Warren Magnuson

Warren Grant "Maggie" Magnuson (April 12, 1905  May 20, 1989) was an American lawyer and politician. A member of the Democratic Party, he served as a U.S. Representative (19371944) and a U.S. Senator (19441981) from Washington. He served over 36 years in the Senate, and was the most senior member of the body during his final two years in office.

Warren Magnuson
President pro tempore of the United States Senate
In office
December 6, 1980  January 3, 1981
Preceded byMilton Young
Succeeded byStrom Thurmond
In office
January 3, 1979  December 5, 1980
Preceded byJames Eastland
Succeeded byMilton Young
Chair of the
Senate Committee on Appropriations
In office
January 3, 1977  January 3, 1981
Preceded byJohn Little McClellan
Succeeded byMark Hatfield
Chair of the
Senate Committee on Commerce
In office
January 3, 1955  January 3, 1977
Preceded byJohn W. Bricker
Succeeded byHoward Cannon
United States Senator
from Washington
In office
December 14, 1944  January 3, 1981
Preceded byHomer Bone
Succeeded bySlade Gorton
Member of the
U.S. House of Representatives
from Washington's 1st district
In office
January 3, 1937  December 13, 1944
Preceded byMarion Zioncheck
Succeeded byEmerson DeLacy
Member of the
Washington House of Representatives
In office
Personal details
Born(1905-04-12)April 12, 1905
Moorhead, Minnesota, U.S.
DiedMay 20, 1989(1989-05-20) (aged 84)
Seattle, Washington, U.S.
Resting placeAcacia Memorial Park
47.73920°N 122.29280°W / 47.73920; -122.29280 (Acacia Memorial Park)
Political partyDemocratic
Spouse(s)Jermaine (Elliott) Peralta[1] (19232011)[2]
(m.19641989, his death)
Eleanor Peggy "Peggins" Maddieux (m.19281935)
Military service
Allegiance United States
Branch/service United States Navy
Battles/warsWorld War II

Early life and education

Warren Magnuson was born in Moorhead, Minnesota.[3] His birth date is given as April 12, 1905, but the actual records of his birth are sealed.[4] He apparently never knew his birth parents; according to various sources, his parents either died within a month of his birth,[5] or his unmarried mother put him up for adoption.[6] He was adopted by William Grant and Emma (née Anderson) Magnuson, who gave him their name.[7] The Magnusons were second-generation Scandinavian immigrants who operated a bar in Moorhead, and who adopted a daughter named Clara a year after adopting Warren.[8] His adoptive father left the family in 1921.[4]

Magnuson attended Moorhead High School, where he played quarterback on the football team and was captain of the baseball team.[6] While attending high school, he ran a YMCA camp, worked in the wheat farms, and delivered newspapers and telegrams in Moorhead and in nearby Fargo, North Dakota.[7] He graduated in 1923, and then enrolled at the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks.[3] In 1924, he transferred to the North Dakota Agricultural College in Fargo, which he attended for a year.[6] He then traveled through Canada for a period of time, riding freight trains and working with threshing crews.[7]

Magnuson followed a high school girlfriend to Seattle, Washington, where he entered the University of Washington in 1925.[8] He was a member of the Theta Chi fraternity, and worked delivering ice as a member of the Teamsters under Dave Beck.[4] He received a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1926, and earned a Bachelor of Laws degree from the University of Washington School of Law in 1929.[3] A Democrat, he first became active in politics in 1928, volunteering for A. Scott Bullitt for governor and Al Smith for president.[6]

Early career

In 1929, Magnuson was admitted to the bar and joined the law office of Judge Samuel Stern in Seattle.[6] He served as secretary of the Seattle Municipal League from 1930 to 1931.[3] He served as special prosecutor for King County in 1932, investigating official misconduct.[5] He also founded the state chapter of the Young Democrats of America that same year.[9] He was a leading supporter of repealing state Prohibition laws and establishing the state Liquor Control Board.[10]

From 1933 to 1934, Magnuson served as a member of the Washington House of Representatives from the Seattle-based 37th Legislative District.[10] As a state legislator, he sponsored the first unemployment compensation bill in the nation.[7] He was a delegate to the state constitutional convention in 1933.[3] He briefly served as Assistant United States District Attorney before being elected prosecuting attorney of King County, serving from 1934 to 1936.[7]

