‘A gentle giant’: Carl Maxey’s legacy lives on in Spokane

SPOKANE, Wash. — The late Carl Maxey was a prominent figure in the Inland Northwest. As the first Black attorney in Eastern Washington, he fought for civil rights.

Maxey was the first Black man to graduate from Gonzaga Law School.

His grandson, Morgan Maxey, a Spokane attorney himself, described his grandfather as a fighter, a gentle giant, and a champion. Maxey fought fearlessly in the pursuit of equal justice.

Maxey was a person people looked up to and a champion for the underdog and the underrepresented.

“He was kind of a gentle giant,” Morgan Maxey said. “I didn’t get the chance to know him very well, he passed away when I was six. From the stories I heard of my father is that he cared about the people that surrounded him and the general population had those equal rights.”

Carl Maxey was a National Collegiate Athletic Association boxing champion, and a fighter outside of the ring.

Maxey says there are two of his grandfather’s cases that stick out to him.

“One was where he defended a man’s right to make sure he could get a haircut, and two where he ensured that liquor laws and licenses were being applied equally or indiscriminately,” he said.

According to Spokane Historical, Jangaba Johnson, an exchange student from Liberia, was denied a haircut from John Wheeler at his downtown barbershop.

Maxey left Spokane a better place than how he found it for all people, and today his legacy lives on through the Carl Maxey Center.

“It was built to help kind of empower people around there as a resource center. I would be remised if I didn’t mention my late friend Sandy Williams, and all the hard work she’s put in,” Maxey said.

READ: Carl Maxey Center expanding resources for Black community