Carl Maxey was born in Tacoma, Washington in 1924 and was brought to Spokane as an infant by his adoptive parents. Orphaned at an early age, he spent his formative years in an “orphan home” in Spokane. He became a collegiate light-heavyweight champion while attending Gonzaga Law School, where he graduated in 1951.
In one of his first of many high-profile cases, he helped a Black man named Eugene Breckenridge, who later became head of the Washington Education Association, to get a job in the all-white Spokane School District. In the 1960s, Maxey helped Charlie Will Cauthen, who had escaped a Georgia jail on the eve of his execution and fled to Washington, gain asylum in Washington by convincing Governor Albert Rossellini that Cauthen had been railroaded by Georgia authorities. In 1970, he represented the “Seattle 7,” a dissident group accused of conspiring to destroy public property and overthrow the government in protest of the Vietnam War. In 1987 he defended Ruth Coe against charges of solicitation of murder.
Active in the political arena, a platform from which he addressed the concerns of the poor and powerless, Carl Maxey ran unsuccessfully in 1970 for the United States Senate; in 1976 he ran as a candidate for Vice President of the United States with independent presidential candidate Senator Eugene McCarthy; and in 1988 was a convention delegate for Reverend Jesse Jackson.. In addition, he was a vocal opponent of the Vietnam War.
Carl Maxey died at the age 73 on July 17, 1997. The Spokesman-Review (Spokane) on July 19, 1997, noted that throughout Carl Maxey’s 46-year legal career he “made his mark as a lawyer by representing the underdog and the underclass…[a]nd he did it, judges and attorneys said…, with integrity and compassion that impressed adversaries and friends alike.”