Marjorie Pitter King, Pioneer In Business, State Legislature

Marjorie Pitter King, daughter of Seattle African-American pioneers Edward and Marjorie Pitter, explored new worlds herself.

She became one of the state's earliest, most enduring African-American businesswomen, running M & M Accounting and Tax Service - sometimes without charge for those who couldn't pay - for 48 years.

And she became the state's first female African-American legislator, appointed in 1965 to complete the term of her friend Rep. Ann T. O'Donnell, which ran through 1966.

Mrs. King, 74, died Sunday, Jan. 28, of complications of diabetes and lung cancer.

"She was a mover and shaker all her life," said her sister Maxine Haynes, of Seattle. "When we were kids, she pressed my sister and me into helping her start a business - `Tres Hermanas,' or `Three Sisters' - in our basement. She bought a mimeograph machine and we ran off Christmas cards and sold them."

Born in Seattle, Mrs. King went to Howard University in Washington, D.C. When World War II broke out, she did office work at the Pentagon. In 1944, she returned to Seattle, studied business at the University of Washington and started her business, which she sold in 1995.

"She had clients from Mexico, Alaska, all over," said her sister. "She would do them for people who could not read or write English, and even wrote letters for them."

Mrs. King was involved in community and church activities, with an emphasis on civil rights for women and minorities. She also painted, opened her home to young people and enjoyed hosting parties.

She served as chairwoman of the 37th District Democratic Party and treasurer of the Washington State Federation of Democratic Women Inc.

She also served on the rules, credentials and platform committee of the King County Democratic Party. And, at the 1964 National Democratic Convention, she battled to seat the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party. At the Chicago Convention in 1968, she was tear-gassed during the riots.

"Marjorie had always been in politics," said her nephew Kenneth A. Thomas, of Seattle. "I found a letter dated 1946 from Eleanor Roosevelt, thanking her for organizing a group of young Seattle Democrats."

He said his aunt had clout. When a friend had trouble getting a military promotion, Mrs. King called the late Sen. Henry "Scoop" Jackson, then chairman of the Armed Services Committee. Within two weeks, said Thomas, the friend had the promotion.

"She was a little bulldog," Thomas said. "She got it from her father."

He said her modus operandi was running things from her easy chair, TV tray and telephone.

"She was very feisty and energetic," said her friend Wilhelmina Patterson. "She didn't support candidates just because they were Democrats, either."

Other survivors include sons Walter and Edward King; sisters Constance Thomas and Maxine Haynes; nephew Edward Davis III; and daughter-in-law, Eleanor King, all of Seattle. Her husband, John T. King, died in 1975.

Services are at 11 a.m. tomorrow in Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd, 2116 E. Union St., Seattle, WA 98122. Remembrances may go to the church's Edward A. & Marjorie Pitter Scholarship Fund, named for Mrs. King's parents.