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Central Washington University

CWU President Among Dignitaries Invited to Honor Roslyn Community Legend 

Monday, February 22, 2021

A beloved member of the Roslyn community was honored last week when Governor Jay Inslee signed a proclamation that February 20 will now be known as William Craven Day in the state of Washington.

Craven’s legacy of service in Kittitas County dates back to the early 1970s, when he served on the Roslyn City Council, prior to being elected as the first African American mayor in state history in November 1975.

A quote from Craven in the proclamation captures the historical significance of his election more than 40 years ago: “Some people will like me, some people won’t. I didn’t run for this job as a black man, but as a man. I wanted an equal chance to try — if I can’t do it, the people will vote me out in September.”

CWU President James L. Gaudino joined Craven, community leaders, the governor, and other elected officials at the weekend ceremony.

“'Willie’ is a Roslyn legend and an honored citizen,” Gaudino said, adding that Craven “was a strong advocate for education, and he was instrumental in registering Roslyn’s ethnically diverse cemetery as a historical site.”

In 1978, Craven played a lead role in establishing the city’s 26 ethnically distinct cemeteries on the National Register of Historic Places, which helped preserve a vital part of local history. He also served for many years as a sexton and grave digger for the Roslyn cemeteries. 

The lifelong Roslyn resident served as mayor from 1975-79, and he is remembered for his efforts to improve snow-plowing, manage stray dogs, and negotiate with the Plum Creek Timber Co. to keep the city’s watershed intact.

Aside from serving on the City Council, Craven’s community service efforts have included working as a school custodian and serving as a coach and mentor to local youths. 

More recently, he and his late wife, Virginia, provided a place to mourn the loss of four firefighters in the Thirtymile Fire in July 2001. Their son, Tom, was one of the firefighters who perished in Okanogan County, and his public grave in Roslyn is adorned with a rock and charred trees from the site.

Tom Craven was a standout football player at CWU in 1991-92, prior to becoming a wildland firefighter with the U.S. Forest Service. He earned a CWU sociology degree in 1997.

Media contact: David Leder, Department of Public Affairs, David.Leder@cwu.edu, 509-963-1518.

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