Oral Histories

Robert Graham: Not-So-Simple Twists of Fate
This oral history with Robert and Lloydine Graham of Olympia is part of a series spotlighting World War II veterans; 2015 will mark the 70th anniversary of the end of the war.
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John Spellman
Politics Never Broke His Heart
John Spellman is remembered by most as the King County Executive who persevered to build the Kingdome, Seattle's controversial domed stadium, and went on to serve a star-crossed term as governor in the middle of what was then the worst recession since the Depression. His achievements as a reformer and innovator in county government and progressive achievements as governor are explored in this biography.
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Across the Aisles
Raised during the Great Depression by a widowed mother in Kelso, Sid Snyder relied on hard work to overcome his humble beginnings and eventually become an enterprising grocery store owner, bank founder, successful real-estate investor and one of the most well-respected senate majority leaders the Washington State Legislature has ever seen.
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A Woman First The Impact of Jennifer Dunn
Misjudged, underestimated and sometimes ignored, Jennifer Dunn broke the gender barrier repeatedly as a single mother of two boys. Once labeled a “Glamour Girl” in Congress, Dunn rose through the ranks to become one of the most powerful women on Capitol Hill. From Megan’s Law to AMBER Alert, Dunn proved to be a woman first.
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The Inimitable Adele Ferguson
When he was Majority Leader of the Washington State Senate in the 1980s, Ted Bottiger told freshman legislators to beware of three things: "Adele Ferguson! Adele Ferguson! Adele Ferguson!" The legendary columnist is still at it today.
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Where the Salmon Run: The Life and Legacy of Billy Frank Jr.
With his father, Nisqually elder Billy Frank Jr. reaches back 10 years before statehood. The long history of Indian people in the Northwest inspired Frank to help unite the state and Indian tribes in the battle for fishing rights. At 81, Frank continues a global crusade to protect indigenous people and salmon.
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Carolyn Dimmick: A Judge for All Seasons
When she graduated from law school, Carolyn Dimmick made a splash as "a pretty blonde waterskier." She endured many more gender stereotypes since, but along the way earned enormous respect as a judge and made history as the first woman on the Washington Supreme Court.
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Bonnie J. Dunbar, PhD: An Adventurous Mind
Her story is tailor-made for any parent hoping to inspire a child. After a humble start to life on a Yakima Valley cattle ranch, Bonnie Dunbar proves it really is what’s inside. Dunbar rose to worldwide fame as one of just 51 women across the globe to fly in space. The five-time space hero broke the gender barrier and never thought twice about people who doubted she could fulfill her dreams.
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Nancy Evans: First-rate First Lady
When she accepted his proposal she never dreamed of the life they would lead. At 31, Nancy Bell Evans plunged into the role of First Lady as the wife of Dan Evans, Washington’s chief executive for 12 years. Evans raised her young family in a decrepit Mansion that she would go on to save, and made a name for herself as an activist and community leader.
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Booth Who? The biography of a charismatic governor
Booth Gardner: In 1983, when he decided to challenge a sitting governor, he was little known outside Pierce County where he grew up. His brain-trust put 'Booth Who?' on a button and it became the catchiest campaign slogan in state history. He remains one of Washington's most popular and inspirational public servants.
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Slade Gorton: A Half Century in Politics
As a state legislator, attorney general and U.S. senator, his 50-year career in public service put him on the front lines of a host of controversial issues—from redistricting to fishing rights disputes, the battle over the spotted owl and dam breaching. His service on the 9/11 Commission revealed his tenacity to find the truth. Often characterized as an icy intellectual, Gorton emerges as a complex, thoughtful man.
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Krist Novoselic: Of Grunge and Government
Fifteen years ago, he was a member of the most popular rock band in the world. Today Krist Novoselic is political activist, filmmaker, private pilot, and Volkswagen mechanic (among other things), reveling in Wahkiakum County's country life.
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Charles Z. Smith: Trailblazer
The son of a Cuban auto mechanic and a restaurant cook, Charles Z. Smith rose from humble beginnings in the segregated South to become the first person of color on the Washington Supreme Court. Through a fascinating 55-year career in public service, Smith has earned a reputation as a role model to thousands, a corruption-fighting federal prosecutor, and a thoughtful judge internationally known for tolerance.
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Robert Utter: Justice's Sailor
Robert F. Utter became one of the youngest Supreme Court justices in state history when he was named to the bench at the age of 41. He resigned 23 years later, in 1995, to protest the death penalty, saying he could no longer participate in "a system that is fatally flawed." In the years since, Utter has been engaged in judicial, civic and political activism on multiple fronts around the world.
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Lillian Walker: Washington State Civil Rights Pioneer
When Lillian Walker arrived in Bremerton in 1941 from Illinois she never expected to encounter racism in the Northwest. A charter member of the Bremerton branch of the NAACP, she has been fighting prejudice ever since—and winning. Her devotion has inspired generations and helped change the face of her old shipyard town.
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An Election for the Ages: Rossi vs. Gregoire, 2004
As they voted in the November 2004 gubernatorial election, Washington State citizens were unaware that they were launching a stunning and controversial political episode. After a chaotic primary, an equally divided public, numerous recounts, and five court cases, the winner in Dino Rossi vs. Christine Gregoire was decided by only 133 votes out of 2.8 million cast. This book, written from the perspective of the Office of the Secretary of State, tells the story of an historic election that called into question the integrity and accuracy of the entire voting process, and resulted in a dramatic overhaul of the state's election process.
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Coming Attractions

William Ruckelshaus
From Indiana politics to the upper echelons of American government, William D. Ruckelshaus has played an instrumental role in some of the most fascinating historic events of our time. Ruckelshaus speaks out on his test of character in the Saturday Night Massacre, the birth of the Environmental Protection Agency and the efforts to clean up Puget Sound.


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House Chambers, 1963
View legislative oral histories published prior to 2008

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