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GONZAGA UNIVERSITY NEWS RELEASE
Dale Goodwin, Director
Peter Tormey, Associate Director
|Jim Kershner to Discuss Carl Maxey's Life Nov. 13|
Kershner, an award-winning journalist, critic and columnist for The Spokesman-Review newspaper, has written a biography of Maxey to be published in spring 2008 by the University of Washington Press. The book is titled, “Carl Maxey: A Fighting Life.”
Maxey graduated from the Gonzaga University School of Law to become Spokane’s first African-American attorney. He challenged racial policies in education, real estate and social organizations in a career that lasted until his death in 1997 at age 73.
Maxey began his remarkable lifelong crusade against segregation and racism at age 6 when, as an orphan, he was sent to, and then dismissed from, the Spokane Children’s Home simply because he was “colored.” From there, Maxey spent time as a long-term visitor to the Spokane County Juvenile Detention Center. Later, after being befriended by a Jesuit missionary, he enrolled at the Sacred Heart Mission School on the Coeur d’Alene Indian Reservation. He completed his high school education at Gonzaga Prep. After time in the military he attended Gonzaga School of Law, graduated in 1951 and passed the bar exam on his first try. As a GU student, Maxey achieved a 32-0 record as light-heavyweight boxer becoming, in 1950, the NCAA champion in his division.
His toughest fights as a lawyer had fewer rules than he encountered in the boxing ring. In case after case, Maxey battled against invisible racial barriers established by the Spokane School District, in real estate transactions, and with social club discrimination. Some of his cases brought Maxey — and Spokane — national attention.
Such was the case when he defended the anti-war group the Seattle Seven in 1970, and when he defended Ruth Coe, the mother of convicted Spokane rapist Kevin Coe. Ruth Coe, now deceased, was convicted of charges related to her attempt to hire someone to kill her son’s prosecutor, Donald Brockett, and the judge in her son’s trial, George Shields.
Maxey’s political aspirations were never as successful as his courtroom career, but in that area, too, he often brought national media attention to himself and his causes. It was Maxey’s rule that his law associates devote 20 percent of their time to pro bono work, usually on civil rights cases.
The lecture series was established in honor of the pioneering work of the late Rev. William Lyle Davis, S.J., and his dedication to Gonzaga. Davis was a history professor from 1931-60 and chaired the history department from 1943-60. Rev. Davis was the longtime chair of Gonzaga’s history department. He passed away in 1971.
Kershner has been a journalist, critic and historian in the Pacific Northwest for 30 years. He has won seven awards from the National Society of Newspaper Columnists and is the author of two hardback collections of columns written during 18 years on staff for The Spokesman-Review.
For more information, contact GU history Professor Robert Carriker at (509) 323-6693, (509) 325-5526 or via e-mail.