Congressional career

Magnuson was first elected to the House of Representatives in 1936, filling a vacancy caused by the sudden death of fellow Democrat Marion Zioncheck on August 7, 1936. In 1937, along with senators Homer Bone and Matthew Neely, Magnuson introduced the National Cancer Institute Act, which was signed into law by Franklin Roosevelt on August 5 of that year.[11] He won re-election in 1938, 1940, and 1942. After the Attack on Pearl Harbor Magnuson was a staunch supporter of the U.S. war effort.[12]

Magnuson served in the United States Navy during World War II. He was aboard the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise for several months, seeing heavy combat in the Pacific Theatre until President Franklin D. Roosevelt ordered all congressmen on active duty to return home in 1942.

In 1944, Magnuson successfully ran for the U.S. Senate. He was appointed on December 14, 1944 to fill the vacancy created by Homer Bone's appointment to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, thus resigning from the House and starting his service in the Senate a month early.

He was re-elected in 1950, 1956, 1962, 1968, and 1974. He served on the Senate Commerce Committee throughout his tenure in the Senate, and the Senate Appropriations Committee during his final term. Magnuson served most of his tenure in the Senate alongside his friend and Democratic colleague from Washington State, Henry M. "Scoop" Jackson. Magnuson was defeated in a bid for re-election by state attorney general Slade Gorton in 1980.

In August 1950, Magnuson proposed voluntary enlistment for the Japanese in the American armed forces and sent a cable request to General Douglas MacArthur on the practicality of the proposal.[13]

In November 1961, President John F. Kennedy visited Seattle and was an honored guest at a celebration honoring Magnuson's first 25 years in Congress.[14][15] Nearly 3,000 people paid $100 each to attend the dinner.

At the end of August 1966, after President Johnson announced the nominations of Charles F. Luce for Undersecretary of the Interior, John A. Carver for Federal Power Commission membership, and David S. Black for BPA administrator, Magnuson announced the Senate Commerce committee would hold hearings into the Carver nomination on September 1 and described Luce as "one of the most able, dedicated, productive public servants I know".[16]

On November 7, 1967, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967, noting Magnuson as one of the members of Congress to "have been part of the team that has brought this measure to the White House to make it the law of our land."[17]

At least three important pieces of legislation bear his name: the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, the Chinese Exclusion Repeal Act of 1943 (commonly referred to as the Magnuson Act), and the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act. He was also instrumental in keeping supertankers out of Puget Sound, by slipping an amendment to a routine funding reauthorization bill through on the Senate and House consent calendars.[18]

The bill that became the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was referred to the Committee on Commerce. Magnuson played a key role in getting that bill to the floor and enacted into law despite vigorous opposition by Senator William Fulbright and other staunch segregationists.

Magnuson was responsible for special legislation that allowed Poon Lim, a Chinese sailor who in 1942 survived 133 days alone at sea as a castaway, to immigrate to the U.S.

Magnuson attended the May 5, 1978 dedication ceremony for Riverfront Park in Spokane.[19] Shortly thereafter, during a town hall meeting, President Jimmy Carter said, "No one could be in a better political position than to be preceded and introduced by men like Tom Foley and Senator Warren Magnuson. I know of no one in the Congress than these two men who are more respected, more dedicated to serving their own people well, but who have also reached, because of their experience and knowledge, sound judgment and commitment, a position of national and even international renown and leadership."[20]

Personal life

In 1928, Magnuson married Eleanor Peggy "Peggins" Maddieux, who had been crowned Miss Seattle the previous year.[6] They remained together until their divorce in 1935.[10] Magnuson dated a number of glamorous women, including heiress and cover girl June Millarde and actress Carole Parker.[4] In 1964, he married Jermaine Elliott Peralta (19232011), widowed as a teenager, in a ceremony conducted by Rev. Frederick Brown Harris at the Omni Shoreham Hotel.[10] The couple remained together until his death, and he helped raise Peralta's daughter from her previous marriage, Juanita.[5] Magnuson and his wife are interred in Acacia Memorial Park in Lake Forest Park, north of Seattle.[21]


  • Warren G. Magnuson Health Sciences Building at the University of Washington's Health Sciences building complex was named in his honor in 1970.
  • Warren Magnuson's Senate desk is located in an alcove in the Suzzallo Library graduate reading room at the University of Washington.
  • Warren G. Magnuson Clinical Center at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland is also named for Senator Warren Magnuson.
  • Warren G. Magnuson Park in northeast Seattle was named in his honor in 1977.
  • Warren G. Magnuson Puget Sound Legacy Award has been established by the People For Puget Sound
  • The Washington State Democratic Party[22] holds an annual Magnuson awards dinner (sometimes referred to as the Maggies, per his nickname).
  • The Intercollegiate College of Nursing building in Spokane, WA on Fort George Wright Drive near Spokane Falls Community College is also named after him.


