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Chronicle ignored black princess

This is a footnote to Rebecca Nappi’s Aug. 18 story on the 1963 experience of Spokane’s first black Lilac Festival princess:

As a cub reporter for The Spokane Chronicle covering the parade, I was beside the reserved platform as the Royal Court approached in bunting-decked convertibles. A young man in a Junior Chamber of Commerce lavender blazer was helping the hoop-skirted princesses mount the platform.

To my shock and embarrassment, he glimpsed the black princess and retreated, unwilling to assist her. Another gentleman quickly came forward to graciously provide an escort.

This reporter scuttled back to the newsroom to advise her city editor, “Have I got a parade sidebar for you!”

Horror and disgust flashed across Gordon Coe’s face. He literally banged his forehead on his desk. “I wish to hell you hadn’t told me that … because you aren’t going to read about it in the Chronicle,” he responded.

And no one did, until now. We now recognize Gail Caldwell Bonner’s courage in handling that “first black Lilac princess” role with grace and dignity.

I’ve waited a half-century to report this story. But I do so now realizing we’ve come a long way in Spokane toward respecting full equality.

Karen Erickson

Spokane


 

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