The State of Washington and the Greater Seattle community is mourning the loss of former Washington State Senator George Fleming. Fleming, who served as a state representative and state senator for twenty-two years, passed away peacefully at his home in Seattle surrounded by family at the age of 83.
Former Washington State Governor Gary Locke, who served with Fleming in Olympia for many years as a state representative for the 37th District, said that Fleming was “the leading force behind so many transformative laws in our state” as a member of the State Legislature.
“George Fleming has always been my hero—from my childhood days listening on the radio to his record-breaking exploits as a Rose Bowl champion Husky football player to our years together in the State Legislature,” said Locke. “He was a trailblazing leader of civil rights and was the conscience of the Legislature. He gave voice and power to the forgotten and overlooked—everyday working people.”
Fleming’s family released the following statements after his passing:
“Senator Fleming led an incredible and awe-inspiring life that was dedicated to public service and advocacy for the underrepresented. For twenty-two years, he represented the 37th District, first in the Washington State House of Representatives for two years, then in the State Senate for twenty years, during which time he held the highest-ranking member-elected position of Senate Democratic Caucus Chairman for over a decade. Fleming was also an accomplished football player and star of the 1960 and 1961 Rose Bowls, including co-MVP of the 1960 game and member of the 1960 National Championship team, followed by stints with the Oakland Raiders of the American Football League and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the Canadian Football League. Fleming was inducted into the University of Washington Hall of Fame in 1980, named a Husky Legend in 1998, and inducted into the Rose Bowl Hall of Fame in 2012. Fleming’s most cherished role was lovingly raising his two daughters, Sonja and Yemi, with his wife, Tina, of 54 years, and spending time with their five grandchildren, all of whom will miss him dearly.”
Senator George Fleming – A Washington Legend, Groundbreaking State Senator and Beloved UW Husky Hall of Famer
For twenty-two years, George Fleming dedicated his life to public service and advocacy for the underrepresented. In 1968, the 37th District elected George Fleming to the Washington State House of Representatives, and in 1970, to the Washington State Senate until he retired in 1991. During this time, Senator Fleming held the highest-ranking member-elected position of Senate Democratic Caucus Chairman for over a decade.
Senator Fleming was one of the most effective legislators ever to serve. He sponsored and passed landmark legislation that defended the rights of women, minorities, senior citizens, and children, which improved their economic and educational circumstances, and the overall quality of life for the 37th District and the State of Washington. A few of his crowning achievements include the establishment of the Office of Women and Minority Business Enterprise and the Washington State Housing Finance Commission, both of which have continued to serve the community for over 30 years. Senator Fleming was also a tireless advocate to make the Martin Luther King holiday a reality in Washington state, and his leadership helped spearhead the MESA Program. While this is a small sampling of Senator Fleming’s achievements, it is a record from which anyone would take great pride.
Senator Fleming, a proud UW Husky Business School graduate, was also a star of the 1960 and 1961 Rose Bowls, including co-MVP of the 1960 game and member of the 1960 National Championship team, followed by stints with the Oakland Raiders of the American Football League and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the Canadian Football League. Fleming went on to be inducted into the University of Washington Hall of Fame in 1980, named a Husky Legend in 1998, and inducted into the Rose Bowl Hall of Fame in 2012.
Senator Fleming received hundreds of awards and recognition, including having the Pritchard-Fleming building named in his honor on the Bellevue College campus and receiving an honorary Doctor of Laws. A few of the organizations that have recognized his efforts include the National Association of Minority Contractors (NW Chapter), Seattle P-I, U.S. Justice Department, Seattle Benefit Guild, and National Business League. Most recently, the Low Income Housing Institute celebrated the opening of George Fleming Place, an apartment building containing 106 affordable units for veterans, people with disabilities, families, and low-wage workers in recognition of Senator Fleming’s longstanding commitment to affordable housing.
Senator Fleming leaves behind his wife Tina and their two daughters, Sonja and Yemi (and son-in-law Rodney) as well as five grandchildren, Arica, Chris, Micah, Myles and Nyah, all of whom will miss him dearly.
Community reflects on the legacy of George Fleming
News of Flemings passing spread quickly across the community and many long-time As news of Flemings passing spread across the region, many long-time friends, colleagues, mentees and people whose lives he may have impacted and influenced both directly and indirectly expressed their thoughts about Fleming, his passion to serve, his commitment to improve the quality of life for all people and the rich legacy that he leaves behind.
“George Fleming was a close mentor and a once-in-a-generation kind of leader. When I was first elected to the State Senate he was a colleague I could always count on. I saw up close and personal how he always worked for what was right—whether it was leading the effort to make Martin Luther King holiday a reality in Washington state, or championing ADA accessibility. He fought for his beliefs and his constituents. He was a champion on the gridiron and in the halls of the Washington State Legislature. He touched so many lives and he will be missed by so many—including me. I was deeply proud to call George a friend—my thoughts are with his family, friends, and everyone who loved him.” – United States Senator Patty Murray
“George Fleming was one of my childhood heroes scoring touchdowns in the Rose Bowl as a Washington Husky, and he was a hero to me in adulthood as he became a tireless public servant in the Legislature, where he served for 22 years. George was a scion of integrity and empathy in both his work and his personal life. Washington state and everyone who knew him will sorely miss his wisdom.” – Washington State Governor Jay Inslee
“Our Husky community is mourning the loss of the remarkable George Fleming. After fulfilling his dream of playing in the Rose Bowl, George – who was one of the most impactful players of his era – was later named to the Rose Bowl Hall of Fame for helping the Huskies make multiple trips to Pasadena. His impact stretched far beyond the football field as George made our community and state better. He used his platform in politics to be a role model and advocate for the underprivileged. George was a true champion both on and off the field and he will be dearly missed by his Husky family. My heart goes out to his wife, Tina, and daughters, Sonja and Yemi.” – Jen Cohen, Director of Athletics, University of Washington
“George Fleming was a leader that broke so many barriers and was beloved by our Seattle community. He played football for the University of Washington Huskies and then the NFL. Following his football career, George was elected to the Washington House of Representatives then made history as the first African American to be elected to the Washington State Senate. He served in the Senate for 20 years and was a tireless champion for education, housing and civil rights. Few could match his generous spirit, love for community and sense of great style. He will be greatly missed. A good friend of my father – I am proud that in recent years I too got to call him ‘friend.’ Our city sends our condolences to George’s remarkable family, friends, and colleagues.” – Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan
“We lost a trailblazer and warrior in our loss of George Fleming. As he rose from Husky football stardom and worked in telecommunications and served as a successful politician, he forged a trail of success that I followed. He never hesitated to help me, advise me and inspire me. I was proud to be his friend and a beneficiary of his life of service.” – Seattle Mayor-Elect, Bruce Harrell
“Uncle George was the blueprint for so many aspects of my life. He was my example of being a husband, a father, and an elected official. So many times, I’ve said that if I can contribute even half of what he has contributed to our state, I would be proud. His legacy endures not just in the legislation he passed that continues to positively impact people today, years after his retirement. But in the example, he was for many people, especially African Americans. His imprint on this state will live forever.” –Councilmember, City of Renton and Executive Director, Washington State Commission on African American Affairs Ed Prince
“The University of Washington community is saddened by the passing of George Fleming, an esteemed alumnus and distinguished leader who represented the very best of what it means to be a Husky. A UW football legend who became a state representative and then the first African American to be elected to the Washington State Senate, he fought hard to build a more inclusive community for all. He will be missed, but his legacy lives on all throughout the UW community and across our state.”- Ana Mari Cauce, President, University of Washington
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