Former Washington Gov. Rosellini remembered as reformer

Oct 10, 2011

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Former Washington Governor Albert Rosellini is being remembered as a reformer. Rosellini died today at the age of 101 of complications from pneumonia.

Al Rosellini, or “The Gov” as he was known, took office in 1957. A Democrat, he was the first Italian-American and Catholic governor west of the Mississippi. He told TVW’s “Inside Olympia” program in 2000 that his heritage was his biggest political handicap.

“Some of my best friends said well you’re qualified but with your name and religion you can never make it in the State of Washington. And I said maybe not, but I’m going to give it a hell of a try,” Rosellini said.

Rosellini is credited with improving conditions at Washington’s prisons and mental health hospitals. Another legacy: the 520 floating bridge over Lake Washington. It’s named in his honor.

But he was also dogged by controversy. Warren Bishop was Rosellini’s chief of staff. He says the governor refused to cut ties with friends who ran controversial businesses.

“Gambling, clubs, strip clubs and that was not a constructive thing for him and he knew that, but he didn’t want to leave his friends,” Bishop said.

Rosellini served two terms as Washington governor.

Copyright 2011 Northwest News Network