Donald Schmechel Oral History Collection
Watch oral histories with prominent figures in the Pacific Northwest including artists Jacob Lawrence and Kenneth Callahan; Governors Albert Rosellini and Dixy Lee Ray and Reverends David Colwell and Samuel McKinney.
David Colwell Interview, December 4, 1985
Reverend David G. Colwell (1916-2001) served as pastor of Plymouth Congregational Church in downtown Seattle from 1967 until his retirement in 1982.
Date: 1985-12-04View this item
R. Joseph Monsen Interview, October 1, 1986
R. Joseph Monsen (1931-) was an economics professor who began teaching at the University of Washington in the 1960s. Monson and his wife, Dr. Elaine Monsen, were well known art collectors, amassing collections of Asian Art, photography, and ceramics. Together, the couple established the Joseph and Elaine Monsen Photography Collection at the Henry Art Gallery in 1979.
Date: 1986-10-01View this item
John Ellis Interview, March 3, 1987
John Ellis (1928-) is a native Seattleite who was the head of Puget Sound Power and Light. Ellis attended John Muir Elementary School, Franklin High School and the University of Washington. He received his bachelor’s degree in 1950 and his law degree in 1953. Ellis became the vice president of Puget Power in 1970 and was promoted to the position of president in 1976. He retired from the company in 1992. Following his retirement he was heavily involved in Seattle’s baseball scene, serving as chairman and CEO of the Seattle Mariners and leading a campaign to fund a new baseball stadium.
Date: 1987-03-03View this item
Richard Gilkey Interview, June 14, 1986
Richard Gilkey (1925-1997) was a painter and sculptor who was part of the Northwest School of Artists. Gilkey was born in Bellingham, Washington. His family moved to Seattle when he was 12 and he attended Ballard High School. During World War II, Gilkey served with the Marine Corps and was discharged because of injuries in August 1944. Following the war, he began to develop an interest in artwork and was particularly inspired by the work of fellow Pacific Northwest artists Mark Tobey and Guy Anderson. His work was featured in the 1948 Northwest Annual Exhibition and in 1958 Gilkey was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship, allowing him to travel through Europe and further develop his skills. In 1975, he purchased a Skagit Valley home and developed an art studio where his work was increasingly inspired by the surrounding environment. His painting came to a sudden halt when he was in a car accident in 1984, which left him unable to paint for three years due to crushed vertebrae. He slowly made his way back into the art world and was awarded the Washington State Governor’s Art Award in 1990. The same year he was awarded the grand prize in the Osaka Triennale 1990 exhibit. Notice of the award came on the same day that a Skagit River levee broke and flooded his home and studio. Following a severe lung cancer diagnosis in 1997, Gilkey drove from Seattle to Jackson Hole, Wyoming with his revolver and committed suicide near Togwatee Pass. Gilkey’s works have been featured internationally and included in collections of institutions such as the Seattle Art Museum.
Date: 1986-06-14View this item
Eulalie Merrill Wagner Interview, July 14, 1986
Eulalie Merrill Wagner (1904-1991) was a philanthropist well known for the gardens of her 10 acre Tacoma estate, Lakewold. She was born in Seattle and attended St. Nicholas School and the Masters School, a preparatory school in Dobbs Ferry, NY. She married George Corydon Wagner (1895-1979) in the 1920s. They moved to Lakewold in 1938. Both Wagner and her husband had family ties to the local lumber industries; through her husband’s side with the St. Paul & Tacoma Lumber Company and through her side with the Merrill & Ring Lumber Company. She was an avid golfer and served as president of many organizations such as the Tacoma Art Museum, Tacoma Garden Club and Tacoma Junior League. She also supported the University of Washington Arboretum, helped to develop the native plant garden at Point Defiance Park in Tacoma and created the Wagner Endowment for Nursing Education at Tacoma General Hospital.
