Dixie Lee Ray

Honored by:Thomas Elleman
Brick location:PAVER:27  map

1914 – Jan. 2, 1994

Dr. Dixie Lee Ray was known primarily as a teacher and as a supporter of the environment.

Her commitment to a common-sense approach to the preservation of the environment was demonstrated through her books on environmental issues, the most recent of which "Environmental Overkill-What Ever Happened to Common Sense?" (1993) dealt with the importance of gathering facts and understanding the science behind environmental questions before launching expensive and unsuccessful environmental campaigns. She could be scathing to individuals who promoted causes without a factual base but she could also be flexible and modify her positions when evidence supported a change. She was a strong supporter of a cost-benefit approach to environmental issues and she frequently expressed her concern over "government by regulation."

As a teacher, she had a gift for expressing complex subjects in terms that everyone could comprehend. An observer once commented that "Dr. Ray .... could explain a scientific principle in a way that even congressmen and children could understand it." Her commitment to education was demonstrated by her service as director of the Pacific Science Center in Seattle for a nine-year period through 1972, and she frequently stressed the importance of education in her subsequent governmental appointments.

She was the first woman governor of the state of Washington (77-81) and the first woman chairperson of the U. S. Atomic Energy Commission (73-75). She was also a presidential appointee to other governmental offices, serving as assistant secretary of state with responsibilities for the Bureau of Oceans and the Office of International and Scientific Affairs. During all of her service, she was outspoken in her support of a scientific basis for energy and environmental decisions. She strongly supported the view that technology should be used for the benefit of people but it should be used with care.

Dr. A. David Rossin, a former president of the American Nuclear Society, summed up Dr. Ray's career in the following way:

"She had courage. She demanded scientific evidence. She made complex things understandable. She made sense. We will miss her. The environment will miss her."

Submitted on 1/95

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"Dr. Dixie Lee Ray"