  1. "Magnuson weds Seattle widow". Spokane Daily Chronicle. United Press International. October 5, 1964. p. 2.
  2. "Jermaine Elliott Magnuson". Find a Grave. Retrieved December 17, 2012.
  3. "MAGNUSON, Warren Grant, (1905 - 1989)". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress.
  4. Oldham, Kit (October 14, 2003). "Magnuson, Warren G. (1905-1989)". HistoryLink.
  5. Saxon, Wolfgang (1989-05-21). "Warren G. Magnuson Dies at 84; Held Powerful Positions in Senate". The New York Times.
  6. Scates, Shelby (1997). Warren G. Magnuson and the Shaping of Twentieth-Century America. University of Washington Press.
  7. Current Biography. II. H. W. Wilson Company. 1945.
  8. Van Dyk, Ted (2005-04-13). "Warren Magnuson was one of a kind". Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
  9. "About the Young Democrats of Washington State".
  10. "Warren "Maggie" Magnuson". Secretary of State of Washington.
  11. Mukherjee, Siddhartha (16 November 2010). The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer. Simon and Schuster. p. 25. ISBN 978-1-4391-0795-9. Retrieved 6 September 2011.
  12. Magnuson was instrumental in securing a commission in the U.S. Army for Bob Struble in 1942.
  13. Arming of Germans, Japanese Proposed to Meet Red Threat (August 5, 1950)
  14. "President Kennedy delivers major policy speech at UW on November 16, 1961. - HistoryLink.org". www.historylink.org. Retrieved 16 December 2017.
  15. "JackGordon.org: Kennedy is Guest of Honor at Dinner honoring Sen. Warren Magnuson during his November, 1961, visit to Seattle". Retrieved 16 December 2017.
  16. "LBJ nominates Charles F. Luce to Interior Post". The Bulletin. September 1, 1966.
  17. Johnson, Lyndon B. (November 7, 1967). "474 - Remarks Upon Signing the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967". American Presidency Project.
  18. HistoryLink.org, the online encyclopedia of Washington State history. Accessed July 19, 2006
  19. Carter, Jimmy (May 5, 1978). "Spokane, Washington Remarks at Dedication Ceremonies for Riverfront Park". American Presidency Project.
  20. Carter, Jimmy (May 5, 1978). "Spokane, Washington Remarks and a Question-and-Answer Session at a Town Meeting". American Presidency Project.
  21. "Warren Grant Magnuson". Find a Grave. Retrieved December 17, 2012.
  22. "Washington State Democratic Party". Washington State Democratic Party. Retrieved 16 December 2017.
  • Scates, Shelby Warren G. Magnuson and the Shaping of Twentieth-Century America (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1997)
U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
Marion Zioncheck
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Washington's 1st congressional district

January 3, 1937 December 13, 1944
Succeeded by
Emerson DeLacy
U.S. Senate
Preceded by
Homer T. Bone
U.S. Senator (Class 3) from Washington
December 14, 1944 January 3, 1981
Served alongside: Monrad C. Wallgren, Hugh B. Mitchell, Harry P. Cain, Henry M. Jackson
Succeeded by
Slade Gorton
Political offices
Preceded by
John W. Bricker
Chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee
Succeeded by
Howard Cannon
Preceded by
John L. McClellan
Chairman of Senate Appropriations Committee
Succeeded by
Mark O. Hatfield
Preceded by
James O. Eastland
President pro tempore of the United States Senate
Succeeded by
Milton Young
Preceded by
Milton Young
President pro tempore of the United States Senate
Succeeded by
Strom Thurmond
Honorary titles
Preceded by
James O. Eastland
Dean of the United States Senate
January 3, 1979 January 3, 1981
Succeeded by
John C. Stennis
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