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Yakima’s Most Famous Person You Know Nothing About

William O. Douglas

Believe it or not, some very famous, and accomplished, people have come from right here in little ‘ol Yakima.

From comedians, to authors to flat-out T.V. and movie stars, Yakima can certainly hang its hat with pride on the names of these people.

Did you know that the late, great stand-up comic Sam Kinison was born in Yakima?  Authors Raymond Carver and Beverly Cleary both hail from here as well as world and Olympic champion skiers Phil and Steve Mahre.  Entertainers Kyle MacLachlan (‘Twin Peaks’) and Oleta Adams (R & B singer) along with Grammy award winning musicians Larry Knechtel and Gary Puckett are from the valley too.  Even the star of the T.V. show “Coach” and Spielberg classic flick “Poltergeist” Craig T. Nelson attended Yakima Valley Community College.

But, without a doubt, the most powerful and influential person to have called Yakima home was William O. Douglas.

To this day, Supreme Court Justice Douglas still holds the mark for serving the longest term on the bench of the nation’s highest court (36 years).  Considering that there have been a grand total of 112 judges in the history of the United States, this puts Douglas in very rare air.

In 1975, TIME magazine called Justice Douglas “the most doctrinaire and committed civil libertarian ever to sit on the court”.  High praise, indeed.

The Federal Court House (pictured below) in Yakima bears his name.  If you are really paying attention, you will find a building located at 111 North 5th Avenue in downtown Yakima (across from Safeway) where hangs a banner touting the exact location of his boyhood home.  It mentions that it was in the Yakima Valley that a young Douglas learned the beauty of the wilderness.  This is evidenced by the following from Wikipedia:

“The William O. Douglas Wilderness, which adjoins Mount Rainier National Park in Washington State, is named in his honor, as Douglas had both an intimate connection to that area and a deep commitment to environmental protection.[45] Douglas was a friend and frequent guest of Harry Randall Truman, owner of the Mount St. Helens Lodge at Spirit Lake in Washington. Douglas Falls in the Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina is also named after him, as is the William O. Douglas Outdoor Classroom in Beverly Hills, California.”

If you ever have the opportunity, check out the tremendous exhibit chronicling his life and times on display at the Yakima Valley Museum.

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