Dixy Lee Ray, Governor

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Dixy Lee Ray, Governor's Geni Profile

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Marguerite Lee Ray

Also Known As: "Dixy Lee Ray"
Birthdate: (79)
Birthplace: Tacoma, Pierce County, Washington, United States
Death: Died
Immediate Family:

Daughter of Alvis Marion Ray and Frances Hunt Ray
Sister of Jean Louise Ray, MD., CMDR USNR; Alvista Ray; Juliana Ray and Marian Ray
Half sister of Alvista Ray Steele

Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About Dixy Lee Ray, Governor


Dixy Lee Ray (September 3, 1914–January 2, 1994) was the 17th Governor of the U.S. State of Washington. She was Washington's first female governor.

Early years

She was born Marguerite Ray in Tacoma to Frances Adams Ray and Alvis Marion Ray (a commercial printer). Marguerite was second in a family of five girls. In 1930 she changed her name to "Dixy Lee". She attended Tacoma's Stadium High School, graduated as valedictorian from Mills College in Oakland, California in 1937, and with a master's degree in 1938 with her thesis entitled "A Comparative Study of the Life Habits of Some Species of Burrowing Eumalacostraca". She earned her PhD from Stanford University in Palo Alto. Her doctoral dissertation was "The peripheral nervous system of Lampanyctus leucopsarus," completed in 1945 at the Hopkins Marine Station, Pacific Grove, California.

Academic career

Ray was a marine biologist and taught at the University of Washington from 1947 until 1972. In 1952 she received a prestigious John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation fellowship grant for Biology.

From 1963 until 1972, Dr. Ray became the director of Seattle's Pacific Science Center, guiding its future after the founding as part of the 1962 World's Fair. An advocate of nuclear power, she was appointed by Richard Nixon to chair the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission in 1973 and was the only woman to serve as chair of the AEC.

In 1975, Dr. Ray was appointed and served as the first Assistant Secretary of State for Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs.

Political career

Ray was elected governor of Washington in 1976 as a Democrat. She quickly alienated Democrats with her strongly conservative views. She was governor when Mount St. Helens started volcanic activity after a 123 year dormant or inactive phase. As volcanic activity increased, the mountain attracted scientists and sightseers. On April 3, 1980, she declared a state of emergency and urged people to stay away from the mountain. This declaration allowed the National Guard to assist State Patrol troopers and sheriffs deputies from Cowlitz County and Skamania County. Ray also issued an executive order that restricted access to extremely dangerous areas of Mount St. Helens and its surrounds. The "red zone" restrictions would be credited by Forest Service respondents to a post-eruption 'Warning and Response Survey' with keeping between 5,000 and 30,000 potential decedents out of the blast area.

In 1980, she lost in the Democratic primary election to then-State Senator Jim McDermott, who went on to lose in the general election to moderate Republican John D. Spellman. Ray left the governor's office in January 1981 when her successor took the Oath of Office.

Death and legacy

Dixie Lee Ray died on January 2, 1994 at Fox Island, Washington.

The American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) established an award in Dixy Lee Ray's honor for engineering contributions to the field of environmental protection in 1998. The award, which consists of a bronze medal with the governor's likeness and $1000 was first given to Clyde W. Frank in 1999 and has been made annually since.

She co-authored two books critical of the environmentalist movement with Lou Guzzo. Her papers are archived at the Hoover Institution and are catalogued online.

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Dixy Lee Ray, Governor's Timeline

September 3, 1914
Tacoma, Pierce County, Washington, United States
January 2, 1994
Age 79