Magnuson, Warren G. (Warren Grant), 1905-1989

Alternative names
Birth 1905-04-12
Death 1989-05-20

Biographical notes:

Warren Grant Magnuson (b. April 12, 1905, Moorhead, Minn.-d. May 20, 1989, Seattle, Wash.), a U.S. Representative and U.S. Senator from the State of Washington, graduated from the University of Washington law school in 1929 and served in several local and state-wide political posts until 1936 when he was elected as a Democrat to the U.S. Congress. During the Second World War he served in the U.S. Navy attaining the rank of lieutenant commander. He was a member of the Senate from 1944 to 1981, serving as President pro tempore and on several key committees including Commerce and Appropriations.

From the description of Magnuson, Warren Grant, 1905-1989 (U.S. National Archives and Records Administration). naId: 10580529


Born in 1905 and adopted by a Swedish family in Moorehead, Minnesota, Warren Magnuson moved to Seattle to attend the University of Washington. He began practicing law soon after he graduated from the University of Washington Law School in 1929. His early positions included Executive Secretary of the Seattle Municipal League, Special Prosecuting Attorney for King County, Assistant U.S. District Attorney and attorney to the Washington Emergency Relief Administration. Magnuson, a Democrat, began his political career in the Washington State House of Representatives during the 1933 legislative session. In 1934 he was elected King County Prosecuting Attorney, an office he held until his election to the U.S. House of Representatives from the First District in 1936. During his tenure in the House, Congressman Magnuson served on the Naval Affairs Committee and the Alaska International Highway Commission. A naval reservist before World War II, Magnuson spent several months on active duty in 1942.

In 1944 Magnuson was a successful candidate, for the Senate. He assumed his Senate seat early when his predecessor, Homer T. Bone, resigned shortly before the end of his term, thereby giving Magnuson seniority over other newly elected Senators.

Warren Magnuson was best known throughout his long Congressional career for his championship of consumer and health legislation. Appointed to the Commerce Committee in 1945, he became chair of that committee in 1955 after the Democrats took control of the Senate. Consumer protection legislation was an important part of the Commerce Committee's agenda throughout Magnuson's 23 years as chairman. In 1966 a separate Consumer Subcommittee was created and Magnuson served as its chairman also. His accomplishments were recognized by the National Consumer's League when, in 1977, they presented Magnuson with their Trumpeter Award for outstanding achievements in consumer protection. Magnuson co-authored a 1968 book, The Dark Side of the Market Place which attempted to raise public awareness of the need for consumer safeguards.

Magnuson was also an advocate of government support for scientific research in the years following World War II. In 1945 he introduced a bill which, when finally signed into law in 1950, created the National Science Foundation. As a freshman Congressman Magnuson sponsored legislation in the House which created the country's first tax-supported research center, The National Cancer Institute. This bill marked the beginning of a career-long dedication to governmental support of biomedical research and education, which he continued through his 1948 sponsorship of a bill to create the National Institutes of Health, and expanded in the 91st Congress, when he assumed the chairmanship of the Appropriations subcommittee responsible for funding health, labor and education programs. In 1973 Magnuson was the recipient of the Albert Lasker Public Service in Health award.

A member of the Appropriations Committee since 1945, Magnuson assumed its chairmanship in 1978 and resigned as chair of the Commerce Committee. In 1979 he was elected President Pro Tempore of the Senate, reflecting his status as most senior member of the Senate.

Other issues which concerned Magnuson throughout his career were civil rights, particularly through his authorship of the public accommodations section of the 1964 civil rights act; environmental protection, including ports and waterways safety and supertanker regulation; and improvement of public power and irrigation systems in the Northwest.

House of Representatives, 1937-1944

Warren Magnuson was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1936, to the seat from the First District left vacant by the death of Marion Zioncheck. Magnuson took office January 3, 1937 and was re-elected by increasing majorities in 1938, 1940, and 1942. In 1944 he was a successful candidate for the U.S. Senate after Homer T. Bone decided not to seek re-election.

