For Secretary of State Sam Reed, Sunday dinners with the family growing up were a source of inspiration for a long, accomplished career.
As a state legislator and attorney, Reed’s grandfather Sam R. Sumner Sr., put on dramatic history lessons to teach the kids at the table, Reed told The Daily Evergreen during a visit to Pullman Monday afternoon.
Kyle Koch / The Daily Evergreen
These early experiences led Reed, now 71, to pursue a life in history and politics. The WSU alumnus has spent 45 years in public service and the political science field and 35 years as an elected Washington state official.
But now, life is quieting down now for Reed as he plans to retire from his post at the end of his term this year.
Though he will not run again for secretary of state this fall, a few boards and commissions have approached him about membership. Reed has also applied to be a Harvard fellow for the university’s Administrative Fellowship Program.
“It’s a chance for the kids to talk to a real elected official, someone who’s been in politics and talk about the real world of politics, and not what they hear from a political science class,” Reed said.
The director of the program suggested he talk about youth voting because of his experience in that area, Reed said. But Reed is thinking of discussing Washington’s contentious 2004 gubernatorial election recount.
“I was responsible for the recount in the governor’s race, which ended up being the closest race percentage-wise in the history of the nation,” Reed said.
In the midst of the election's turmoil, both Democrats and Republicans filed lawsuits against him.
“It was highly, highly controversial and a highly charged political environment,” Reed said. “The media was going wild, blogs were going wild, and I ended up in court twice.”
Reed began to acquire the skills required to handle situations like the 2004 election back in high school. His experience as the president of his senior class at Lewis and Clark High School in Wenatchee sparked his desire to become a leader in government, which he continued to foster at WSU.
In 1962, he was president of the Kappa Sigma Fraternity, the same fraternity of famed alumnus and World War II broadcast journalist Edward R. Murrow, who joined the fraternity in the 1920s while attending Washington State College.
Reed once invited Murrow to dinner at the fraternity for an evening he will never forget.
“He had dinner with us and went into the living room, and we started to ask him questions about Winston Churchill, whom he was very close to and he got to know him and his family very well,” Reed said.
The men of the house then asked Murrow about Joseph Stalin, Franklin D. Roosevelt, the Blitzkrieg of London and other highlights of Murrow’s career in journalism.
“The guy was a consummate storyteller,” Reed said. “He was wonderful, and he spent the whole evening.”
After graduating, Reed traveled around Europe and Northern Africa with his wife before returning to WSU in 1965 to earn a graduate degree in political science.
“It was rather interesting in graduate school because I was a rather high-profile Republican in political science,” he said. “So some of the profs liked to take shots at me and everything, but I loved shooting right back, so it was actually a lot of fun and I really liked them a lot.”
Reed went to work in Olympia after earning his graduate degree in 1967.
One of his key roles includes overseeing the election process for Washington state, which has included cleaning up the county ballot collection systems, tracking down fraudulent or invalid ballots and voter registrations, and training workers to identify forged signatures.
“I feel very fortunate being able to do things that I really believe in, in terms of elections and history,” Reed told Evergreen writers. “That is what I wish for each of you—that you find a job like that, that you get fired up about it, that you get up in the morning and say, ‘Man, I love what I’m doing'.”