Albert Rosellini

Albert Dean Rosellini (January 21, 1910 – October 10, 2011) was an American politician who served as the 15th governor of the state of Washington for two terms, from 1957 to 1965, and was both the first Italian-American and Roman Catholic governor elected west of the Mississippi River.[1]

Albert Rosellini
Albert D. Rosellini.jpg
Chair of the National Governors Association
In office
July 1, 1962 – July 21, 1963
Preceded byWesley Powell
Succeeded byJohn Anderson Jr.
15th Governor of Washington
In office
January 14, 1957 – January 11, 1965
LieutenantJohn Cherberg
Preceded byArthur B. Langlie
Succeeded byDaniel J. Evans
Member of the Washington Senate
from the 22nd district
In office
Personal details
Albert Dean Rosellini

(1910-01-21)January 21, 1910
Tacoma, Washington
DiedOctober 10, 2011(2011-10-10) (aged 101)
Seattle, Washington
Resting placeCalvary Cemetery
Political partyDemocratic
Spouse(s)Ethel McNeil
EducationUniversity of Washington (BA, LLB)

During a political career that spanned 40 years, Rosellini was an activist leader who worked to reform the state's prisons and mental health facilities, expand the state highway system, create the University of Washington's medical and dental schools, and build the second floating bridge across Lake Washington.

Rosellini holds the record as the longest-lived U.S. state governor in American history, having reached the age of 101 years, 262 days.

Early life and educationEdit

Born in Tacoma, Washington, Rosellini was the only son of Italian immigrants, Annunziata (Pagni) and Giovanni Rosellini, a saloon operator.[2][3] He worked his way through college and law school at the University of Washington, graduating in 1933 with his classmate Hugh J. Rosellini (no relation), a childhood friend and later state Supreme Court justice.[4]


Washington SenateEdit

At the age of 29, Rosellini was elected to the state senate as its youngest member, representing the 33rd district in south Seattle, the home of many Italian immigrants. A New Deal Democrat, Rosellini served from 1939 to 1957, and rose to the rank of majority leader. He was elected governor in 1956.[5]


Rosellini re-election campaign sign at Seattle's Blue Moon Tavern in 2007
Evergreen Point Bridge under construction in 1962.

As governor, Rosellini coupled personal charm with decades of political know-how,[citation needed] developing a reputation for decisiveness and ability to move ahead on long-stalled projects. Don Hannula, longtime political columnist for The Seattle Times, wrote in 1996, "He was not a man of empty rhetoric. He got things done. His legacy is everywhere."[6] In his 1997 biography, Rosellini, Immigrant's Son and Progressive Governor, author Payton Smith wrote: "He was attracted to issues where progress could be made and measured . . . Budget reform, economic development, transportation, higher education and institutions were the core matters to which he devoted his talent and governmental know-how."[7]

Rosellini was narrowly re-elected in 1960,[8] beating Republican Lloyd J. Andrews by a margin of 1.4 percent.[9]

In order to promote economic development, Rosellini established a state department of commerce and championed the Seattle World's Fair in 1962.

He shepherded construction of the former longest floating bridge in the world, the original Evergreen Point Floating Bridge, which opened in 1963 and carried State Route 520 over Lake Washington from Seattle to Medina. After 53 years of service, it was replaced by a new floating bridge at the same site in 2016. The original bridge was later named after him, and its replacement also bears his name. In addition, he was a tireless supporter of higher education, strengthening the state university system and developing a system of junior colleges. During his time in office, Rosellini also reformed the state budget process and balanced the budget.

1964 gubernatorial electionEdit

Rosellini was defeated in his bid for a third term in 1964 by Republican Daniel J. Evans, a state legislator and civil engineer.[10][11] Rosellini entered the primary unopposed by his ostensive rivals for the Democratic nomination, Lieutenant Governor John Cherberg or Attorney General John J. O'Connell, but did encounter opposition from several unknown candidates who collectively garnered close to 50,000 votes.[10][12]

The general election campaign was marked by bruising attacks on the candidate's integrity from both the Republican and Democratic camps. Governor Rosellini attempted to portray Evans as a supporter of Barry Goldwater and his record as antithetical to the interests of labor, welfare, and education.[12] Evans in turn charged Rosellini with financial impropriety and cronyism, alleging that the Governor solicited campaign funds from businesses under contract with the state government. Only one televised debate was agreed between the two candidates.[12] The coattails of President Johnson did not extend to this race,[11] as the 39-year-old Evans won by double digits.

1972 attempted comebackEdit

Rosellini made a comeback bid eight years later in 1972; he captured the Democratic nomination, but was again defeated overwhelmingly by Evans.[13] Starting with a lead in the polls, Rosellini saw his support fall when he disparagingly referred to Governor Evans as "Danny Boy" and being accused of intervening on behalf of his friend Frank Colacurcio to obtain a club license in Hawaii while in office.[14] A minority of Evans' supporters also began to sport bumper stickers on the back of their cars stating "We Don't Need A Godfather," described by his daughter Lynn Rosellini as extremely hurtful to her father given his pride over his Italian ancestry.[14] (The popular Oscar-winning film The Godfather was released earlier that year.)