As a Congressman Magnuson served on the Naval Affairs Committee and chaired several of its subcommittees. His responsibilities in Naval matters grew quickly. Magnuson fought for the expansion of the Navy before Pearl Harbor and was instrumental in the building of the Bremerton Naval Shipyards, and in bringing most of West Coast ship building to Puget Sound. He also chaired a Naval Affairs Aviation subcommittee and the Guadalcanal Investigation subcommittee, which investigated the merchant marines' refusal to work.

Magnuson's other committee assignments included the Select Committee on Post War Military Policy and the Special Committee to Investigate the Federal Communications Commission. He was also a member of the Alaska Highway Commission and its chairman from 1938-1944.

Magnuson's first bill as a freshman Congressman was the Bone-Magnuson Cancer Control Act of 1937, which created the National Cancer Institute. He also lent his support to public power projects, sponsored the General Welfare Act and introduced legislation which successfully repealed the Chinese Exclusion Act.

Magnuson was a naval reservist before his election to Congress and after the Pearl Harbor attack immediately volunteered for active duty. Within a few weeks he was aboard the aircraft carrier Enterprise in the Pacific with the rank of Lieutenant Commander. After six months active duty, Magnuson was ordered back to Congress by the President and the Secretary of the Navy.

Senate, 1944-1980

Warren G. Magnuson was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 1944 to fill the seat being vacated by Homer T. Bone. Bone then resigned his seat in December 1944. Magnuson was appointed by Governor Langlie to serve out the remaining days of Bone's term; this gave Magnuson seniority over other freshman senators.

Magnuson was perhaps best known throughout his long legislative career for his championship of consumer and health affairs legislation. Appointed to the Commerce Committee in 1945, he became chair of that committee in 1954 when the Democrats gained the majority of the Senate. The Committee had responsibility for legislation pertaining to the regulation of interstate commerce and transportation, communications and consumer protection. Under Magnuson's leadership numerous landmark consumer bills were passed in this period including the Flammable Fabrics Act (1953, 1967), the Hazardous Substances Act (1960), the Child Protection Act (1966), the Fair Packaging and Labeling Act (1966), the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act (1966) and the Cigarette Labeling and Advertising Act (1966). Magnuson chaired the Commerce Committee for 23 years, until 1978 when he became chairman of the Appropriations Committee.

Magnuson lost his seat in the Senate to Slade Gorton in the 1980 general election. At the beginning of the period covered in these papers, Magnuson became chair of the Labor-Health, Education and Welfare Subcommittee (later: Labor, Health and Human Services and Education Subcommittee) of the Appropriations Committee. He continued as chair of the Commerce Committee until 1978 when he relinquished that role in order to chair the full Appropriations Committee.

His positions on these two powerful committees enabled Magnuson to exert considerable influence in the areas of health care and consumer protection, major interests throughout his career. Examples of legislative accomplishments from this period include the National Health Service Corps, Children's Catastrophic Health Care Act, the Child Protection and Toy Safety Act, Poison Prevention Packaging Act, Consumer Product Safety Act, and Toxic Substances Control Act.

The long years of dedicated service in these legislative areas became formally recognized during this period. In 1979 Warren G. Magnuson was elected President Pro Tempore of the Senate. The position marked his status as the most senior member of the United States Senate. In 1973 he was awarded the prestigious Albert D. Lasker Public Service Award for leadership in health, and in 1977 he received the National Consumers League Trumpeter Award for outstanding achievements in consumer protection. In November 1978 the University of Washington's Warren G. Magnuson Health Sciences Center was named for the man whose strong legislative support had made the Center's facilities and programs possible.

Magnuson, a long-time advocate of free trade with the Peoples' Republic of China, led the first congressional delegation to that country in 1973 following President Nixon's historic visit the previous year.

In the latter part of 1970, Magnuson vigorously promoted funding for the SST program. The proposal was eventually defeated.

From the guide to the Warren Grant Magnuson papers and collected materials on Magnuson, 1918-1989, 1945-1980, (University of Washington Libraries Special Collections)


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