Eddie Rye, Jr. has been called an activist and agitator, but his impact in support of civil and human rights has been felt throughout the region. Rye has had a role in renaming streets, renaming King County, and changing the logo of the county to reflect the image of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Today, King County Councilmember Larry Gossett recognized Rye for his continuing work for communities of color, presenting him with the Martin Luther King, Jr. Medal of Distinguished Service.
“For over half a century, Eddie Rye has devoted his life to not only the equality of King County’s African-American Community, but all underserved and unrecognized communities of color,” said Gossett. “Eddie continues to be a persistent and consistent voice for equity in our region, and his impact on this region is felt every time you drive along Martin Luther King, Jr Way, visit El Centro de La Raza, or walk into the Martin Luther King, Jr. Courthouse. It’s fitting that a man who has worked to realize the dream of Dr. King is recognized with an award bearing King’s name.”
Rye has served the community in a number of capacities; he was a director of the Central Area Motivation Program (CAMP), Chair of the Central Seattle Community Council Federation Housing Committee, which released one of the first reports on redlining in the Central Area, and a Co-Founder of the Pacific Northwest Chapter National Black Chamber of Commerce. But he is primarily known for his activism throughout King County and the Pacific Northwest.
Rye was one of the leaders in changing Empire Way, the street through what was then the predominately African-American Central Area neighborhood of Seattle, into Martin Luther King, Jr. Way. As a co-founder of the annual MLK Celebration at Garfield High School, Rye worked with Councilmember Gossett in gathering support for officially changing the name of King County to Martin Luther King, Jr. County, which occurred in 2005. He also joined the call to remove the crown logo that was the county’s logo and replace it with the image of America’s foremost civil rights leader. Rye helped occupy the old Beacon Hill School, which is now El Centro de La Raza. At one time he occupied the Seattle City Council Chamber, all to advance the cause of increased inclusion of African Americans—and all communities of color—in the political process.
The annual presentation of the MLK Medal of Distinguished Service is the Council’s way of thanking those who have made a particularly strong impact on the county and to encourage others to renew their dedication to serve their community.
This article originally appeared in The Seattle Medium.