Washington leaders reacted with sadness Saturday at news of the death of former Governor Booth Gardner, but said he left behind a legacy that has changed Washington for the better forever.
Gardner, a Democrat who was governor from 1985 to 1993, died at the age of 76 Friday at his home in Tacoma. He had battled Parkinson's disease since 1994.
"Booth was a leader of tremendous compassion, dignity and bravery whose service to our state will live on far into the future," said U.S. Sen. Patty Murray.
"I learned so much from Booth because he was a man that led by example. He demonstrated that governing is about the people you serve — and serve with — by learning everyone's name, what issues they cared deeply about, and by taking the time to work with anyone that shared his desire to make Washington state a better place to live. Booth also showed that compromise and compassion were not competing ideals by being pragmatic when he needed to be, but by always working to protect the needs of the most vulnerable."
Gov. Jay Inslee praised Gardner for championing health care issues and the protection of the environment, as well as his outspoken support for assisted suicide.
"Booth Gardner was one of the great leaders of our state. He served us all with the highest standards and with never-ending humanity," Inslee said.
He helped prepare Washington for the 21st Century. His accomplishments are immense — from creating the Basic Health Plan to enacting the Growth Management Act — and he touched every part of life in our state," Inlsee said.
"Booth made a personal connection with everyone he met – from children visiting the capital to the lawmakers he persuaded to always act for the greater good of Washington. When I was a young legislator, he showed me great kindness and helped me learn what it means to serve. I’ll always be personally indebted to him," Inslee said.
“Booth Gardner was an incredible human being and governor," said U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell.
“He ran for governor saying he wanted to focus on education and he meant it. He spent eight years as governor and the rest of his life fighting for education reform. He championed fair measurements for educational progress and he fought to make sure all students achieved academic success.
“He was a politician with a personal touch. He also knew how to make everyone in a crowded room feel special. He touched the hearts of all Washingtonians when he told the son of a Western Washington University administrator at his parent’s funeral ‘I lost my mom, too. I never got to say goodbye.’"
Cantwell said Gardner believed in Washington's economic future and championed research and life sciences.
“Booth Gardner created the Growth Strategies Commission and delivered his State of the State address saying ‘Environmentalists make great ancestors.’ He didn't come from a political family but he had old-fashioned political skills, loyalty, building unity among coalitions and campaigning for those who shared his agenda," she said.
“Booth Gardner's stewardship and friendship put his stamp on Washington state and we are all the better for it,” Cantwell said.