Seattle Now & Then: The Seattle Seven On the Courthouse Steps

(click to enlarge photos)

THEN: At the Federal Courthouse on February 17, 1970. By and Courtesy of Doyal Gudgel Sr. and Jr.
THEN: Still at the Courthouse, on April 17, 1970. By and Courtesy of Gudgel Sr. and Jr.
NOW: Some combination of Jean’s quick wit and good fortune allow us to repeat the ecstatic protester with his arms raised with a pigeon preparing to either land or take off from the Courthouse’s top step. Jean’s and my friend, the author Clay Eals, reminds us that “The pigeon is the dove of the street.”
A few Freeway protest shapshots by Doyal Gudgel Sr. mixed in with Federal Courthouse scenex, also by Gudgel, looking east across 5th Avenue from the rear of the Seattle Public Library.  CLICK TO ENLARGE
A Times clipping from April 18, 1970.

I first read Kit Bakke’s ‘Protest on Trial’ as a work-in-progress. The book’s publisher, Washington State University Press, shared a copy of the manuscript with me for comment, and as I read through it I increasingly responded with recommendations.  This week’s edited excerpt of the book’s brilliant late chapter on courtroom mayhem should, I hope, inspire many PacificNW readers to read it all.

Doyal Gudgel Sr. snapped the two “more” historical photographs printed here in 1970 at the front door of the Federal Court House, directly across Fifth Avenue from the Seattle Public Library.  The oldest one, with the phalanx of helmeted Seattle police guarding the courthouse’s broken front door, was photographed on Feb. 17, 1970.  That was TDA or “The Day After”, a one Winter day of protest.  (Again, I’m confident that readers will be enlivened to learn more about the TDA and the many political shenanigans surrounding it by reading the book.)  Besides smashing the front door, angrier TDA protesters also threw paint, and some of it can be seen in long drippings above the front door.

The caption for this Times clipping of April 18, 1970 reads, “S.L.F. in COURTHOUSE PROTEST, Members of the Seattle Liberation Front gathered on the steps of the United States Courthouse yesterday to denounce the Justice Department for wht they called an attempt ‘to crush our organization.’  The accusation was made after eight S.L.F. leaders were indicted by a federal grand jury for inciting violence in a demonstration at the courthouse February 17. – Times staff photo by Pete Liddell.”

It seems (at least) that in the second Gudgel snapshot (at the top) the running paint survives as a smear above the same door on April 17, 1970 when it was time for another organized protest.  (Read the book, OK?) As a “stringer” providing both still shots like these and 16mm film for media clients and law enforcement investigations, Gudgel responded to opportunities he first discovered on the police radio reports he listened to while tending his store, Burien Radio and Television.

A 5th Avenue sit-in related to the TDA of 1970. The Federal Courthouse it off-camera to the right and the public library to the left, both out-of-frame.

The photographer most likely arrived somewhat late for the April recording at the Courthouse.  The day started with a protest march in morning rain, while here the afternoon sun casts long afternoon shadows.  To these eyes Gudgel’s April recording resembles a designed tableau.  The man on the far left seems to be drawn, at least in profile, from a central casting for tough investigators.

A comparison with the righ half a detail clipped from the second photo from the top and the left half also showing Seattle Seven member Jeff Down on the far left. That the two Doyal Gudgel photos were shot on the same day can be figured from some of the clothes shared between them. 

The sunlit April photograph is aiming at one of the Seattle Seven: Jeffrey Alan Dowd, who at 20-years-old carried a mop of curly hair above a still cherubic face.  Now decades later Dowd, living in Southern California, is better known as “The Dude” an eccentric pop creation from Hollywood.  Here the pre-dude Dowd is cradled by admirers of his political courage, some of them showing fists and one of them slim arms reaching, it seems, in reverence.


Anything to add, troublemakers?  Yes Jean we will stir a few more column inches below with more features.

THEN:In late 1855 the citizens of Seattle with help from the crew of the Navy sloop-of-war Decatur built a blockhouse on the knoll that was then still at the waterfront foot of Cherry Street. The sloop’s physician John Y. Taylor drew this earliest rendering of the log construction.  (Courtesy, Yale University, Beinecke Library)

Then: The Pacific House, behind the line-up of white-gloved soldiers, might have survived well into the 20th Century were it not destroyed during Seattle’s Great Fire of 1889. Courtesy, Museum of History and Industry

THEN: With feet nearly touching the Madison Street Cable Railway’s cable slot, five “happy workers” squeeze on to the front bumper of an improvised Armistice Day float.  (Photo courtesy Grace McAdams)

THEN: When the Oregon Cadets raised their tents on the Denny Hall lawn in 1909 they were almost venerable.  Founded in 1873, the Cadets survive today as Oregon State University’s ROTC. Geneticist Linus C. Pauling, twice Nobel laureate, is surely the school’s most famous cadet corporal.  (courtesy, University of Washington Libraries)

Looking southwest from Walker Street to the burning ruins.

THEN: Looking west on Madison Street from Seventh Avenue circa 1909.  (Courtesy, Washington State Museum, Tacoma)

THEN: This “real photo postcard” was sold on stands throughout the city.  It was what it claimed to be; that is, its gray tones were real.  If you studied them with magnification the grays did not turn into little black dots of varying sizes. (Courtesy, David Chapman and

THEN: Friends of the Market president, architect Victor Steinbrueck, leads a cadre of Friends marching for Market preservation in front of the Seattle City Hall most likely on March 18, 1971.  (Photo by Tom Brownell from the Post-Intelligencer collection at MOHAI)

THEN: Depression-era protestors climb Columbia Street sidewalk along-aside Seattle architect Harlan Thomas’s elegant Seattle landmark that opened in 1925 as home to the by then already forty-three year old Seattle Chamber of Commerce.  (Courtesy, Museum of History and Industry)

THEN: Local candy-maker A.W. Piper was celebrated here for his crème cakes and wedding cakes and also his cartoons.  This sketch is of the 1882 lynching from the Maple trees beside Henry and Sara Yesler’s home on James Street.  Piper’s bakery was nearby (Courtesy, Ron Edge)





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