December 9, 2023

October 7, 1889:

On this date William Owen Bush became the first Black person elected to the Washington State Legislature.

William Owen Bush (July 4, 1832 – February 13, 1907) was an American farmer and politician who was elected to the inaugural legislature of Washington state after its admission to the United States in 1889. He is noted for introducing the legislation that established Washington State University, for being the first African-American to serve in the Washington legislature, and for his tireless promotion of Washington agriculture. 

Following Washington’s admission to the United States in 1889, Bush ran and was elected to the first sitting of the Washington House of Representatives as a member of the Republican Party. In 1890 he introduced and helped pass the state’s first civil rights act, which prohibited racial discrimination in “public accommodations … public conveyances on land or water, theatres and other places of public amusement and restaurants. Bush is also credited with introducing the legislation that led to the establishment of Washington State University.[6] He was elected to the legislature a second time, serving until 1895.

Bush died in 1907 at St. Peter’s Hospital in Olympia, Washington and was interred at Union Cemetery in Tumwater, Washington. In its obituary, the Morning Olympian newspaper described Bush as “one of the oldest and most famous pioneers of the state of Washington” and declared that “probably no resident of the state or territory throughout its history has done more to advertise the state than W. O. Bush.


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