Like they say, it’s better late than never. Even if it’s 42 years late.
James A. Hungate would have agreed.
A Democrat and farmer from Pullman, Hungate was a delegate to the 1889 Constitutional Convention in Olympia. But Hungate had to leave for home before the new state constitution was ready for him to sign.
“The constitution was almost ready for signature,” Hungate recalled in a 1931 interview with the Spokesman-Review, “when I received a letter from Mrs. Hungate telling me the wells on our farm had gone dry. That was a calamity in those days, so I had to hurry home without signing.”
Decades later, Hungate finally had his opportunity to add his name to the Washington Constitution in April 1931 after a resolution was authorized by the House and Senate and permission was granted by Secretary of State J. Grant Hinkle, the custodian of the State Constitution. Hungate’s was the 73rd signature affixed to the constitution, which was crafted in 60 days during the summer of 1889.
Two of Hungate’s descendants recently viewed the document that he and the other delegates crafted during that pivotal summer more than 125 years ago.
Hungate’s great-great-grandson, Nicholas Boyle, recently came to Washington State Archives in Olympia to see the original 1889 constitution, which is held in a secure place there. Boyle was accompanied by his mother, who was named after Mrs. Elizabeth Hungate, who made the trip with her husband in 1931.