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Long Live the Governors

Published by Steve Campion. Category: Politics & Government

Today [Jan 21, 2012] would have been Albert Rosellini’s 102nd birthday if Washington State’s 15th governor had not passed away last October at the age of 101.  He was not only our state’s longest-lived governor, but the oldest governor of any state ever — surpassing Louisiana’s Jimmie Davis by 8 months.  Rosellini, who took office in 1957, was succeeded as governor in 1965 by Dan Evans who is now our oldest living governor.

We’ve seen a list of oldest US presidents (1.Ford, 2.Reagan, 3.Adams, 4.Truman, …), but never one of governors.  So we ran the numbers and produced the list below: The 12 Washington governors who lived the longest.

We were quite surprised to see five governors of Washington Territory on the list.  (A sixth just missed the cut at #13).  So even though we’ve had 21 state governors during an era of longer life expectancy, the 13 territorial governors from the 19th century account for almost half of the elders here.  For what it’s worth, the average life span for territorial governors was 69.6 (ranging in age from 41.0 to 88.1); for state governors (deceased only) the average was 77.4.  Factoring in our living governors — which isn’t really fair since they still have plenty of life in them — skews that stat down to 76.0.

WASHINGTON’S LONGEST-LIVED GOVERNORS

Governor Governor # Born Died Age
1. Albert Rosellini (D) 15th State 1910 Jan 21 2011 Oct 10 101
2. Roland H Hartley (R) 10th State 1864 Jun 26 1952 Sep 21 88
3. Watson C Squire (R) 12th Territory 1838 May 18 1926 Jun 7 88
4. Daniel J Evans (R) 16th State 1925 Oct 16 living 86*
5. John Spellman (R) 18th State 1926 Dec 29 living 85*
6. Dixy Lee Ray (D) 17th State 1914 Sep 3 1994 Jan 2 84
7. William A Newell (R) 11th Territory 1817 Sep 5 1901 Aug 8 83
8. Henry McBride (R) 4th State 1856 Feb 7 1937 Oct 7 81
9. George E Cole (D) 6th Territory 1826 Dec 23 1906 Dec 3 79
10. Edward S Salomon (R) 9th Territory 1836 Dec 25 1913 Jul 18 76
11. LaFayette McMullen (D) 2nd Territory 1805 May 18 1880 Nov 8 75
12. Booth Gardner (D) 19th State 1936 Aug 21 living * 75

NOTE: Living governors are listed in italics.  Today there are six living governors and former governors of Washington: Daniel J Evans (age 86), John Spellman (85), Booth Gardner (75),* Mike Lowry (72), Christine Gregoire (64), and Gary Locke (62).  In fact, today is Gary Locke’s 62nd birthday!

And since this is an election year, let’s look ahead.  Our next governor may be either Jay Inslee (age 60) or Rob McKenna (49).

PHOTO: Albert D. Rosellini, Portraits of State Governors, 1889-2004, Washington State Archives, Digital Archives, www.digitalarchives.wa.gov, January 12, 2012.

* UPDATE: After this list was published, Booth Gardner died Mar 15, 2013, at age 76. Daniel Evans is now 89, John Spellman is now 88.

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