Warren Magnuson
Magnuson in 1943
United States Senator
from Washington
In office
December 14, 1944 – January 3, 1981
Preceded byHomer Bone
Succeeded bySlade Gorton
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
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
from the 37th district
In office
January 9, 1933 – January 14, 1935
Preceded byGeorge F. Murray
Succeeded byA. Lou Cohen
King County Prosecuting Attorney
In office
January 1, 1935 – January 3, 1937
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°44′21″N 122°17′34″W / 47.73920°N 122.29280°W / 47.73920; -122.29280 (Acacia Memorial Park)
Political partyDemocratic
Eleanor Peggy "Peggins" Maddieux
(m. 1928; div. 1935)
Jermaine (Elliott) Peralta
(m. 1964)
EducationUniversity of North Dakota
North Dakota Agricultural College
University of Washington (BA, LLB)
Military service
Allegiance United States
Branch/service United States Navy
Battles/warsWorld War II

Warren Grant Magnuson (April 12, 1905 – May 20, 1989) was an American lawyer and politician who represented the state of Washington in Congress for 44 years, first as a Representative from 1937 to 1944, and then as a senator from 1944 to 1981. Magnuson was a member of the Democratic Party. He was Washington state's longest-serving senator, serving over 36 years in the Senate. During his final two years in office, he was the most senior senator and president pro tempore.

Early life and education

Warren Magnuson was born in Moorhead, Minnesota.[2] His birthdate is supposedly April 12, 1905, but the actual records of his birth are sealed.[3] According to various sources, he never knew his birth parents; they may have died within a month of his birth,[4] or his unmarried mother may have put him up for adoption.[5] William Grant and Emma (née Anderson) Magnuson adopted Warren, and gave him their name.[6] The Magnusons were second-generation Scandinavian immigrants who operated a bar in Moorhead, and adopted a daughter, Clara, a year after adopting Warren.[7] His adoptive father left the family in 1921.[3]

Magnuson attended Moorhead High School, where he played quarterback on the football team and was captain of the baseball team.[5] While in high school, he ran a YMCA camp, worked on wheat farms, and delivered newspapers and telegrams in Moorhead and nearby Fargo, North Dakota.[6] He graduated in 1923, and then enrolled at the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks.[2] In 1924, he transferred to the North Dakota Agricultural College in Fargo, which he attended for a year.[5] He then traveled through Canada for some time, riding freight trains and working with threshing crews.[6]

Magnuson followed a high school girlfriend to Seattle, Washington, where he entered the University of Washington in 1925.[7] He was a member of Theta Chi fraternity, and worked delivering ice as a Teamsters member under Dave Beck.[3] 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.[2] A Democrat, he first became active in politics in 1928, volunteering for A. Scott Bullitt for governor and Al Smith for president.[5]

Early career

In 1929, Magnuson was admitted to the bar and joined the law office of Judge Samuel Stern in Seattle.[5] He served as secretary of the Seattle Municipal League from 1930 to 1931[2] and served as a special prosecutor for King County in 1932, investigating official misconduct.[4] He founded the state chapter of the Young Democrats of America that same year.[8] He was a leading supporter of repealing state Prohibition laws and establishing the state Liquor Control Board.[9]

From 1933 to 1935, Magnuson served as a member of the Washington House of Representatives from the Seattle-based 37th Legislative District.[9] As a state legislator, he sponsored the first unemployment compensation bill in the nation.[6] Magnuson was a delegate to the state constitutional convention in 1933.[2] He briefly served as Assistant United States District Attorney before being elected prosecuting attorney of King County, serving from 1934 to 1936.[6]

Congressional career

House of Representatives

In 1936, as incumbent Congressman and Magnuson's friend Marion Zioncheck showed serious mental instability and uncertainty about seeking reelection, Magnuson announced his candidacy. Two days after Magnuson entered the race, Zioncheck announced that he would not run again, and within a week Zioncheck committed suicide by jumping from his office window.[3] With the endorsement of the influential, left-wing Washington Commonwealth Federation and support from the Seattle business community, Magnuson easily won the Democratic primary and then the general election.[3]

In 1937, Magnuson and Senators Homer Bone and Matthew Neely introduced the National Cancer Institute Act, signed into law by Franklin Roosevelt on August 5 of that year.[10] He was reelected in 1938, 1940, and 1942. After the Attack on Pearl Harbor, Magnuson staunchly supported the U.S. war effort.[11]

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 Roosevelt ordered all congressmen on active duty to return home in 1942.[3]


Magnuson, c. 1950s

In 1944, Magnuson successfully ran for the U.S. Senate. On December 14, 1944, Governor Arthur B. Langlie appointed Magnuson 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 Senate tenure a month early to gain an advantage in seniority.[12]

Magnuson was reelected 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.[citation needed] Magnuson served most of his tenure in the Senate alongside his friend and Democratic colleague from Washington state, Henry M. "Scoop" Jackson. Republican State Attorney General Slade Gorton defeated Magnuson in the 1980 election.[13]

Magnuson was responsible for special legislation in 1949 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. and become a citizen.[14][15]

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.[16]

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.[17][18] Nearly 3,000 people paid $100 each to attend the dinner.