Consultant and elder statesmanEdit

After leaving office in 1965, Rosellini returned to the practice of law, and also became a political consultant, specializing in matters of the liquor and entertainment industries. Over the years, Rossellini served as an elder statesman of the state Democratic Party, mentoring political figures including Washington governors Christine Gregoire and Gary Locke.

In 2003, Rosellini was back in the news briefly when he was reported to have delivered campaign contributions to Seattle City Council members on behalf of strip-club owners, one of whom was a convicted racketeer. Rosellini was never charged in the scandal that became known as "Strippergate."[15]

Until his death, Rosellini attended fundraisers for candidates and helped raise money for charities, particularly the Washington State Olympics Committee, which he chaired for many years.[16]

Danny Westneat, columnist for The Seattle Times, wrote in 2005, "His record makes most governors after him look like slackers."[17]

Personal lifeEdit

Rosellini and his wife Ethel (1922–2002), whom he married in 1937, had five children. Ethel died in 2002, after 64 years of marriage. Albert and Ethel had a close, affectionate, and happy marriage, and the two were known for their devotion to each other. Rosellini was a practicing Catholic.[18]

Later years and deathEdit

Rosellini celebrated his 100th birthday in January 2010, becoming one of the few U.S. state governors ever to reach the age of 100.[19] He died of complications related to pneumonia in Seattle on October 10, 2011 at the age of 101.[1][19] Rosellini's funeral was at St. James Cathedral in Seattle,[20] and he was buried at Calvary Cemetery, alongside his wife.


  1. ^ a b Ho, Vanessa (October 10, 2011), "Former Gov. Rosellini dies at 101", Seattle Post-Intelligencer, retrieved March 28, 2012, Former Washington state Gov. Albert D. Rosellini, who served two terms from 1957 to 1965, died Monday from complications relations to pneumonia. He was 101. "Washington state lost one of its brightest stars today," Gov. Chris Gregoire said in a statement.
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^ Brunner, Jim (October 10, 2011). "Former Gov. Rosellini dies at 101". The Seattle Times.
  5. ^ "Democrats take over top offices in state". Spokesman-Review. (Spokane, Washington). Associated Press. November 7, 1956. p. 1.
  6. ^ Hannula, Don (March 21, 1996). "Governor Al Rosellini's Imprint is Everywhere". The Seattle Times. Retrieved October 20, 2011.
  7. ^ Smith, Payton (1995). Rosellini Immigrant's Son and Progressive Governor. University of Washington Press. p. 3. ISBN 0295975954. Retrieved January 3, 2017.
  8. ^ "Narrow margin favors Kennedy, Rosellini wins". Spokesman-Review. (Spokane, Washington). Associated Press. November 9, 1960. p. 1.
  9. ^ Gimpel, James G. (1996). National Elections and the Autonomy of American State Party Systems. University of Pittsburgh Press. p. 162. ISBN 9780822974826. OCLC 33983795. Retrieved November 13, 2016 – via Google Books.
  10. ^ a b Hittle, Leroy (September 15, 1964). "Evans triumphs easily". Spokane Daily Chronicle. (Washington). Associated Press. p. 1.
  11. ^ a b "Rosellini loss to Evans runs against trend". Spokesman-Review. (Spokane, Washington). November 4, 1964. p. 1.
  12. ^ a b c Bone, Hugh A. (June 1965). "The 1964 Election in Washington". The Western Political Quarterly. 18 (2): 514–522. doi:10.2307/445299. JSTOR 445299.
  13. ^ "Gov. Evans is elated". Spokane Daily Chronicle. (Washington). Associated Press. November 8, 1972. p. 1.
  14. ^ a b Brunner, Jim (October 10, 2011). "Gov. Rosellini: Out of office since 1965, not out of sight". The Seattle Times. Retrieved March 24, 2014.
  15. ^ Modie, Neil; Skolnik, Sam (July 13, 2005). "Two Colacurcios face charges over 'Strippergate'". Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
  16. ^ "Senate Resolution 8677". Washington state Senate. January 21, 2010. Retrieved May 23, 2017.
  17. ^ Westneat, Danny (January 21, 2005). "Former governor still kicking at 95 and lovin' the noise". The Seattle Times. Archived from the original on January 23, 2005. Retrieved October 20, 2011.
  18. ^ ROSELLINI (cl). University of Washington Press. ISBN 9780295802862.
  19. ^ a b Baker, Mike (October 10, 2011). "Former Washington Gov. Rosellini dies at age 101". Yahoo!. Associated Press. Retrieved October 11, 2011.
  20. ^ Brodeur, Nicole (October 19, 2011). "600 attend funeral Mass for Gov. Albert D. Rosellini". Seattle Times. Retrieved March 21, 2017.

External linksEdit

Party political offices
Preceded by
Hugh Mitchell
Democratic nominee for Governor of Washington
1956, 1960, 1964
Succeeded by
John O'Connell
Preceded by
John O'Connell
Democratic nominee for Governor of Washington
Succeeded by
Dixy Lee Ray
Political offices
Preceded by
Arthur B. Langlie
Governor of Washington
Succeeded by
Daniel J. Evans
Preceded by
Wesley Powell
Chair of the National Governors Association
Succeeded by
John Anderson Jr.
Honorary titles
Preceded by
Elmer L. Andersen
Oldest living American governor
Succeeded by
Raúl Héctor Castro