Saturday, October 11, 1997 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Joel Pritchard: A Legacy Of Selfless Public Service

JOEL Pritchard's 32 years of public service as a state legislator, congressman and lieutenant governor helped guide, shape and protect the state he loved.

Pritchard, who died Thursday night at age 72 from a third bout of lymphoma, was respected and admired for the civility and humanity he brought to his work in Olympia and on Capitol Hill.

Pritchard's roots in Washington run deep, with grandparents who arrived in Seattle in 1895. He grew up on the slopes of Queen Anne Hill. He followed his father into the family printing business before he felt the pull of elective office.

His personal warmth, decency and honesty were never tarnished by the gritty rough and tumble of a lifetime in politics, especially as its contemporary practitioners began to view niceness as a weakness or liability.

Pritchard was a strong believer in bipartisanship and coalition building. These skills were refined in part as a matter of survival, because he spent years as a member of the minority party.

For all of the emphasis on the upbeat nature of his personality, Pritchard earned his place in Washington state history because other words describe him as well: tenacious, competitive, purposeful and, ultimately, effective.

He was a loyal son of the Republican Party, but he butted heads with the conservative Taft wing of the GOP over his support of Eisenhower in the 1950s.

Courageous is the only word to describe his early unflinching support for abortion rights, and his leadership of a pro-choice initiative endorsed by Washington state voters in 1970, three years ahead of the Supreme Court's ruling on Roe vs. Wade.

In three terms of Congress, Pritchard was a respected voice on issues as disparate as nuclear disarmament and environmental protection. He was instrumental in creation of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness Area, and was a key ally of the late Sen. Warren Magnuson's successful efforts to keep supertankers out of Puget Sound.

Pritchard confounded his friends with a stubborn commitment to a self-imposed limit of six terms in Congress. When he stepped down as lieutenant governor last January, it was his choosing as well. Virtually all he had to do to win re-election was to file. Pritchard had presided over the Senate with a sense of fairness that was at odds with the increasingly ideological rancor that had come to characterize Olympia politics.

Joel Pritchard's life of public service is a powerful example of what principled, bipartisan cooperation can accomplish. He was not only a decent, honorable man, but also an effective political craftsman. The citizens of this state are surrounded by the legacy of his good works.

Copyright (c) 1997 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.


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