This Week Then: Looking Back on King County's First County Executive

Plus: Washingtonians get their first look at an aeroplane
| Updated: March 7, 2019
  • John Spellman, King County's first county executive

In the 1960s a new Home Rule Charter effort was started and a different committee of freeholders drafted the proposal, which was approved by voters in November 1968. The county's first primary election under the new charter was held in February 1969, with Spellman and former Democratic Governor Albert D. Rosellini winning their parties' nominations for the new executive post. After defeating Rosellini in the March election, Spellman was re-elected twice before winning the governor's seat in 1980. Since his tenure King County voters have seated five other executives: Randy Revelle, Tim Hill, Gary Locke, Ron Sims, and Dow Constantine. In 1992, in conjunction with the merger of Metro into county government, the council was expanded to 13 seats, but it has since been reduced back to nine.

Home Port Vessels

Thirty years ago this week, on March 7, 1989, the Lady Washington took to the water for the first time at her home port of Aberdeen. Launched during the centennial celebration of Washington statehood, the ship is a full-scale replica of the original Lady Washington, once captained by Robert Gray, eponym of Grays Harbor.  

The modern Lady Washington contains approximately six miles of rigging, and her figurehead was carved by Bob McCausland, a former cartoonist for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. In 2007 the Lady Washington was named the official ship of the state, and she often travels the Pacific Coast with her sailing partner, the Hawaiian Chieftain. Film buffs may also recognize the vessel from her appearances in such films as Star Trek: Generations and Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl. More recently, she has been seen in Macklemore's "Can't Hold Us" music video.

And we'd be remiss this week if we didn't note the anniversary of another beloved Pacific Northwest vessel -- the Virginia V. This last surviving operational member of Puget Sound's mosquito fleet was launched on March 9, 1922, and has been owned or operated by a variety of people over the years, including hit-maker Joe Boles. The sturdy steamer has hosted countless wedding receptions, high-school proms, scouting trips, and other excursions, and was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1992.


On the Trail

On March 10, 1871, David Longmire purchased a homestead in the Wenas Valley, where he became one of the region's leading citizens. Part of Longmire's homestead once belonged to Owhi -- a chief of the Yakamas -- who in 1853 sold potatoes to the Longmire-Byles wagon train, when David was just a young boy.

Ride the Rail

Seattle's streetcar lines were first developed by private entrepreneurs, then consolidated into monopolies. Reformers advocated public ownership, which led Seattle voters to approve the purchase of the Rainier Valley interurban between downtown and Renton on March 7, 1911. The city bought all of the streetcar routes in 1918 at an inflated price, which doomed the system to slow decay. Voters stuck by their streetcars in a special referendum on March 9, 1937, but four years later they were scrapped anyway.

Wings and Tail

Washingtonians got their first look at an aeroplane on March 11, 1910, when Charles Hamilton demonstrated his Curtiss biplane above the muddy expanse of the Meadows Race Track in Georgetown. The flights ended abruptly when Hamilton dunked the machine into a pond, which didn't stop the aviator from wowing crowds in Spokane a few weeks later.

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