King County is a county located in the U.S. state of Washington. The population in the 2010 census was 1,931,249. King is the most populous county in Washington, and the 14th most populous in the United States.
The county seat is Seattle, which is the state’s largest city. About two-thirds of the county’s population lives in the city’s suburbs. King County ranks among the 100 highest-income counties in the United States.
The county was originally named after William Rufus King who was Vice-President when the Washington Territory was created. In 1986 a motion was introduced by Ron Sims (a black Democrat from Seattle), and Bruce Laing (a white Republican from suburban Renton) to rename the county after Martin Luther King, Jr. No public hearings or votes were taken on the change.
On February 24, 1986, the King County Council passed Council Motion 6461 five votes to four setting forth the historical basis for the renaming of King County in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Because only the state can charter counties, this change was not made official until April 19, 2005, when Washington Governor Christine Gregoire signed Senate Bill 5332 into law.
Council member Larry Gossett shepherded the County Council to a public vote on February 27, 2006 to change the county’s logo from a royal crown to an image of King’s face. On March 12, 2007, the new logo was unveiled.
Martin Luther King Jr. visited King county for two days in November, 1961.
The county was formed out of territory within Thurston County on December 22, 1852, by the Oregon Territory legislature, and was named after Alabama resident William R. King, Vice President under President Franklin Pierce. Seattle was made the county seat on January 11, 1853.
King County originally extended to the Olympic Peninsula. According to historian Bill Speidel, when peninsular prohibitionists threatened to shut down Seattle’s saloons, Doc Maynard engineered a peninsular independence movement; King County lost what is now Kitsap County, but preserved its entertainment industry.
The present King County Courthouse (2007).
The King County Executive, currently Dow Constantine, heads the county’s executive branch. The King County Prosecutor, Dan Satterberg, Elections Director, Sheriff, and the King County Assessor are also elected executive positions. Judicial power is vested in the King County Superior Court and the King County District Court. Seattle houses the King County Courthouse.
King County is represented in the United States Congress through the Washington 7th Congressional District and parts of the 1st, 2nd, 8th, and 9th districts. In the state legislature, King contains the entirety of the 5th, 11th, 33rd, 34th, 36th, 37th, 41st, 43rd, 45th, 46th, 47th, and 48th legislative districts as well as parts of the 1st, 25th, 30th, 31st, 32nd, and 39th districts.