A Title Lost: California’s Legislative Historian

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Most job titles in California State Government are formulaic series of words that, while useful in understanding the duties of the position, are so wickedly unimaginative that you have to wonder if they were created by a committee.

Yes, in fact, they were.

But sometimes, very rarely and usually only in the distant past, the state has come up with a job title that rocks. Many of these have been too awesome to last, and have eventually been lost to time. From the Guardian of Yosemite (first appointed 1866 and renamed around 1900), to the once-powerful Railroad Commissioners (created in 1879 and renamed in 1946) and of course the Disaster Acting Governors, the California government has occasionally outdone itself.

Don A. Allen, California's Legislative Historian

Don A. Allen

As someone who has spent years studying the legislature and history of state laws, there are few titles more awesome that the one given only once, in 1966. That June, the California Legislature passed a concurrent resolution bestowing the title of Legislative Historian on outgoing Assemblyman Don A. Allen Sr. So what had Allen done to earn this completely awesome title? It’s a great story.

Allen was born in 1907 in a 5,000-person town in western Iowa, leaving as a teenager after joining the Marines. He served in the Haitian Campaign and the Second Nicaraguan Campaign, where Allen (a Democrat) served in the same unit as his friend and future Assembly colleague Charles Edward Chapel (a Republican).

Allen was elected to the Assembly in 1938 and served from 1939 until he was elected to the Los Angeles City Council in 1947. In 1940, while serving as a member of the Fact Finding Committee on Government Efficiency and Economy, Allen began “a comprehensive study of the history of the Legislature” that would last more than 20 years.

He served on the Council for a decade (1947-1956), in what he later called “my temporary departure from the Legislature.” In June 1956, Los Angeles voters returned Allen to the legislature in a special election resulting from the resignation of Delbert Morris after his conviction for illegally selling state liquor licenses [See: Howard Cramer: Forgotten Legislative Hero].

Having won the special election (they happen when they happen) but having a little more work to finish before leaving the Council, Allen declined to be sworn into office for three months after the election (the longest delay in assuming office in state history). Allen was reelected in the November election and got back to work when the new session started.

It’s interesting (and probably instructive for new 12-year legislators) that in his 18 years as a legislator, Allen is best remembered for the mastery he demonstrated in his last two terms. What defined Allen most as a legislator (as frequently happened in the age before term limits) was his dedication to a single policy area; legislative history.

As a member (and eventually Chair) of the Assembly Committee on Elections and Reapportionment, Allen was able to use his years of collecting and studying old redistricting maps and the history of the Legislature. As the case Reynolds v. Sims (relating to state legislative districts) began to gain attention, Allen wrote a series of memos to his Assembly colleagues describing prior redistricting disputes and how the membership of the Legislature had been impacted.

In June 1964, the Warren Court ruled that legislative districts had to be equal in size, and the California Legislature was required to immediately redistrict the State Senate to meet the “one man, one vote” standard. The deadline for the new districts was July 1, 1965.

Allen switched into high gear, compiling data and statistics from two decades of research into a single volume. The resulting book, the Legislative Sourcebook was a reference that has never since been equaled by a legislative publication. How can you possibly not love a book that has 200 pages of narrative and charts followed by an additional 287 pages of appendices?

In early 1965, the Legislature passed a resolution recognizing the Sourcebook as “a work of major historical significance” and authorizing the printing of 10,000 copies, to be distributed for $3 each.

The Legislature met the court-imposed deadline, stripping the rural counties of their dominance of the Senate and transforming the upper house into the body we know it as today. In June 1965, shortly after the court-imposed deadline, the Legislature approved ACR 63, creating the position of Legislative Historian and conferring it (for life) on Allen.

