New KSPS Documentary Explores Life of Spokane Lawyer Carl Maxey
A new public television documentary takes a look at the life of African American lawyer Carl Maxey and the impact he had on Spokane.
The KSPS-produced documentary Carl Maxey, A Fighting Life is a real rags-to-riches story. As an orphan, Maxey lived in the Spokane Children’s Home, and when it was closed down, he was sent to the juvenile detention center, even though he was not a criminal.
Spokane Public Television producer Mary DeCesare says his life changed when he was sent to live at the Sacred Heart Indian Mission operated by Jesuits in DeSmet, Idaho. She reflects, "And that’s when his life turned around--encouraged him to make a difference--and he had a passion for justice from his upbringing.”
Carl Maxey became a boxer and got a scholarship to Gonzaga law school. His career as a fighter prepared him well for the battles he faced as a young lawyer in Spokane, Washington, in the 1950s.
Maxey became a champion of the underdog, which in many cases were other African Americans in a mostly white city where they were excluded from being teachers, getting professional jobs, or being members of social clubs. “And so Carl Maxey started taking this on. He started suing restaurants, challenging the real estate groups and the public schools and the clubs."
Later in the '60s and early '70s, Maxey represented many of those who fought against the Vietnam War. “At that time, here in Spokane and across the state, no one would defend draft dodgers or anyone who was protesting the war. But Maxey would, and he would take it on. He had a lot of cases.”
The film Carl Maxey, A Fighting Life will be screened this Thursday at 6:30pm at the Bing Crosby Theater. It will also be broadcasted on KSPS that evening at 7:00pm and rebroadcasted throughout the month.
On Friday, journalist and Maxey-biographer Jim Kirchner will also host a panel discussion on civil rights in Spokane on the post-Maxey era. That will run from 10:00am-12:00pm at the Gonzaga University Law School courtroom.