his wife Lou, sons Bill and Bevan, and six grandchildren, all of Spokane.

, DataTimes MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: Service A memorial service for Carl Maxey will be Monday at 1 p.m. in the Empire Ballroom of the Ridpath Hotel, 515 W. Sprague.

The following fields overflowed: BYLINE = Julie Sullivan Staff writer Staff writer Jim Camden contributed to this report.

This sidebar appeared with the story: Service A memorial service for Carl Maxey will be Monday at 1 p.m. in the Empire Ballroom of the Ridpath Hotel, 515 W. Sprague.

The following fields overflowed: BYLINE = Julie Sullivan Staff writer Staff writer Jim Camden contributed to this report.


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