Born a few months after the end of the Civil War, John Thomas Gayton drove to Seattle by stagecoach in 1888 from Yazoo City, Miss. A year later, as Sheriff’s Deputy, Gayton helped fight Seattle’s Great Fire
During his first years here, J.T., as he was known, worked his way through Wilson’s Modern Business College as a painter, painting contractor and bellboy. Eventually he became the first black head steward at the prestigious Rainier Club.
In 1904, he was appointed bailiff for the U.S District Court. Despite his fourth grade education, his quest for knowledge landed him an appointment as Federal Court Librarian. While there he earned a reputation as a knowledgeable and conscientious worked. Known as “Judge”, his ever-present boutonniere and courtly manner became a fixture at the law library. He reluctantly retired in 1953 while in his eighties.
Gayton and his wife Magnolia raised four children at their home on 16th Avenue North. The patriarch of five generations of Seattleites, Gayton helped establish the East Madison YMCA on 23rrd and Madison and the First African Methodist Episcopal Church on 14th Avenue and Pine. Both institutions still stand today.
John Thomas Gayton is the great-great grandfather of Taylor, Jacob and Rachel Jordan.