|26th Treasurer of California|
January 6, 1975 – August 4, 1987
|Preceded by||Ivy Baker Priest|
|Succeeded by||Elizabeth Whitney|
|54th Speaker of the California State Assembly|
September 1961 – January 1969
|Preceded by||Ralph M. Brown|
|Succeeded by||Robert T. Monagan|
|Member of the California State Assembly|
January 1955 – January 1969
Jesse Marvin Unruh
September 30, 1922
Newton, Kansas, U.S.
|Died||August 4, 1987 (aged 64)|
Marina Del Rey, California, U.S.
|Cause of death||Prostate cancer|
|Spouse(s)||Virginia June Lemon (1943–1975)|
Chris Edwards (1986–1987)
|Children||Linda Lu, Bruce, Bradley, Robert, Randall|
|Alma mater||University of Southern California|
|Branch/service||United States Navy|
|Battles/wars||World War II|
Born 1922 in Newton, Kansas, Unruh served in the U.S. Navy during World War II. After the war, he enrolled at the University of Southern California, receiving a B.A. in political science and journalism during 1948.
Unruh's political career began as an unsuccessful candidate for the California State Assembly during 1950 and 1952. He was elected as a member of the Assembly on his third attempt during 1954. During 1956, he was an unsuccessful candidate for Presidential elector for California as a Democrat. During 1959, he wrote California's Unruh Civil Rights Act, which outlawed discrimination by businesses that offer services to the public and was a model for later reforms enacted nationally during the 1960s and 1970s. Unruh was Speaker of the California State Assembly from 1961 to 1969 and a delegate to Democratic National Convention from California in 1960 and 1968.
As a national official of the Democratic Party, he often feuded with Governor of California Pat Brown (1959–67), a fellow Democrat, and was a case-study of James Q. Wilson's treatise on machine politics, The Amateur Democrat.
Unruh was California campaign manager for John F. Kennedy in 1960 and a close Kennedy associate throughout his Presidency. He helped convince Senator Robert F. Kennedy to enter the 1968 presidential race and managed his California campaign. Kennedy won the California Primary, but was assassinated shortly after his victory speech at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. Sirhan B. Sirhan was convicted of the crime.
After an unsuccessful effort, managed by Unruh and Mayor Richard J. Daley of Chicago, to draft Senator Edward M. Kennedy, as Chair of California's delegation committed to the deceased Kennedy he released California delegates to vote their conscience and announced that he would support Eugene McCarthy at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago.
Unruh left the legislature to campaign unsuccessfully for governor against Ronald Reagan during 1970. One of his campaign workers was Timothy Kraft, who a decade later was the campaign manager for the unsuccessful reelection bid of President Jimmy Carter. In 1973, Unruh ran unsuccessfully for Mayor of Los Angeles.
When he campaigned for state treasurer during 1974, the post was considered insignificant. Unruh's radio advertisements assured voters, "Make no mistake about it, I really want this job." Once elected, Unruh politicized the office. The Wall Street Journal noted he became "the most politically powerful public finance officer outside the U.S. Treasury". California pension funds were a major source of revenue for Wall Street underwriting companies, and Unruh secured campaign contributions in exchange for doing business with them. The New York Times said he had gained control of "an obscure post whose duties had long emphasized bookkeeping. In characteristic fashion, he soon transformed the job into a source of financial and political power that reached from California to Wall Street." Because as Treasurer he was ex officio member of many California boards and commissions, Unruh supervised "the raising and expenditure of virtually all the state's money and consolidated his influence over billions of dollars in public investments and pension funds".
He served as state treasurer from 1975 until his death from prostate cancer on August 4, 1987, 8 months into his 4th term as treasurer. Unruh remains the second longest-serving California State Treasurer behind only Charles G. Johnson (who served 33 years between 1923 and 1956). The University of Southern California Department of Political Science includes the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics.
Unruh's nickname "Big Daddy" apparently derives from a character in the Tennessee Williams play, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Former Senate pro Tempore Jim Mills in his book "A Disorderly House" insists it was given to him by then-Assemblyman Don Allen, though perhaps from the play.
The California State Assembly Fellowship Program was renamed the Jesse Marvin Unruh Assembly Fellowship Program to honor the former Assembly Speaker and State Treasurer.
- On campaign contributions: "Money is the mother's milk of politics." 1966
- On lobbyists: "If you can't eat their food, drink their booze, screw their women and then vote against them you've got no business being up here." Other versions exist, for instance "If you can't eat their food, drink their booze, screw their women, take their money and then vote against them, you have no business being up here."
- "Jeff Berg, "The Political Kraft", March 2008". desertexposure.com. Retrieved June 30, 2013.
- Dan Walters (March 2, 1988). "War of Succession for California's Bond Empire". The Wall Street Journal.
- Mark Uhlig (August 6, 1987). "Jesse Unruh, a California Political Power, Dies". The New York Times. Retrieved July 12, 2015.
- Kenneth Reich (August 5, 1987). "From the Archives: Jesse Unruh, Key Political Figure in State, Dies at 64". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved April 19, 2017.
- "Assembly Fellowship Program". California State University. Retrieved 14 June 2018.
- Lou Cannon. Ronnie and Jesse. p. 99.
- Cannon, Lou (August 6, 1987). "Jesse Unruh a 'Big Daddy' Who Gave Politics and Power a Bear Hug". Washington Post.
- Cannon, Lou (2005). Governor Reagan: his rise to power. Ronald Reagan: A Life in Politics. 1. PublicAffairs. p. 166. ISBN 1-58648-284-X.
- Matthews, Charles (November 11, 2007). "Boyarsky's 'Daddy' tells of politician with a penchant for partying". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved May 10, 2015.
- Cannon, Lou. Ronnie and Jesse: A Political Odyssey (New York: Doubleday,1969) LCCN 78-87099
- Herzberg, Donald G., and Jess Unruh. Essays on the State Legislative Process (New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1970)
- Mills, James R. A Disorderly House, The Brown-Unruh Years in Sacramento (Berkeley: Heyday Books, 1987)
- Putnam, Jackson K (2005) Jess: The Political Career of Jesse Marvin Unruh. New York: University Press of America. ISBN 978-0-7618-3067-2.
- Boyarsky, Bill (2007) Big Daddy: Jesse Unruh and the Art of Power Politics. University of California Press. ISBN 978-0-520-21967-0
- Reich, Kenneth (August 5, 1987). "Jesse Unruh, Key Political Figure in State, Dies at 64". Los Angeles Times.
- The USC Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics biography on Jesse M. Unruh
- Jesse Unruh Political History
- The Jesse M. Unruh Assembly Fellows Program
- SNAC: Jesse M. Unruh, California Legislator (Social Networks and Archival Context Project, University of Virginia)
- Jesse M. Unruh at Find a Grave
| Speaker of the California State Assembly
September 1961 – January 1969
Ivy Baker Priest
| Treasurer of California
January 6, 1975 – August 4, 1987
|Party political offices|
| Democratic nominee for Governor of California
| Democratic nominee for Treasurer of California
1974, 1978, 1982, 1986