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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Opinion >  Editorial

Editorial: MLK Jr. road champions do credit to namesake

If anyone understood the power of patience and perseverance, it was Martin Luther King Jr. Those principles sustained King’s tireless campaign for civil rights in the ’60s, and now they have rewarded his Spokane champions in a cause of their own.

A determined cadre of them has toiled over the past quarter-century to get a local street named in King’s honor, but they’ve met with frustration.

The City Council came through for them on Monday, however. The council decided unanimously that when an extension of Riverside Avenue is completed east of Division to Trent, it will be named for the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

Advocates for the tribute hailed the vote. “Finally,” some might add.

Indeed, Spokane should be a little embarrassed to have taken so long getting around to this gesture. More than 700 other communities around the country already have taken a similar step to memorialize King, whose courage and leadership helped America begin to rectify centuries of racial injustice.

Here in Spokane, earlier proposals to name various routes after King consistently ran into obstacles such as the collective cost and inconvenience of changing business and personal stationery, signage and other address- based references for the many occupants who would be affected.

The concerns were valid, although the renaming of Trent as Spokane Falls Boulevard met hardly any resistance in 1974.

More to the point, the periodic campaigns to commemorate King have always been led by a small cadre of civil rights leaders. The broader community, the civic and government leaders, never took up that challenge and made it their own high-profile cause. It never got on the agenda of influential priority setters, never became a public rallying point in a community with so much zeal for basketball competitions and racing.

Instead, we have the dedication of people like Spokane Public Schools’ Ivan Bush and clergymen Lonnie Mitchell and Percy “Happy” Watkins to thank for keeping the goal in sight until the right opportunity arose.

And there is at least one fortuitous upside to the timing of this decision. The street will be a prime thoroughfare in Spokane’s emerging University District, a center for research, education and civic vitality. It will be a heavily traveled route in a showcase segment of the city. Residents and visitors alike will see King’s name linked with a place where young people of increasing cultural diversity will shape their futures as contributors to this and other cities.

Yes, the decision has been a long time in coming, but it will be a worthy tribute. Patience and perseverance paid off.

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