Date: 1986-07-14View this item
Alexander Bill Interview, January 19, 1988
Dr. Alexander (Sandy) H. Bill Jr. (1914-1996) was a pediatric surgeon who worked at both Providence Hospital and Children's Orthopedic Hospital. Bill was born in Massachusetts and attended Harvard University where he received his medical degree. In his position at Seattle Children’s Hospital, Bill became chief of surgery and led research endeavors studying childhood cancer. He and his wife, Sally, had six children together and often went sailing as a family. Bill also served as Board President of the Bush School. Alexander and Sally Bill also played important roles in land preservation in the San Juans, helping to establish the San Juan Preservation trust, and donating land in Lopez Village which now serves as the location of a community garden, children’s center and farmer’s market. The couple first bought land on Lopez Island in 1964 and moved there full time in 1980 after their retirement.
Date: 1988-01-19View this item
Bernice Stern Interview, August 18, 1987
Bernice Stern (1916-2007) was a Seattle native, the first woman to be elected to the King County Council and a community leader involved in many fields. Stern attended Broadway High School and the University of Washington. Following her marriage to Edward Stern in 1935, she became involved with the Council of Jewish Women at local and national levels. She participated in the Seattle Open Housing Campaign in 1959 and advocated heavily for women’s rights issues throughout her career. She was elected to the King County Council in 1970 and served until 1979. In the interview she discusses her life and involvement with the Council of Jewish Women, League of Women Voters, and Planned Parenthood, as well as work with blind children, aid to European Jews after World War II, and the civil rights movement of the 1960's.
Date: 1987-08-18View this item
Sam Smith Interview, April 28, 1988
Sam Smith (1922-1995) Smith was born in Gibsland, Louisiana. He was stationed in Seattle during World War II while serving in the Army. Following the war’s conclusion, he decided to stay in Seattle and attended Seattle University where he earned a degree in social science in 1951 and the University of Washington where he earned a degree in economics in 1952. After graduating, he began a career at Boeing. In 1958, Smith was elected to the Washington House of Representatives, becoming the third African-American to earn a seat in the State House. During his time there, he championed a bill banning discrimination in home sales and rentals based on race or religion. In 1967, Smith left the legislature to pursue a seat on the Seattle City Council. He became the first African-American to serve on the council and remained there until 1991. During this time on the city council he promoted an open housing initiative and ran for mayor four times.
Date: 1988-04-28View this item
Samuel McKinney Interview, August 17, 1987
Reverend Samuel McKinney (1926-2018) was pastor of Mt. Zion Baptist Church for 40 years and a major leader in Seattle’s civil rights movement. McKinney was born in Flint, Michigan and raised in Cleveland, Ohio. He served in the Air Force during World War II and in 1949 graduated from Morehouse College where one of his classmates was Martin Luther King Jr. In 1952 he graduated from Colgate Rochester Divinity School and in 1953 married his wife Louise. Together the couple moved to Seattle in 1958 where McKinney became the pastor of Mt. Zion. McKinney was a tireless advocate for social and civil rights causes. He was one of the founders of the Seattle Opportunities Industrialization Center, an organization providing job training; helped start Seattle’s first black-owned bank to help community members obtain home loans after discirimation from other banks; advocated for Seattle’s fair housing act as a member of the Seattle Human Rights Commission and participated in civil rights marches and demonstrations nationwide.
Date: 1987-08-17View this item
Fred Bassetti Interview, January 24, 1987
Fred Bassetti (1917-2013) was a Seattle native and part of the “Northwest School” of architects. He attended Garfield High School and received his bachelor's degree in architecture from the University of Washington in 1942. During the war, he worked for the Federal Public Housing Authority. In 1946, he graduated from Harvard with his masters degree in architecture. Upon his return to Seattle, he worked for Naramore Bain Brady Johanson from 1946 to 1947 before creating his own architectural firm. Bassetti was responsible for the design of projects such as the Henry M. Jackson Federal Building, the Seattle Municipal Tower and Lakeside School among others.
Date: 1987-01-24; 1987?View this item