OLYMPIA — The state Transportation Commission agreed Tuesday to rename Highway 99 in honor of black Civil War soldier William P. Stewart of Snohomish.
Several of Stewart’s relatives stood and applauded the unanimous decision that ends a years-long effort by a Snohomish lawmaker to replace highway markers honoring Jefferson Davis, the only president of the Confederated States of America.
“It feels wonderful. It is pride for our family. It is pride for our race,” said Marilyn Quincy, of Everett, one of three great-granddaughters in attendance. “It’s wonderful to know that when Washington was formed as a state, African-Americans had something to do with it.”
The effort began in 2002 when then-state Rep. Hans Dunshee, D-Snohomish, was on his way back from a kayaking trip in Canada and saw a granite highway monument honoring Davis at the Peace Arch crossing in Blaine. It was put there in 1940 by the United Daughters of the Confederacy. A second one had been placed on the highway in Vancouver, he found out.
In the ensuing years, as the granite monuments were moved to private land, Dunshee continued working to get the highway renamed for Stewart, who is buried in the Grand Army of the Republic Cemetery in Snohomish.
The state Department of Transportation will be responsible for making and placing the signs, commission staff said.
“I didn’t expect it to happen this year,” said Dunshee, now a Snohomish County councilman. “I think the time had come. I think we have removed a stain that was in our state’s history.”
Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; firstname.lastname@example.org.