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Edwards, Isaiah (1913-1994)

Isaiah Edwards was a community activist and advocate in Seattle’s Central Area.  Isaiah Edwards and his wife, Marie, moved from Topeka, Kansas, to Seattle in 1942 to work at Boeing.  Edwards worked for 40 years at Boeing as a maintenance dispatcher without missing a day, and also found time for community activism.

Edwards prominently opposed the construction of a police precinct in Seattle’s Central District.  He also opposed the plan to close schools in the region, believing that schools are a vital part of any community.  Also, Edwards developed an International Baseball League of 32 teams which played throughout the Pacific Coast.  The league kept Central Area boys off the streets and gave them something positive to participate in.  A few of the players went on to the major leagues, while others became prominent citizens.  

In 1962, Edwards became the first African American from Washington State to be nominated as a delegate to the Democratic National Convention.  Edwards then helped to integrate both Seattle City Light and the Seattle Fire Department.  In 1963, the fire department only had one black employee.  Edwards helped to recruit black firefighters and provided them with help and counseling if they wanted to quit.

Fighting for racial justice, Edwards ran for the state legislature.  He formed the Coalition Against Racial Violence, and withdrew his support from the county executive over controversial choke holds which were responsible for the deaths of two African Americans in the King County Jail over a two year period.  Edwards led several demonstrations at the county courthouse to protest these choke holds.  He also spoke out against redistricting, believing it was an attempt to consolidate all black people into one district in order to reduce their representation.

Edwards passed away in March 1994 after battling a long illness.  He was remembered for his work in Seattle’s Central Area and had been honored by resolutions for Isaiah Edwards Day by the city, county, and state.

Sources:
“Isaiah Edwards’ 30-year battle against racism,” Seattle Post-Intelligencer, May 1, 1983, p. B4; “The achievements of Isaiah Edwards,” Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Sep. 26, 1985, p. D 2.

Contributor:

University of Washington

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