Assembly Concurrent Resolution No. 63
Relative to position of Legislative Historian

[Filed with Secretary of State June 21, 1966]

WHEREAS, Don A. Allen, Sr., has labored in the vineyards of California history, especially history pertaining to the California beginning in 1941; and
WHEREAS, He has haunted the archives since being first introduced to them by the former Archivist, Bart Greer; and
WHEREAS, Down through the years Don A. Allen, Sr., has furnished at his own expense memeographed memoranda which have proven to be of extreme value, both educational and instructive, to all members of both houses; and
WHEREAS, He was persuaded to include much of this material in the Legislative Source Book, which has been published and is acknowledged by many scholars as the greatest biblography to have ever been contained in a document of this kind; and
WHEREAS, Don A. Allen, Sr., has waived all rights, royalties or copyrights and has made this a labor of love to the State of California; and
WHEREAS, The Members of the Legislature are deeply grateful to Don A. Allen, Sr., for his outstanding contributions and selfless service to the Legislature and to the people of the entire State of California; now, therefore, be it
Resolved by the Assembly of the State of California, the Senate thereof concurring, That the position of Legislative Historian is hereby created, to be held without compensation or state expense, and is hereby conferred upon Don A. Allen, Sr., for so long as he shall live.

Allen held the title for slightly more than 18 years, during which time he continued his dedication by founding the Association of Former California Legislators. Allen, California’s only official Legislative Historian, died in Sacramento in 1983.


Perea to Resign December 31st


As was reported in the news yesterday, Assemblyman Henry T. Perea has announced that he will resign effective December 31st.

Some quick statistics about his service and resignation;

  • Perea will leave office after 265 weeks in office, ranking as California’s 3237th longest-serving legislator (just ahead of John Campbell at 264 weeks).
  • In past 5 decades, only 2 California state legislators have resigned at younger age than Perea; Michael Rubio in 2013 and (future Governor) Pete Wilson in 1971.
  • Since 2000, 11 people have left the California Legislature younger than Perea (who’s leaving at 38.5 yrs old).
  • Perea is the fourth California state legislator to resign in 2015, and the 20th since January 2010.

Legislator Age Statistics

Of the 800+ California state legislators elected to their first terms since 1950, here are some age-related statistics.

The big takeaways are…

  • Sebastian Ridley-Thomas was the second-youngest member in 60 years.
  • When Ian Calderon was elected, he was the youngest member since Tom McClintock in 1982.
  • Cindy Montañez was the youngest modern woman to serve in the California Legislature (but not the youngest ever).
  • Cheryl R. Brown was the oldest new member of the Legislature in more than a decade.


Youngest Age When Assuming Office

Legislator Gender First Year Age
1 McCarthy, John F. M 1950 25 years, 37 weeks
2 Lewis, John R. M 1981 26 years, 5 weeks
3 Ridley-Thomas, Sebastian M 2013 26 years, 17 weeks
4 McClintock, Tom M 1982 26 years, 22 weeks
5 Costa, Jim M 1978 26 years, 34 weeks
6 Imbrecht, Charles R. M 1976 26 years, 45 weeks
7 Quimby, John P. M 1963 26 years, 47 weeks
8 Calderon, Ian M 2012 27 years, 7 weeks
9 Ingalls, Walter M. M 1973 27 years, 12 weeks
10 Lempert, Ted M 1988 27 years, 25 weeks
11 Moretti, Bob M 1965 27 years, 31 weeks
12 Roberti, David A. M 1967 27 years, 40 weeks
13 Sebastiani, Don M 1980 27 years, 42 weeks
14 Torres, Art M 1974 28 years, 10 weeks
15 Carter, Douglas F. M 1973 28 years, 11 weeks
16 Cory, Kenneth M 1967 28 years, 14 weeks
17 Lehman, Richard M 1976 28 years, 21 weeks
18 Nolan, Patrick M 1978 28 years, 25 weeks
19 Rees, Thomas M. M 1955 28 years, 40 weeks
20 Karabian, Walter J. M 1967 28 years, 42 weeks
21 Woodruff, Paul A. M 1988 28 years, 42 weeks
22 Strickland, Tony M 1998 28 years, 43 weeks
23 Wilson, Bob M 1972 28 years, 44 weeks
24 Montañez, Cindy F 2002 28 years, 46 weeks
25 Hill, Frank M 1983 28 years, 47 weeks


