Warren G. Magnuson
Inducted Saturday, October 8, 2005
Warren Magnuson graduated from Moorhead High School in 1923 where he was quarterback for the football team, class treasurer, and involved with the operettas. He graduated from the University of Washington in 1926 and from the University of Washington School of Law in 1929.
In 1931 Magnuson served as special prosecuting attorney of King County, Washington. In 1932, he ran for his first elected office, winning a seat in the state House of Representatives. After serving in the state legislature and as King County Prosecutor, Magnuson was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1937. He won reelection in 1938, 1940 and 1942. In that time, he sponsored bills that created the National Cancer Institute and the Alaska International Highway Commission. During World War II, Magnuson left Congress to serve in the United States Navy where he attained rank of lieutenant commander. In 1944, President Roosevelt ordered Magnuson to return back to Congress.
In 1944, Magnuson was elected to the U.S. Senate. During his 36 years in the Senate, Magnuson chaired the Commerce Committee for many years and was a key member of the Appropriations Committee, which he eventually chaired. In 1948 Magnuson sponsored legislation creating a National Health Institute, which formed the core of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Throughout Magnuson’s tenure in the Senate, his colleagues often referred to him as “Mr. Health” for his sponsorship of healthcare initiatives.
Magnuson and the Commerce Committee produced groundbreaking consumer protection legislation including the Safe Drinking Water Act, Fair Credit Advertising Act, Door to Door Sales Act, and laws that required warnings on cigarettes, regulated automobile safety, and set standards for children’s toys. He also guided through the Commerce Committee the Fair Packaging and Labeling Act, which required food products be accurately labeled with their ingredients and quantity.
Magnuson was the Congressional anchor to Presidents Kennedy and Johnson, both of whom called him at all hours to discuss upcoming legislation. Magnuson shepherded through a divided Congress the section of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 — Title II — which outlawed racial discrimination in public accommodations such as hotels, restaurants and theaters. He played a major role in passage of other laws, including those that established public television, gave 18-year-olds the right to vote and created Amtrak. His love for the marine environment led to bills protecting marine mammals, conserving American fisheries, making Puget Sound off-limits to supertankers, imposing safety standards for oil tankers, and establishing the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
In 1964, Warren married Jermaine Peralta in the White House Rose Garden, with President Johnson as his best man and Lady Bird as the Maid of Honor. In 1980, the Magnusons retired to Seattle, Washington. Although slowed by diabetes, Magnuson served on a United Nations committee studying nuclear proliferation, and he recommended that the state legislature adopt a flat rate income tax to fund schools. Warren G. Magnuson died on May 20, 1989, at the age of 84.