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

At the end of August 1966, after President Lyndon 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 on Carver's nomination on September 1. He called Luce "one of the most able, dedicated, productive public servants I know."[19]

On November 7, 1967, Johnson signed the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967, citing 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."[20]

Magnuson attended the May 5, 1978, dedication ceremony for Riverfront Park in Spokane.[21] Shortly after that, 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."[22]


At least three important pieces of legislation bear Magnuson's name: the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, the Chinese Exclusion Repeal Act of 1943 (commonly called the Magnuson Act), and the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act. He was also instrumental in keeping supertankers out of Puget Sound, by attaching an amendment to a routine funding reauthorization bill on the Senate and House consent calendars.[23]

Personal life

In 1928, Magnuson married Eleanor Peggy "Peggins" Maddieux, crowned Miss Seattle the previous year.[5] They remained together until their divorce in 1935.[9] Magnuson dated several glamorous women, including heiress and cover girl June Millarde and actress Carole Parker.[3] In 1964, he married Jermaine Elliott Peralta (1923–2011), widowed as a teenager, in a ceremony conducted by Rev. Frederick Brown Harris at the Omni Shoreham Hotel.[9] The couple remained together until his death, and he helped raise Peralta's daughter from her previous marriage, Juanita.[4] Magnuson and his wife are interred in Acacia Memorial Park in Lake Forest Park, north of Seattle.



  1. ^ "Magnuson weds Seattle widow". Spokane Daily Chronicle. United Press International. October 5, 1964. p. 2.
  2. ^ a b c d e "MAGNUSON, Warren Grant, (1905 - 1989)". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Oldham, Kit (October 14, 2003), "Magnuson, Warren G. (1905-1989)", HistoryLink, Seattle: History Ink, retrieved May 10, 2022.
  4. ^ a b c Saxon, Wolfgang (May 21, 1989). "Warren G. Magnuson Dies at 84; Held Powerful Positions in Senate". The New York Times.
  5. ^ a b c d e f Scates, Shelby (1997). Warren G. Magnuson and the Shaping of Twentieth-Century America. University of Washington Press.
  6. ^ a b c d e Current Biography. Vol. II. H. W. Wilson Company. 1945.
  7. ^ a b Van Dyk, Ted (April 13, 2005). "Warren Magnuson was one of a kind". Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
  8. ^ "About the Young Democrats of Washington State".
  9. ^ a b c d "Warren "Maggie" Magnuson". Secretary of State of Washington.
  10. ^ Mukherjee, Siddhartha (November 16, 2010). The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer. Simon and Schuster. p. 25. ISBN 978-1-4391-0795-9. Retrieved September 6, 2011.
  11. ^ Magnuson was instrumental in securing a commission in the U.S. Army for Bob Struble in 1942.
  12. ^ Larsen, Richard W. (November 6, 1980). "Maggie: From legend to lame duck". The Seattle Times. p. C1.
  13. ^ Connelly, Joel (April 29, 1984). "Maggie: At 79, ex-senator isn't looking back—but he's worried about the present". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. p. A30.
  14. ^ "Magnuson Asks Citizenship For Champion Chinese Survivor". The Seattle Times. Associated Press. March 26, 1949. p. 4.
  15. ^ O'Ryan, John (January 11, 1986). "Two sea survival tales demonstrate singular bravery". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. p. C2.
  16. ^ Arming of Germans, Japanese Proposed to Meet Red Threat (August 5, 1950)
  17. ^ Lange, Greg (March 16, 1999). "President Kennedy delivers major policy speech at UW on November 16, 1961". HistoryLink. Retrieved May 10, 2022.
  18. ^ "JackGordon.org: Kennedy is Guest of Honor at Dinner honoring Sen. Warren Magnuson during his November, 1961, visit to Seattle". Retrieved December 16, 2017.
  19. ^ "LBJ nominates Charles F. Luce to Interior Post". The Bulletin. September 1, 1966.
  20. ^ Johnson, Lyndon B. (November 7, 1967). "474 - Remarks Upon Signing the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967". American Presidency Project.
  21. ^ Carter, Jimmy (May 5, 1978). "Spokane, Washington Remarks at Dedication Ceremonies for Riverfront Park". American Presidency Project.
  22. ^ Carter, Jimmy (May 5, 1978). "Spokane, Washington Remarks and a Question-and-Answer Session at a Town Meeting". American Presidency Project.
  23. ^ Oldham, Kit (November 26, 2003), "Congress passes Senator Warren Magnuson's amendment banning supertankers in Puget Sound on October 5, 1977", HistoryLink, Seattle: History Ink, retrieved May 10, 2022.
  24. ^ "Washington State Democratic Party". Washington State Democratic Party. Retrieved December 16, 2017.

Related reading

Party political offices Preceded byHomer Bone Democratic nominee for U.S. Senator from Washington(Class 3) 1944, 1950, 1956, 1962, 1968, 1974, 1980 Succeeded byBrock Adams U.S. House of Representatives Preceded byMarion Zioncheck Member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Washington's 1st congressional district January 3, 1937 – December 13, 1944 Succeeded byEmerson DeLacy U.S. Senate Preceded byHomer 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 bySlade Gorton Political offices Preceded byJohn W. Bricker Chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee 1955–1977 Succeeded byHoward Cannon Preceded byJohn L. McClellan Chairman of Senate Appropriations Committee 1977–1981 Succeeded byMark O. Hatfield Preceded byJames O. Eastland President pro tempore of the United States Senate 1978–1980 Succeeded byMilton Young Preceded byMilton Young President pro tempore of the United States Senate 1980–1981 Succeeded byStrom Thurmond Honorary titles Preceded byJames O. Eastland Dean of the United States Senate December 27, 1978 – January 3, 1981 Succeeded byJohn C. Stennis