King County, Washington

"King County" redirects here. For other uses, see King County (disambiguation).
King County, Washington

King County Courthouse


Map of Washington highlighting King County
Location in the U.S. state of Washington
Map of the United States highlighting Washington
Washington's location in the U.S.
Founded December 22, 1852
Named for William Rufus King (1852 - 2005)
Martin Luther King, Jr. (2005–present)
Seat Seattle
Largest city Seattle
  Total 2,307 sq mi (5,975 km2)
  Land 2,116 sq mi (5,480 km2)
  Water 191 sq mi (495 km2), 8.3%
Population (est.)
  (2015) 2,117,125
  Density 983/sq mi (380/km²)
Congressional districts 1st, 7th, 8th, 9th
Time zone Pacific: UTC-8/-7

King County is a county located in the U.S. state of Washington. As of the 2010 census its population was 1,931,249.[1] King is the most populous county in Washington, and the 13th-most populous in the United States. The county seat is Seattle,[2] which is the state's largest city.

King County is one of three Washington counties that are included in the SeattleTacomaBellevue metropolitan statistical area. (The others are Snohomish county to the north, and Pierce county to the south.) About two-thirds of King county's population lives in the city's suburbs. As of 2011, King County was the 86th highest-income county 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 to change the namesake to Martin Luther King, Jr.[3] No public votes or hearings were taken on the change.[4]

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.[5] Because only the state can charter counties, this change was not made official until April 19, 2005, when the Governor signed Senate Bill 5332 into law.

The County Council submitted a vote to the public on February 27, 2006 to change the county's logo from a royal crown to an image of King.[6] On March 12, 2007, the new logo was unveiled.[7]

Martin Luther King Jr. visited King County for two days in November 1961.[8]


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, who had just been elected Vice President of the United States under President Franklin Pierce. Seattle was made the county seat on January 11, 1853.[9][10]

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.[11]

On February 24, 1986, the King County Council passed Motion 6461 renaming King County to commemorate the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968), the civil rights leader, rather than William Rufus de Vane King (1786-1853), the vice-president-elect for whom the county was named in 1852. The stated reason for the change was the revelation that "William Rufus DeVane King was a slaveowner and a "gentle slave monger" according to John Quincy Adams."[12]


Map of King County

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 2,307 square miles (5,980 km2), of which 2,116 square miles (5,480 km2) is land and 191 square miles (490 km2) (8.3%) is water.[13] King County has nearly twice the land area of the state of Rhode Island. The highest point in the county is Mount Daniel at 2,426 meters (7,959 feet) above sea level.

King County borders Snohomish County to the north, Kitsap County to the west, Kittitas County to the east, and Pierce County to the south. It also shares a small border with Chelan County to the northeast. King County includes Vashon Island and Maury Island in Puget Sound.

Geographic features

The Cascade Range (including Granite Mountain shown here) dominates the eastern part of King County.



Major highways

Adjacent counties

National protected areas


Historical population
Census Pop.
Est. 20152,117,125[14]9.6%
U.S. Decennial Census[15]
1790–1960[16] 1900–1990[17]
1990–2000[18] 2010–2015[1]

The center of population of the state of Washington in 2010 was located in eastern King County (47°19′51″N 121°37′12″W / 47.330750°N 121.619994°W / 47.330750; -121.619994 (Washington center of population, 2010)).[19] King County's own center of population was located on Mercer Island (47°32′54″N 122°13′48″W / 47.548320°N 122.229983°W / 47.548320; -122.229983 (King County center of population, 2010)).[20]

2010 census

As of the 2010 United States Census, there were 1,931,249 people, 789,232 households, and 461,510 families residing in the county.[21] The population density was 912.9 inhabitants per square mile (352.5/km2). There were 851,261 housing units at an average density of 402.4 per square mile (155.4/km2).[22] The racial makeup of the county was 68.7% White (64.8% Non-Hispanic White), 6.2% African American, 14.6% Asian, 0.8% Pacific Islander, 0.8% Native American, 3.9% from other races, and 5.0% from two or more races. Those of Hispanic or Latino origin made up 8.9% of the population.[21] In terms of ancestry, 17.1% were German, 11.6% were English, 11.1% were Irish, 5.5% were Norwegian, and 2.9% were American.[23]

Of the 789,232 households, 29.2% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 45.3% were married couples living together, 9.1% had a female householder with no husband present, 41.5% were non-families, and 31.0% of all households were made up of individuals. The average household size was 2.40 and the average family size was 3.05. The median age was 37.1 years.[21]

The median income for a household in the county was $68,065 and the median income for a family was $87,010. Males had a median income of $62,373 versus $45,761 for females. The per capita income for the county was $38,211. About 6.4% of families and 10.2% of the population were below the poverty line, including 12.5% of those under age 18 and 8.6% of those age 65 or over.[24]


The present King County Courthouse (2007)

The King County Executive (currently Dow Constantine) heads the county's executive branch. The King County Prosecuting Attorney (currently Dan Satterberg), Elections Director, Sheriff (currently John Urquhart), and the King County Assessor (currently Lloyd Hara) 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 a near-entirety of the population in the 7th and 9th Congressional Districts, a majority of the population in the 8th Congressional District and a plurality of the population in the 1st Congressional District. 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 the near-entirety of the 30th legislative district, about one-half of the 32nd legislative district, about one-third of the 1st and 31st legislative district, and a mere 627 people in the 39th legislative district.

