North-South highway war over for now

By Susanna Ray

Herald Writer

OLYMPIA — A piece of Southern history is safe at Washington’s northern border, at least for now.

A Senate committee killed a bill Monday that could have led to the removal of a stone monument at the Peace Arch crossing to Canada calling the roadway "Jefferson Davis Highway No. 99," in honor of the Confederate president.

House Joint Memorial 4024 would have renamed Highway 99 the William P. Stewart Memorial Highway after a Union soldier who was one of the first black settlers in Snohomish County.

"It looks like the Senate has got some Confederates in their closet that don’t want to be shown in public," said the measure’s sponsor, state Rep. Hans Dunshee, D-Snohomish.

Dunshee said he would ask the state Parks and Recreation Commission to remove the Jefferson Davis marker anyway, and he’d try again next year to get the highway named after Stewart.

"It took five years to win the Civil War and get rid of slavery," Dunshee said. "I guess it’ll take more than two months to remove the final vestiges of racism from this state."

Dunshee’s contention that the marker wrongly honors a man who stood for slavery and secession turned his bill into one of the most controversial of the session, garnering national attention and hundreds of messages from irate Southerners.

The marker was put up in 1940 by the Washington chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy. They say Davis was instrumental in getting highways built in Washington before the Civil War.

Dunshee’s measure received a contentious hearing in the House in January but passed that chamber unanimously last month.

Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen, D-Camano Island, the chairwoman of the Senate Transportation Committee, said leadership asked her to kill the bill at Monday’s cutoff. Many senators supported naming the highway after Stewart, she said, but they didn’t want to vote against Davis.

"They got too many ugly letters and too many nasty phone calls on both sides of the issue," Haugen said. "I’ll sign the bill next year, but you need to let it cool down. It just was far too controversial."

Marilyn Quincy, one of Stewart’s great-granddaughters who lives in Everett, said she was disappointed, but "it was a great honor just to be considered."

Dunshee had said he’d get the marker removed even if he had to take it down himself and risk being arrested. But Monday, he said he’s not giving up on the Legislature, and he doesn’t foresee any jail time in his future: "I’m gonna get this resolved here."

You can call Herald Writer Susanna Ray at 1-360-586-3803 or send e-mail to

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