John Dennis Spellman, Washington state’s 18th governor and the first King County executive, has died at age 91, The Seattle Times reports.
“Gov. John Spellman was one of the nicest people in public life I’ve ever met,” Gov. Jay Inslee said in a statement released Tuesday. “Trudi and I send our deepest condolences to the Spellman family, many of whom we had the chance to get to know over the last few years.”
Born Dec. 29, 1926, Spellman graduated class valedictorian from Seattle University and earned a law degree from Georgetown University. He practiced law for 13 years before diving into politics.
He served as a King County Commissioner from 1967 to 1969 and King County Executive from 1969 to 1981.
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A Republican, Spellman was elected governor in 1980 and served one term before losing in 1984 to Democrat Booth Gardner.
“Spellman took office as governor in the midst of the most severe recession in the State of Washington since the Great Depression,” states his bio on the National Governors Association website. “Although he had campaigned on a platform of no new taxes, the erosion of state finances brought on by the recession forced him to seek new taxes, resulting in the state legislature’s approval of a one-cent increase in the sales tax along with deep cuts in the state budget. As a result, the budget went from a $1.1 billion shortfall when Spellman took office to a $97 million surplus one year later.”
Secretary of State Kim Wyman said she personally admired Spellman for his integrity, vision and dedication to the people of Washington.
“John was a true statesman and a deeply spiritual man who promoted racial equality and environmentalism, and persevered at every turn to build the Kingdome,” Wyman said in a statement. “...Our thoughts and prayers remain with his family during this difficult time.”
Inslee described Spellman as an elected official who was “unafraid to do the right thing, leaving a legacy of bipartisanship and civility in politics, despite the electoral consequences.”
“Trudi and I will miss John, and I encourage all Washingtonians to keep him and his family in their thoughts,” Inslee said.
This is a breaking news story and will be updated as more information is made available.