The name of former Empire Way (which originally honored Great Northern Railroad “Empire Builder” James J. Hill) had been changed in 1982 to Martin Luther King Jr. Way as the result of a campaign led by black contractor and activist Eddie Rye Jr. Earlier, in 1974, the Seattle School Board renamed the Benjamin Harrison Early Childhood Center at 3201 E Republican to honor Dr. King at the behest of its students. In 1986, the King County Council adopted resolution 6461 naming the County for Dr. King in place of its original eponym, Vice President (and slave owner) William Rufus de Vane King.
On April 19, 2005, King County was officially renamed in honor of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., when Governor Christine Gregoire (b. 1947) signed into law Senate Bill 5332. The signing and ceremony took place in King County Courthouse in Seattle.