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7-term State Auditor Bob Graham dies at 93

by John Hughes | April 17th, 2014 11:27 am | No Comments


John Hughes (left) interviews former State Auditor Bob Graham at home in March. (Photo courtesy of Laura Mott.)  

Robert V. Graham, elected seven times as Washington state auditor, died at his Olympia home on April 16, four days past his 93rd birthday.

John Hughes, chief historian for the Secretary of State’s Legacy Project, completed an oral history and profile of Graham just two weeks ago.

“His mind was nimble until almost the end,” Hughes says. “During World War II, Bob was a flight engineer with the Army Air Transport Service, carrying cargo into the South Pacific. His oral history is part of a series we’re doing leading up to the 70th anniversary in 2015 of the war’s end. His passing underscores the urgency of capturing these ‘Greatest Generation’ stories before it’s too late.”

Graham was first elected state auditor in 1964, succeeding his mentor Cliff Yelle. Under Graham the Auditor’s Office underwent rapid modernization. He fought off an effort to privatize municipal audits, focused on preventing and detecting fraud and instituted comprehensive training programs for his staff. A Democrat, Graham long maintained that the office of auditor should be nonpartisan. He retired in 1993.

Graham grew up in a dairy farm and logging family at Copalis Crossing, continue reading


A bloomin’ good time at Capitol


Rain or shine, the Capitol Campus is a great place to visit this time of the spring, thanks to the colorful outburst of flowers and tree blossoms. On the east side of the Legislative Building, flowers are starting to appear on the rhododendron bushes. Behind this blooming rhody, you’ll notice that the cherry trees are still showing off their blossoms on either side of the appropriately named Cherry Lane.

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Flags lowered as we remember Oso


As a lone bagpiper played a mournful “Amazing Grace” at the top of the Capitol steps, state troopers slowly lowered flags to half-staff in honor of those who lost their lives in the Oso landslide tragedy — and the communities and responders who continue to offer care and comfort.

Gov. Jay Inslee, joined by Secretary of State Kim Wyman,  Lt. Gov. Brad Owen and First Lady Trudi Inslee, told a noon gathering of school children and state workers on Tuesday that Washington and the country will not soon forget the victims and heroes of Oso. The work continues at the site of one of America’s worst natural disasters ever, Inslee said in brief, somber remarks.

The March 22 slide left 37 confirmed dead and another seven listed as missing.



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Farewell, Snoqualmie Pass snowshed


(Photos courtesy of Washington State Archives)

Motorists using Interstate 90 to cross the Cascades this spring and summer will notice that a unique, classic feature of the freeway east of Snoqualmie Pass is no longer around.

After 64 years, the I-90 snowshed next to Keechelus Lake has been removed by a road crew this week. Construction starts this summer on two avalanche bridges that will replace the outdated snowshed. The bridges are part of the $551 million project to widen I-90 from Hyak to Keechelus Dam.

Our State Archives has several photos of the snowshed’s construction in 1950. Two of them, from Archives’ Washington State Department of Transportation collection, are featured here.

Go here to learn facts and history about the snowshed, as well as the new bridges.

Built in 1950, the 500-foot concrete snowshed protected the freeway’s westbound lanes from avalanches. In fact, snowsheds have offered an important way for motorists to cross Snoqualmie Pass during the snowy season. In the early 1900s, a 419-foot wooden snowshed stood next to the lake to protect the highway from avalanches.



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Think of libraries this week!


Gov. Albert Rosellini at opening of Washington State Library in 1959. (Photos courtesy of Washington State Archives)

If you haven’t been to a library in person or visited one online lately, you have good reason to do it soon. National Library Week is April 13-19, the perfect opportunity for you to step inside your local library and check out a book or browse its website and download an e-book or some music.

With Library Week here, it’s worth looking at some classic photos related to our very own Washington State Library, courtesy of the State Archives.

The top photo features Gov. Albert Rosellini speaking at the opening ceremony for the State Library (in what is now the Joel Pritchard Building) on the Capitol Campus on Jan. 29, 1959.

The bottom picture shows Rosellini in his office proclaiming Library Week on March 27, 1959.

The photos come from the State Governors’ Negative Collection, 1949-1975.


Gov. Rosellini proclaiming Library Week in 1959.

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BC quilters send special gifts for Oso


After learning about the tragic landslide in Oso, the Whistler Valley Quilters’ Guild north of Vancouver, B.C., contacted our Combined Fund Drive, wanting to help. The big-hearted quilters sent a large box of handmade quilts to the CFD office for survivors who are missing the warmth of home. For anyone who has been forced from their home due to a natural disaster, the smallest things can be the biggest source of comfort.

Secretary of State Wyman joined the CFD staff and others in her office in showing off these beautiful, handmade treasures donated for survivors of the landslide that claimed at least 36 lives.

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A day for honoring heroes

Kim with Medal of Honor recipients

Secretary of State Wyman stands with (from left) SFC Leroy Petry, Capt. William Swenson and SSG Ty Carter in front of the Medal of Honor Monument on the Capitol Campus. (Photo courtesy of Benjamin Helle)

Washington paid tribute Wednesday to three of the state’s bravest sons, military heroes who are the latest to receive the Medal of Honor, the highest commendation for gallantry and bravery on the battlefield.

