A Brief Biography, 1906-1999
Charles Hodde became an institution in the halls of the state Capitol Building,
where he held court over coffee in the public cafeteria on all manner of legislative
and political issues. His stories stretched back to his days as a Grange lobbyist
in the early 1930s and covered all the ensuing eras when he served as a state representative,
Speaker of the House, gubernatorial candidate and agency director. Although he sometimes
introduced himself as “dirt farmer,” Charlie was a superb legislative strategist,
a tax expert and a gifted administrator.
Born in Missouri in 1906, he describes a boyhood on a hardscrabble farm and his
later adventures looking for work as he explored the country. He arrived in Colville
in 1929, married and settled into a life of farming and logging. Soon, he was drawn
into work of the Grange and was involved in their campaigns for tax reform, public
power and the blanket primary. He gained a reputation in Olympia that led to his
election as a representative in 1937, again in 1943 and subsequent sessions until
he rose to the Speakership for the terms of 1949 and 1951. He then ran unsuccessfully
for governor in 1952. He returned for a time to Grange work and running his electric
wiring business and farm, but was soon tapped by Governor Rosellini to head the
state Tax Commission as the chief revenue offi cer of the state. Later, he also
was appointed by Rosellini as director of General Administration to create a new
statewide purchasing system. In 1965, Hodde was then appointed the Northwest Regional
Coordinator for the Federal Department of the Interior.
Hodde served in many capacities throughout his life, informally as an advisor to
successive governors, formally as a member of the Governor’s Council of Economic
Advisors. He was often called upon to serve on committees dealing with tax reform
and other issues. He served on the Toll Bridge Authority, was involved in the planning
for the East Capitol Campus, and chaired the River Basin Commission. He acted as
a consultant on reclamation issues, energy questions and several other questions
before the Legislature. In 1977, Governor Dixy Lee Ray appointed him Director of
Later, Hodde acted as a lobbyist for various groups and causes, always keeping abreast
of issues and dropping by the offices of decision-makers to share his store of
wisdom and experience. Whether in a suit and tie or farmer’s overalls, his stories
and views were listened to with respect and some degree of awe. He could regale
his audience with details of some Depression-era campaign as easily as current-day
struggles with public policy. Although he passed away in 1999, he is still missed
and often quoted; he was a master politician and public servant.
Introduction to Web Edition
Charles Hodde was interviewed in 1983 in a “series of preliminary interviews” for
a pilot project sponsored by the State Archives. In the 1985 introduction to that
interview, archivist Timothy Frederick noted that “the brief history of Washington
State government spans one hundred and thirty years and it is only in the last fi
ve years that we as a state have begun to actively pursue the preservation of our
legislative archival records. Much has been lost…our one remaining historical resource
is the former legislators themselves.” Thus the Legislative Oral History Project
was launched, the forerunner of this Program.
Along with other early legislators, Charles Hodde was interviewed again in 1986,
and a transcript printed that year which we have reproduced here for greater accessibility.
The interviewer for that project was Jack Rogers. Original copies of the interview
are available in the Washington State Archives.
We would like to thank volunteer Cathy Palmer for generously giving her time and
skill to retype the second Hodde manuscript. Charles Hodde continued to be active
in state government. The Legislative Advisory Committee, which reviews and directs
the work of the Oral History Program, considered his story to be incomplete even
with these two attempts to document Hodde’s extensive career. They authorized another
interview series to cover topics not previously discussed. This third volume was
published in 1997. Sharon Boswell is the interviewer.