From 1945 until his death in 2006, Wally Hagin captured photographs of local life, especially the clubs, church groups, portraits and special occasions of this area’s African American community. In addition, Wally’s mother Irene had assembled a fine collection of photos and family albums during the course of her 99 year life. In October 1997, the combined treasure of about 1000 family and business photographs came to the MAC as the Wally Hagin Collection – a springboard in the Museum’s efforts to build a collection that better represents all the people of the Inland Northwest.
Wally Hagin’s story is a colorful one. Born in Montana in 1915, he arrived in Spokane with his family at about age three. His father Wallace helped a Montana friend, Reverend Emmett Reed, form Spokane’s Calvary Baptist Church. As a young man, Wally attended Gonzaga University, played trumpet in its band, and was the first African American in Washington to earn a pilot’s license. He also earned a mortician’s degree, performed continuously in dance bands, After World War II, Wally Hagin took up photography as a profession and, carrying a camera at all times, documented local events, from weddings and parties, to graduation portraits and club pictures.
Special thanks go to Jerrelene Williamson and the Spokane Northwest Black Pioneers for their efforts in adding this important collection to the museum collection, assuring that the region’s African American heritage is preserved and accessible to future generations.