Dixy Lee Ray

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Dixy Lee Ray
Dixy Lee Ray.jpg
17th Governor of Washington
In office
January 12, 1977 – January 14, 1981
Lieutenant John Cherberg
Preceded by Daniel J. Evans
Succeeded by John Spellman
Assistant Secretary of State for Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs
In office
January 19, 1975 – June 20, 1975
President Gerald Ford
Preceded by Office established
Succeeded by Frederick Irving
Personal details
Born Marguerite Ray
(1914-09-03)September 3, 1914
Tacoma, Washington
United States
Died January 2, 1994(1994-01-02) (aged 79)
Fox Island, Washington
United States
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Never married
Profession Marine biologist

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


Early years[edit]

She was born Marguerite Ray in Tacoma, Washington to Frances Adams Ray and Alvis Marion Ray (a commercial printer).[1] 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.[2]

Academic career[edit]

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.[3]

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[edit]

Ray was elected governor of Washington in 1976 as a Democrat. She quickly alienated Democrats with her strongly conservative views, particularly with regard to environmental and energy policy. 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.[4] 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.[5]

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[edit]

Dixie Lee Ray died on January 2, 1994 at her home in 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.[6]

She co-authored two books critical of the environmentalist movement with Lou Guzzo. In one of those books, ("Trashing the Planet" 1992), she claimed that Rachel Carson was to blame for global malarial deaths because of Carson's opposition to DDT.


  1. ^ HistoryLink.org
  2. ^ reference
  3. ^ Guggenheim reference
  4. ^ Governor Dixy Lee Ray (30 April 1980). "Executive Order 80-05". Retrieved 28 July 2010. 
  5. ^ Thomas Frederick Saarinen, James L. Sell. Warning and response to the Mount St. Helens eruption. p. 72. 
  6. ^ ASME reference

Further reading[edit]

  • Ware, Susan; Lorraine Braukman; Stacy Braukman (2004). Notable American Women: A Biographical Dictionary Completing the Twentieth Century. Cambridge, MA: Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University Press. pp. 538–539. ISBN 0-674-01488-X. 
  • Grinstein, Louise S; Carol A. Biermann; Rose K. Rose (1997). Women in the Biological Sciences: A Biobibliographic Sourcebook. Greenwood Publishing Group,. pp. 424–432. ISBN 0-313-29180-2. 
  • Ray, Dixy Lee; Louis R. Guzzo (1994). Environmental Overkill. New York: Harper Perennial. pp. 260 pages. ISBN 0-06-097598-9. 
  • Ray, Dixy Lee; Louis R. Guzzo (1992). Trashing the Planet: How Science Can Help Us Deal With Acid Rain, Depletion of the Ozone, and Nuclear Waste (Among Other Things). New York: Harper Perennial. pp. 206 pages. ISBN 0-06-097490-7. 
  • Ray, Dixy Lee (1973). The Nation's Energy Future: A Report to Richard M. Nixon, President of the United States. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Atomic Energy Commission (for sale by the Supt. of Docs., U.S. Govt. Print. Off.). pp. 175 pages. 
  • Ray, Dixy Lee (1959). Marine Boring and Fouling Organisms. Seattle WA: University of Washington Press. 
  • Ray, Dixy Lee (1950). "The peripheral nervous system of lampanyctus leucopsarus". Journal of Morphology 87 (1) (Wiley Interscience). pp. 61–178. doi:10.1002/jmor.1050870104. 
  • Ray, Dixy Lee (1945). The peripheral nervous system of lampanyctus leucopsarus. Pacific Grove, CA: Hopkins Marine Station. pp. 360 pages. 
  • Ray, Dixy Lee (1938). A Comparative Study of the Life Habits of Some Species of Burrowing Eumalacostraca. Oakland CA: Mills College. pp. 24 pages. 

External links[edit]

Government offices
Preceded by
James R. Schlesinger
Chairman of the United States Atomic Energy Commission
Succeeded by
Commission abolished
Preceded by
New Office
Assistant Secretary of State for Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs
January 19, 1975 – June 20, 1975
Succeeded by
Frederick Irving
Political offices
Preceded by
Daniel J. Evans
Governors of Washington
January 12, 1977 – January 14, 1981
Succeeded by
John Spellman