OROVILLE Longtime Oroville resident, former state representative, senator and director of the Department of Ecology, and community leader Wilbur G. “Web” Hallauer, 99, died Dec. 19, 2013.
“His death is a changing of the guard,” state Commissioner of Public Lands Peter Goldmark said. Hallauer “did great public service for our state” as a legislator and department director, business owner, family man and advocate of natural resources issues.
“He spent a lot of his time working on behalf of the public,” Goldmark said. “He was a remarkable man. We will miss him.”
After earning a degree in labor economics from the University of Washington in 1937, Hallauer moved to Oroville to run the Oroville drying plant of the family’s fruit processing business, Valley Evaporating Co.
He entered politics in 1943 as an Oroville City Council member. He later served eight years in the state House of Representatives and 12 years in the state Senate. He was a lifelong Democrat.
He was very proud of his public service career, his family said.
While in the Legislature, he was chairman of the House Revenue Committee and the Senate Appropriations and Ways and Means committees.
“Web was a champion of civil liberties, who proudly defended Rep. John Goldmark during Washington state’s ‘McCarthy era,’” the family said.
“Yes, he was supportive,” Peter Goldmark said. “He was a good friend of my father’s.”
In 1962, John Goldmark was a three-term Democratic state representative from Okanogan County and chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee who was running for re-election.
He also was the target of printed and recorded accusations that he was a Communist sympathizer. He belonged to the American Civil Liberties Union, which was described in a Tonasket Tribune article as an organization “closely affiliated” with the communist movement in the U.S.
He sued over the accusations and won, but the 1964 judgment was set aside in the wake of the landmark New York Times vs. Sullivan case.
In “Web Hallauer, An Oral History,” by the state Oral History Program,” Hallauer said his conclusion about the trial was that it “had to be done. I think that the overwhelming propaganda that had been engaged in about lack of patriotism and this sort of thing had to be met head on to maintain the possibility of any political liberalism or personal liberty in this area. They were conducting a scare campaign to make people get back in line, no dissent. The things that were done in the name of patriotism were really terrible here.”
Hallauer said the state committee investigating alleged un-American activities by a variety of people would make accusations, but wouldn’t give the accused the opportunity to confront their accusers.
“I thought this was totally wrong,” he said in the oral history. “It’s supposed to be a committee to investigate un-American activities. I thought the major un-American activity was the committee itself.”
Hallauer was a longtime member of the ACLU.
Hallauer was appointed by Gov. Dixy Lee Ray to lead the Department of Ecology, where he served from 1977 to 1980.
His family described him as “a voracious reader with a keen intellect who loved to travel.”
He briefly owned the Tonasket Times newspaper, and had published his own series of books. He also was interested in mining and hydroelectric power, and supported the wise use of natural resources.
He and his late wife, Jo, supported the remodeling and expansion of the Oroville Public Library and other local causes.
He was a longtime advocate of building a water storage facility on the Similkameen River as a leader of the Similkameen-Okanogan Flood Control and Reclamation League.
Thomas J. Kerr, who interviewed Hallauer for the oral history project in 1998 and 1999, said after an interview session, he and the Hallauers would go to Osoyoos for dinner and, upon returning, “Jo and Web would engage in the most furious best-of-three games of cribbage I have never witnessed. Although I am a life-long cribbage enthusiast, I quickly concluded that the prudent course was to remain an observer of the proceedings, rather than a participant.”
Kerr also said Hallauer had an ability to reach across party lines.
“A spirit of compromise, of give and take, seems to have come naturally to him,” Kerr wrote.
Hallauer is survived by his daughter Teri, four grandchildren and his sister-in-law, Barbara Forrester.
He was preceded in death by his daughter, Merry Hallauer and his wife, Josephine Pardee Hallauer.
A celebration of life will be from 1-5 p.m. Sunday, May 25, at Osoyoos Lake Veterans Memorial Park in Oroville.
Memorials are suggested to Densho – The Japanese American Legacy Project.