Secretary Wyman joined Gov. Jay Inslee and other officials; MG Terry Ferrell, commanding general of the 7th Infantry Division, JBLM; veterans’ organizations; family members, and previous recipients in honoring SFC Leroy Petry, Capt. William Swenson and SSG Ty Carter.  Seven of the 76 living recipients of the Medal live in Washington state, the governor noted in declaring Medal of Honor Day on Wednesday.

After ceremonies in the Capitol Rotunda, the newest recipients’ names were added to the Medal of Honor Monument on the Capitol grounds, just east of the Winged Victory Monument.

Said Wyman:

“The ceremonies were very moving. We owe a debt of gratitude to these brave men. Many of us talk about bravery and hope that when we’re called upon to do a selfless act of courage, we’d be willing to step up.  In the case of these Medal of Honor winners, they have actually done this.  They are true heroes among us.”



April election ballots being sent to voters


Nearly 1.6 million Washington voters in 21 counties will receive a ballot this week for the April special election, which ends April 22.

Some 35 ballot measures will be considered by voters in these counties. The most publicized measure is King County’s Proposition 1, which would authorize a sales tax increase of one-tenth of a cent and an annual $60 vehicle fee (in addition to the state car tab fee) to help pay for transportation improvements. Marysville voters will decide the other transportation measure this month.

Out of the 35 propositions, 17 are bond measures. They include two library bond measures, one for Camano Island, the other for Spokane Valley. Spokane Valley voters also will decide on the formation of a new library capital facilities area. Tacoma voters will be asked to weigh in on a neighborhoods parks and zoo improvements measure. Other areas have 14 levy elections.

Looking for more information about a ballot measure that you can help decide? Go here to find your county elections department.

About 41 percent of all registered voters in Washington will receive a ballot for this month’s election.

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Pioneer Talcott family donates State Seal tools


Three Secretaries of State, Kim Wyman, Ralph Munro and Sam Reed, headlined a reception at the Capitol to receive a cool heritage gift for the state: the original set of tools used by pioneer jewelers Charles, George and Grant Talcott to design the State Seal back in 1889 — 125 years ago.

The Secretary is designated in the state Constitution as the keeper of the seal, which is affixed to state documents, governor’s proclamations, and other important papers of state to make them official. The Secretary uses the hand-press seal-maker that includes the die that embosses the gold foil seal. The state constitutional convention commissioned the Talcotts to produce the seal, originally proposing an elaborate design that included scenes of logging, mining, fishing, farming, and milling.  As scion Richard Talcott explained Friday,  Charles Talcott said it was too busy and instead produced a “simple and timeless” design with everyday products at hand.


He drew a circle around an ink well from his desk and then an inner circle around a silver dollar from his pocket, and lettered “The Seal of the State of Washington 1889″ in the space between the circles. A 2-cent stamp  with George Washington’s likeness was plopped in the middle and voila!  After getting a go-ahead, he replaced the stamp with a Washington image he liked better, based on an image on an cough syrup box!

Richard Talcott said the Secretary of State has taken impeccable care of the Seal and is the logical permanent home for the tools that were used for making this and other seals for 128 years.  “This is the perfect home and resting place for these historic tools,” he said.

Wyman, Reed and Munro all thanked the family for giving their piece of Washington history to the people of Washington.  Wyman called it “a very special day for a very special family.”

A history of landslides in Washington


Part of the neighborhood damaged by a slow-moving landslide in Kelso in 1998-99. (Photo courtesy of Washington State Archives)

Last weekend’s massive landslide near Oso in Snohomish County is a sad and tragic reminder that we live in a state where devastating landslides can and do happen, often resulting in the loss of property and, sometimes, human life. The combination of hilly or mountainous terrain, unstable ground and heavy rainfall make many parts of Washington prone to slides.

Washington has seen several notable landslides in recent years. Some of them include:

October 11, 2009 – A massive landslide in the Nile Valley of Yakima County closed a section of Highway 410 west of Naches, destroying two homes, and changing the flow of the Naches River.

December 3, 2007 – The same storm that caused widespread flooding in western Lewis County also caused a landslide west of Pe Ell, resulting in the blockage of Highway 6 and destroying two houses and a garage.

January 2006 – A landslide blocked the North Fork of the Stillaguamish River located between Arlington and Darrington. Three-hundred yards of steep hillside collapsed, sending several hundred thousand cubic yards of soil, mud and trees into the river.

February 1998 to early 1999 – The slow-moving Aldercrest-Banyon landslide occurred in the east Kelso neighborhood of Aldercrest, one of the worst urban landslides in U.S. history in terms of cost.  (The photo above, provided by our State Archives, shows some of the damage caused by this landslide.)

Early February 1996 – A  massive rainstorm caused numerous landslides throughout Washington, including Magnolia Bluff in Seattle.

Of course, Washington has experienced notable landslides in earlier times. One occurred on Dec. 15, 1872 when a major earthquake struck , with the epicenter near Lake Chelan. The quake caused extensive landslides in slide-prone areas of the Columbia River, including one between Entiat and Winesap that blocked the Columbia for several hours.

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Registration deadline nears for April special election


The April 22 special election is coming soon, primarily for school measures. If you’re not registered and want to vote in it, you need to register first.

Monday (March 24) is the deadline to register to vote or update your voter registration information (for instance, if you changed your name or address) by mail or online. Counties with special elections will be sending out ballots around  April 4.

If you aren’t registered to vote in Washington and you want to vote in the April election, April 14 is the last day to register in-person at your county elections office.

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