The Roslyn City Council appoints Washington's first African American mayor, William Craven, on June 10, 1975.

  • By Jim Kershner
  • Posted 12/16/2009
  • Essay 9244
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On June 10, 1975, William Craven, a school janitor, becomes the state's first black mayor when the city council of this Cascade Range coal town unanimously appoints him to the vacant mayoral post. He then runs for the post during the next election and wins in a landslide. He serves until 1979.

William Craven, also known as William or Will, was born and raised in Roslyn. His father had arrived, from Texas to work in the coal mines. Roslyn's population had once been 22 percent African American, after 300 black miners had been brought to town as strikebreakers in 1888 and 1889. By 1975, except for Craven's family, Roslyn had only one other black resident.

The position of mayor was strictly part-time in this town of about 1,000. Craven made his living as a maintenance man for the school district and also moonlighted as a caretaker-gravedigger-sexton for one of Roslyn's numerous cemeteries. "Some people tell me it isn't fitting for a mayor to do such work," said Craven. "I tell them the mayor's got to make a living, too" (Spokesman-Review). Craven was already known for his civic involvement, having served on the city council since 1971. "Roslyn always comes first with me," said Craven, 36 (Spokesman-Review).

He said he wasn't overly concerned about the historic significance of his appointment:

"Some people will like me, some people won't," he said. "I didn't run for this job as a black man, but as a man. I wanted an equal chance to try -- if I can't do it, the people will vote me out in September" (Spokesman-Review).

On September 16, 1975, Craven was elected with 272 votes to only 33 for his closest competitor. He served until 1979.

Sources: Associated Press, "State Has Its First Black Mayor," Spokesman-Review, July 8, 1975, p. 9; "State Turnout One of Lowest," Ellensburg Daily Record, September 17, 1975 p. 1; "Roslyn, Washington," website accessed November 29, 2009 (

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