The people of King County voted on September 5, 1911 to create a Port District. King County's Port of Seattle was established as the first Port District in Washington State. The Port of Seattle is King County's only Port District. It is governed by five Port Commissioners, who are elected countywide and serve four-year terms. The Port of Seattle owns and operates many properties on behalf of King County's citizens, including Sea-Tac International Airport; many seaport facilities around Elliott Bay, including its original property, publicly owned Fishermen's Terminal, home to the North Pacific fishing fleet and the largest homeport for fishermen in the U.S. West Coast; four container ship terminals; two cruise ship terminals; the largest grain export terminal in the U.S. Pacific Northwest; three public marinas; 22 public parks; and nearly 5,000 acres of industrial lands in the Ballard-Interbay and Lower Duwamish industrial centers.

Council members

Main article: King County Council


Presidential Election Results
Year Democratic Republican
2016 71.94% 715,959 21.67% 215,643
2012 69.07% 668,004 28.51% 275,700
2008 70.30% 648,230 28.17% 259,716
2004 64.95% 580,378 33.69% 301,043
2000 60.02% 476,700 34.40% 273,171
1996 56.38% 417,846 31.41% 232,811
1992 50.23% 391,050 27.36% 212,986
1988 53.88% 349,663 44.78% 290,574
1984 46.71% 298,620 52.09% 332,987
1980 39.16% 235,046 45.42% 272,567
1976 45.20% 248,743 50.80% 279,382
1972 40.1% 212,509 56.4% 298,707
1968 47.1% 223,469 46.0% 218,457
1964 59.5% 268,216 39.4% 177,598
1960 47.4% 208,756 50.8% 224,150

King County, which includes Seattle, is a major center for liberal politics and is a bastion for the Democratic Party. In the 2008 election, Barack Obama defeated John McCain in the county by 42 percentage points, a larger margin than any previous election. Slightly more than 29% of the population in the State of Washington reside in King County, making it a significant factor for the Democrats in a few recent close statewide elections. In 2000, it was King County that pushed Maria Cantwell's total over that of incumbent Republican Slade Gorton, winning her a seat in the United States Senate. In 2004, King County gave a lead to Democrat Christine Gregoire in the second recount in the state's gubernatorial election, pushing her ahead of Republican Dino Rossi, who led by 261 votes after the initial count.[25] Rossi resided in the county at the time of the election in Sammamish.

The suburbs east and south of Seattle have historically tended to be moderate. In the 2005 County Executive race, Republican David Irons beat Democrat Ron Sims outside of Seattle (which voted 74% for Sims), but in 2004, John Kerry received landslide victories in much of the Bellevue and Redmond areas. Generally the suburbs are becoming more liberal on the state and county levels.

In 2004, voters passed a referendum reducing the size of the County Council from 13 members to 9. This resulted in all council seats ending up on the 2005 ballot.

Some residents of eastern King County have long desired to secede and form their own county. This movement was most vocal in the mid-1990s (see Cedar County, Washington).[26][27] It has recently been revived as Cascade County.[28] According to a map published by the Seattle Times,[29] four different geographic borders are being considered. Additional plans (see Skykomish County, Washington) also exist or have existed.




See also Cities in King County.



Census-designated places

Unincorporated communities

Ghost towns

See also


  1. 1 2 "State & County QuickFacts". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved January 7, 2014.
  2. "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Retrieved 2011-06-07.
  3. Toledo Blade - Google News Archive Search
  4. Spokane Chronicle - Google News Archive Search
  5. Sims, Ron. "Motion redesignating King County's name". Archived from the original on 2009-05-14. Retrieved 2009-09-24.
  6. Ervin, Keith (February 28, 2006). "Former governor now opposing WASL test for diploma". The Seattle Times.
  7. "Executive praises County Council for approval of new logo". 2007-12-29. Archived from the original on 2007-11-02.
  8. "Milestones for Washington State History — Part 2: 1851 to 1900". 2003-03-06.
  9. Reinartz, Kay. "History of King County Government 1853–2002" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2007-12-01. Retrieved 2007-12-29.
  10. Bill Speidel, Doc Maynard, The Man Who Invented Seattle (Seattle: Nettle Creek Publishing Co., 1978) (ISBN 0-914890-02-6).
  12. "2010 Census Gazetteer Files". United States Census Bureau. August 22, 2012. Retrieved July 7, 2015.
  13. "County Totals Dataset: Population, Population Change and Estimated Components of Population Change: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2015". Retrieved July 2, 2016.
  14. "U.S. Decennial Census". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved January 7, 2014.
  15. "Historical Census Browser". University of Virginia Library. Retrieved January 7, 2014.
  16. "Population of Counties by Decennial Census: 1900 to 1990". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved January 7, 2014.
  17. "Census 2000 PHC-T-4. Ranking Tables for Counties: 1990 and 2000" (PDF). United States Census Bureau. Retrieved January 7, 2014.
  18. "Centers of Population by State: 2010". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved March 22, 2014.
  19. "Centers of Population by County: 2010". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved March 22, 2014.
  20. 1 2 3 "DP-1 Profile of General Population and Housing Characteristics: 2010 Demographic Profile Data". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2016-03-06.
  21. "Population, Housing Units, Area, and Density: 2010 - County". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2016-03-06.
  22. "DP02 SELECTED SOCIAL CHARACTERISTICS IN THE UNITED STATES – 2006-2010 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2016-03-06.
  23. "DP03 SELECTED ECONOMIC CHARACTERISTICS – 2006-2010 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2016-03-06.
  24. The Seattle Times Missing or empty |title= (help)
  25. King County Journal: Proposal would ease creation of new county
  26. King County Journal: Calls for new county intensify - Rural rage revives drive to escape Seattle influence
  28. Cascade County (GIF)

External links

Wikivoyage has a travel guide for King County.

Coordinates: 47°28′N 121°50′W / 47.47°N 121.84°W / 47.47; -121.84

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