WA-List » Born Beyond the Borders

Born Beyond the Borders

Published by Steve Campion. Category: Politics & Government

A recent governor of California was famously Austrian-born. Ask most Americans to name a governor of any state who wasn’t born in the United States and Arnold Schwarzenegger is likely the first one they’d name. He may be the only one they could name, in fact (unless they knew Michigan had a Canadian-born governor at the same time).  That’s because it’s unusual for a state to elect a leader hailing from another state , let alone another country. Among Washington governors, for instance, you’d have to thumb back through the files more than a half century before finding one born outside Washington state. At least that’s what you would have done before our current governor took office. Christine O’Grady — Gov. Chris Gregoire — was born in Adrian, Michigan.

But forget other states; let’s consider other countries. Has Washington ever had a foreign-born governor? Yes, and not just one. We’ve had five … from four different countries … on three continents!  Three of these men held the office back in territorial days, but two were elected since Washington attained statehood. Together these five well-traveled politicians make up today’s WA-List.


Governor Years In Office Born Birthplace
5th Territorial Gov. William Pickering 1862-66 Mar 15, 1798 Yorkshire,
9th Territorial Gov. Edward S. Salomon 1870-72 Dec 25, 1836 Schleswig-Holstein,
13th Territorial Gov. Eugene Semple 1887-89 Jun 12, 1840 Bogota,
8th State Gov. Ernest Lister 1913-19 Jun 15, 1870 Halifax,
10th State Gov. Roland Hartley 1925-33 Jun 26, 1864 Shogomac,
New Brunswick,


One Response to “Born Beyond the Borders”

  1. Kari Says:

    That’s 4 foreign born Govs in roughly 60 years, and 0 in the most recent 70 years.

    Very interesting.