Washblog

Happy 100th Birthday Governor Rosellini!

We are still inspired by Gov. Rosellini's vitality and spirit. Thanks to all that participated in his Jan 24, 2010 Birthday Dinner at JFK High School with the great cooking of The Sons of Italy. They are fraternal club includes more women than men, mainly seniors among the 1/5 Washingtonians that were alive when "Big Al" was Governor.

Congressman Jim McDermott, Governor Mike Lowry, Labor Council President Rick Bender, Senators Karen Kaiser & Senator Jeannie Kohl-Welles, K C Executive Dow Constantine, King County Councilman Larry Phillips, WSBA President-elect Steven Toole, King County Assessor Lloyd Hara, and History Link Executive Director Marie McCaffrey as well as Alan J. Stein, History Link Staff Historian, joined the Rosellini family and hundreds of proud Italian Americans to honor Governor Rosellini.

Governor Rosellini charmed his guests with his smile and watched a slide presentation of his many memorable life experiences. He is rumored to have said "I wish I was 90 again".

Gov. Mike Lowry's referred to Lem Howell, Lloyd Hara and himself, and said "We're all Italians". Multiple Awards were presented including Resolutions by the State Senate and Washington Bar Association. President Obama sent his congratulations too.

Governor Albert Rosellini, who was governor of Washington State from 1957 to 1965, has turned 100 years old this past Thursday, January 21st, 2010.

Albert Dean Rosellini (born January 21, 1910) was the 15th Governor of the state of Washington for two terms from 1957 to 1965 and was the first Italian American, Roman Catholic governor elected west of the Mississippi River.During a political career that spanned 40 years, Rosellini was an activist leader who worked to reform the state's prisons and mental health facilities, expand the state highway system, create the University of Washington Medical School and Dental School, and build the second floating bridge across Lake Washington. At 100, Rosellini is currently the oldest living former Governor in the United States.

Rosellini was born in Tacoma, Washington, the only son of Italian immigrants. He worked his way through college and law school at the University of Washington. At the age of 29, he was elected to the Washington State Senate as its youngest member, representing the 33rd district in south Seattle, the home of many Italian immigrants. A New Deal Democrat, Rosellini served from 1939 to 1957, eventually rising to the rank of majority leader. He was elected governor in 1956.

As governor, Rosellini coupled personal charm with decades of political know-how, developing a reputation for decisiveness and ability to move ahead on long-stalled projects."He got things done," wrote longtime Seattle Times political columnist Don Hannula in 1996. "His legacy is everywhere." In order to promote economic development, Rosellini established a state department of commerce and championed the Seattle World's Fair in 1962. He shepherded construction of the longest floating bridge in the world, the Evergreen Point Floating Bridge, which was opened in 1963 and carries State Route 520 over Lake Washington from Seattle to Medina. The bridge is named after him. In addition, he was a tireless supporter of higher education, strengthening the state university system and developing a system of junior colleges. During his time in office Rosellini also reformed the state budget process and balanced the budget.

In his 1997 biography, "Rosellini, Immigrant's Son and Progressive Governor," author Payton Smith wrote: "He was attracted to issues where progress could be made and measured... Budget reform, economic development, transportation, higher education and institutions were the core matters to which he devoted his talent and governmental know-how."

After leaving office in 1965, Rosellini returned to the practice of law and also became a political consultant, specializing in matters of the liquor and entertainment industries. Over the years, he has served as an elder statesman of the state Democratic Party, mentoring political figures like current Washington governor Christine Gregoire and former governor Gary Locke.

The governor still went to his office every day up until last September, when he broke his hip. "The Gov" worked hard to promote Seattle's bid for the 2012 Olympics (now in London) on the Washington State Olympics Committee, which he chaired for many years. As the Pacific Northwest has flourished, many local academics, media columnists and political veterans have concluded that Rosellini was the state's best governor of modern times. "His record," wrote Seattle Times columnist Danny Westneat in 2005, "makes most governors after him look like slackers."

The TVW taping of the dinner presentations will now be part of the Rosellini legacy and TVW.org Archives. There are signed copies available of the Rosellini biograpy "Rosellini: Immigrant's Son and Progressive Governor" by Payton Smith. A 35 minute DVD called Life Chapters may be available through JFK High School.

Jeff Barreca, CPA 206-282-1459

Please sign the Washington State Democrats birthday card for Governor Rosellini and thank him for his years of service to Washington State. You can include your own personal message to the governor. They will deliver the card to him with your birthday wishes!

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