Oldest Age When Assuming Office

Legislator Gender First Year Age
1 Soto, Nell F 1998 71 years, 25 weeks
2 Takasugi, Nao M 1992 69 years, 36 weeks
3 Lapthorne, George J. M 1960 69 years, 33 weeks
4 Brown, Cheryl R. F 2012 68 years, 43 weeks
5 Lowenthal, Bonnie F 2008 68 years, 41 weeks
6 Bradley, Willis W. M 1953 67 years, 27 weeks
7 Ammiano, Tom M 2008 66 years, 51 weeks
8 Quirk, Bill M 2012 66 years, 13 weeks
9 Margett, Bob M 1995 66 years, 4 weeks
10 Mullin, Gene M 2002 65 years, 33 weeks
11 Carter, Wilmer Amina F 2006 65 years, 21 weeks
12 Coto, Joe M 2004 65 years, 14 weeks
13 House, George M 1994 65 years, 2 weeks
14 Berry, Swift M 1953 64 years, 51 weeks
15 Patterson, Jim M 2012 64 years, 42 weeks
16 Morrissey, Jim M 1994 64 years, 30 weeks
17 Pacheco, Robert M 1998 64 years, 27 weeks
18 Johnson, Edward C. M 1951 64 years, 21 weeks
19 Lyon, Jr., LeRoy E. M 1953 64 years, 16 weeks
20 Weber, Shirley N. F 2012 64 years, 11 weeks
21 Allen, Michael M 2010 63 years, 49 weeks
22 Cook, Paul M 2006 63 years, 40 weeks
23 Goldberg, Jackie F 2000 63 years, 26 weeks
24 Scott, Jack M 1996 63 years, 15 weeks
25 Dutra, John M 1998 63 years, 8 weeks


Oldest Age When Leaving Office

Legislator Gender Last Year Age
1 Alquist, Alfred E. M 1996 88 years, 18 weeks
2 Dymally, Mervyn M. M 2008 82 years, 30 weeks
3 Soto, Nell F 2008 82 years, 24 weeks
4 Greene, Leroy F. M 1998 80 years, 44 weeks
5 Rosenthal, Herschel M 1998 80 years, 38 weeks
6 Margett, Bob M 2008 79 years, 30 weeks
7 Bane, Tom M 1992 78 years, 49 weeks
8 Craven, William A. M 1998 77 years, 23 weeks
9 Karnette, Betty F 2008 77 years, 12 weeks
10 Lanterman, Frank M 1978 77 years, 5 weeks
11 Sher, Byron M 2004 76 years, 43 weeks
12 Ayala, Ruben S. M 1998 76 years, 39 weeks
13 Takasugi, Nao M 1998 76 years, 35 weeks
14 Marks, Milton M 1996 76 years, 20 weeks
15 Johnson, Edward C. M 1962 76 years, 19 weeks
16 Davis, Ed M 1992 76 years, 3 weeks
17 Scott, Jack M 2008 75 years, 15 weeks
18 Belotti, Frank P. M 1972 74 years, 47 weeks
19 Lowenthal, Bonnie F 2014 74 years, 41 weeks
20 Schrade, Jack M 1976 74 years, 28 weeks
21 Knight, William J. “Pete” M 2004 74 years, 25 weeks
22 Vincent, Edward M 2008 74 years, 24 weeks
23 Killea, Lucy F 1996 74 years, 18 weeks
24 Papan, Louis J. M 2002 74 years, 18 weeks
25 Kelley, David G. M 2002 74 years, 8 weeks

It’s worth noting that there are eight incumbent legislators who (if they serve in their current house until they are forced out due to term limits) will appear on the list above.