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December 25 , 2009

Carl Maxey

A Fighting Life


Carl Maxey was, in his own words, "a guy who started from scratch - black scratch." He was sent, at age five, to the scandal-ridden Spokane Children's Home and then kicked out at age eleven with the only other "colored" orphan. Yet Maxey managed to make a national name for himself, first as an NCAA championship boxer at Gonzaga University, and then as eastern Washington's first prominent black lawyer and a renowned civil rights attorney who always fought for the underdog.

During the tumultuous civil rights and Vietnam War eras, Carl Maxey fought to break down color barriers in his hometown of Spokane and throughout the nation. As a defense lawyer, he made national headlines working on lurid murder cases and war-protest trials, including the notorious Seattle Seven trial. He even took his commitment to justice and antiwar causes to the political arena, running for the U.S. Senate against powerhouse senator Henry M. Jackson.

In Carl Maxey: A Fighting Life, Jim Kershner explores the sources of Maxey's passions as well as the price he ultimately paid for his struggles. The result is a moving portrait of a man called a "Type-A Gandhi" by the New York Times, whose own personal misfortune spurred his lifelong, tireless crusade against injustice.

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