Former Washington Gov. Mike Lowry died on May 1 following complications from a stroke, according to a news release issued by his family.
Lowry, a Democrat who served in Congress for a decade before ultimately being elected governor in 1992, was 78.
In a statement, Lowry’s family called him “a passionate defender” of people and the environment who “was often willing to take early stands on sometimes controversial issues.”
One such stand came as a freshman congressman when, in keeping a campaign promise, Lowry introduced legislation that sought to redress Japanese American citizens interned during World War II. The bill was the first to call for direct monetary reparations, a sum of $15,000 per person, plus $15 for each day of imprisonment.
His bill did not pass, but it helped garner support from many members of Congress.
An alternate redress bill was introduced by Rep. Tom Foley of Spokane in 1987. It was passed by Congress and signed by President Ronald Reagan on August 10, 1988. It took another five years, but in 1993, each person who’d been incarcerated during World War II received a check for $20,000 and a letter of apology signed by President Clinton.
Lowry stated during the 2013 Day of Remembrance, “[Championing redress] was the easiest ‘yes’ I ever had to make in my elected years in office.”
Lowry not only made waves as a politician, but as an employer.
Many notable Asian American leaders once served under him, including Ruthann Kurose, the late Bob Santos, and Rep. Sharon Tomiko Santos. In fact, the Santos met while working on Lowry’s campaign for the state Senate.
Lowry is survived by his wife, Mary; daughter Diane Lowry Oakes; son-in-law Scott Oakes; two grandsons; sister Suellen Lowry; and two nephews and a niece.
Memorial services are pending.