Dixy Lee Ray

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Marguerite "Dixy" Lee Ray

17th Governor of Washington State
In office
January 12, 1977 – January 14, 1981
Lieutenant Governor John Cherberg
Preceded by Daniel J. Evans
Succeeded by John Spellman

Chairman of the
Atomic Energy Commission
In office
February 6, 1973 – January 18, 1975
President Richard M. Nixon
Gerald Ford
Preceded by James R. Schlesinger
Succeeded by AEC abolished

Born September 3, 1914
Tacoma, Pierce County,
Died January 2, 1994

(aged 79)
Fox Island, Washington

Resting place Fox Island Cemetery
Political party Independent-turned-Democrat (1975)
Spouse(s) Never married

Alvis Marion and Frances Adams Ray

Alma mater Stadium High School (Tacoma)

Mills College (Oakland, California)
(Bachelor and Master of Science
Stanford University (Ph.D.)

Marguerite Lee Ray, known as Dixy Lee Ray (September 3, 1914 – January 2, 1994), was an American scientist who served as the Democratic governor of her native Washington State from 1977 to 1981. Variously described as "idiosyncratic” and "ridiculously smart," she was her state's first female governor. She was in office during the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens. Nationally, she is best remembered for serving as the last chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission before the agency was abolished in 1975. She was a lifelong proponent of nuclear energy. Although a lifelong scientist and environmentalist, Ray did not believe in the global warming hoax.[1]


The second of five daughters of Alvis Marion Ray (1893-1947) and the former Frances Adams (1895-1945), she was born in Tacoma in Pierce County. Her sisters were Marion Francis Ray Reid (1913-2001) (who acted as her gubernatorial hostess), Jean Louise Ray (1920-1998), Juliana Ray Strong (1925-2013), and Alvista Ray Steele (1926-2000). All are interred at Fox Island Cemetery in Pierce County. At the age of twelve, Ray became the youngest female to climb the summit of scenic Mount Rainier south of Seattle.[2]

Miss Ray graduated from Stadium High School in Tacoma and received the Bachelor of Science and Master of Science from Mills College , a private female liberal arts institution, in Oakland, California. Thereafter she earned a Ph.D. in biology from the private Stanford University in Palo Alto, California.[2]


From 1945 to 1972, she was an instructor, assistant professor, and associate professor at the University of Washington in Seattle. She was the lead scientist aboard the schooner, SS Te Vega, in a trip to the Indian Ocean. Under her guidance from 1963 to 1972, the nearly bankrupt Pacific Science Center in Seattle was made into an interactive learning facility and rescued from the brink of bankruptcy.[2]

In the late 1960S and early 1970s, Miss Ray hosted a weekly television program, Animals of the Sea, produced and broadcast by the PBS affiliate in Seattle. She received much publicity beyond her campus for hosting the show.[2]

In 1973, U.S. President Richard M. Nixon appointed Ray as the chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission. Under her leadership, research and development was separated from safety programs. She then served for six months under President Gerald Ford as the Assistant Secretary of State for Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs. She resigned because of a lack of staff personnel and the failure of United States Secretary of State Henry Kissinger to invite her to participate in policy decisions.[2]

Originally an Independent and a quite conservative person who had served under two Republican presidents, Ray ran for governor as a Democrat. She defeated the Moderate Republican John Spellman, the King County executive, 53.1 to 44.4 percent, who four years later became her successor after she lost her bid for re-nomination to the more liberal James Adelbert "Jim" McDermott (born 1936), later a U.S. Representative from 1989 to 2017 for Washington's 7th congressional district. Known for her no-holds-barred style, Governor Ray approved the docking of supertankers in Puget Sound and supported unrestrained growth and development. In 1980, she proclaimed a state of emergency as a result of the volcanic eruption of Mount St. Helens. She retired after her governorship ended.[2]

In 1990, she published Trashing the Planet; three years later, Environmental Overkill. She died at her home in Fox Island, also in Pierce County, from a bronchial infection.[2]


  1. https://products.kitsapsun.com/archive/1993/04-08/282012_dixy_lee_ray_questions_effects_.html
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 Dixy Lee Ray (1914-1994) - Find A Grave Memorial, accessed August 6, 2021.