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Logo-ing King

The decision to adopt a new logo isn’t usually a major decision for organizations, county governments included. But maybe there’s a little more going on in the case of King County.

King County logos since the 1950sProbably not one person in ten thousand in King County could tell you who it was originally named for: William Rufus DeVance King, a politician of the mid-1800s whose primary distinction is that he is the only person ever elected vice president of the United States who never actually took office, on account of his death before he was able to get to Washington to be sworn in. He is an obscure and not altogether wonderful character, a peculiar namesake for one of the nation’s large counties. (You can read more in the book Washington State Place Names by James W. Phillips, University of Washington Press.)

King County’s leaders may have recognized that a while back, since for half a century the county’s logo has been some variation on a crown design. That makes design sense, but does it in any other way? Why should an American government, even at the county level, celebrate monarachy? And, in these days when other people across Washington worry about King County and Seattle taking over everything, why should the name and symbol of the county rub it in their faces?

King County Council Member Larry Gossett has been on this case for some years, with a proposal that the county’s formal namesake designation be changed to Martin Luther King, and its logo reflect him. And on Monday the council agreed to do just that. The logo itself has yet to be designed.

Gossett’s comment: “King County is the first government in the nation to adopt the image of our foremost civil rights leader as its official logo. This is truly a day to celebrate. This change gives respect and visibility to the fact that our county is named in honor of Dr. King. The image of Dr. King will be a powerful and influential symbol for the many thousands of visitors to our region now and in the future. They will immediately see that our logo reflects a government committed to diversity, peaceful resolutions to differences, racial and religious tolerance, and social and economic justice for all of its residents.”

Probably not everyone agreess, but an improvement, surely, over the honorific to the veep who never was and the symbol of a monarchy.

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