GLENDALE – The Armenian National Committee of America – Western Region mourns the passing of former California Governor George Deukmejian and extends its deepest condolences to his wife Gloria and the Deukmejian family. Governor Deukmejian passed away on Tuesday at his home in Long Beach, Calif. at the age of 89.
Gov. Deukmejian was the highest-ranking Armenian American elected official in the United States. He served the State of California with distinction for about three decades. After winning his first election as governor in 1982, he was reelected in a landslide in 1986. Prior to that, he had served for four years as Attorney General (1979-83), twelve years as State Senator (1967-1979) and Senate Majority Leader (1969), and four years as Assemblyman (1963-67).
During his time in public service, he opened the door for many others to enter politics by being a positive role model, serving honorably, and by appointing a substantial number of Armenian-Americans to various state offices.
Governor Deukmejian encouraged youth to become civically engaged and championed Armenian Genocide recognition as a descendant himself of Genocide survivors. Both Deukmejian and his wife, Gloria, also an Armenian American, had been raised on stories about the Armenian Genocide. Therefore, during his entire political career, Deukmejian attempted to get official recognition for the Genocide and diligently called on the U.S. State Department to reject the pressures of the Turkish government.
Born and raised in New York, George Deukmejian attended the local college and was nick-named “Duke” by his fellow students. He went on to earn his law degree at St. John’s University and practiced law in New York before serving with the U.S. Army. His tenure as governor was also highlighted by major planned investments in California’s public facilities, as well as tax, budgetary and regulatory policies, which established a positive business climate in the state.
As a result, nearly three million new jobs were created, with California becoming one of the ten largest economies in the entire world. During his time as governor, Deukmejian was also known for using his considerable influence to urge the University of California Board of Regents in 1986 to immediately divest UC’s vast teacher and employee retirement funds from firms that did business in South Africa, which was then ruled by a white-minority government that imposed apartheid rule against the majority blacks.
Governor Deukmejian was a partner in Sidley & Austin, a national and international law firm, from 1991 to 2000 when he retired. He reentered public life by serving on special committees, including one to reform the California penal system, and a charter-reform committee in Long Beach.
In addition to his wife, Gloria, Deukmejian is survived by his daughters, Leslie Gebb and Andrea Pollak, and his son, George Deukmejian, Jr.