1631) George Yetvart Deukmejian, 1973 California Governor, Releasing Armenian Terrorist Gurgen Karakin Yanikian

George Deukmejian

George Deukmejian (born July 6, 1928) is a Republican California politician from the city of Long Beach. He was the 35th Governor of California.

Born in Menands, New York, Deukmejian (pronounced duke-MAY-jee-unn) grew up there as well. He was the son of Armenian immigrants from Iran. He graduated from Siena College in 1949 with a degree in Sociology. He then earned a law degree from Saint John's University, in 1952. From 1953 to 1955, he served as a lawyer in the U.S. Army's Judge Advocate General's Corps.

He moved to California in 1955, where his sister, Mrs. Anna Ashjian, already lived. His sister introduced him to Gloria Saatjian, whose parents were also Armenian immigrants. They married in 1958 and had three children, two daughters, born in 1965 and 1970 and one son, born in 1967.

In California, he first entered private practice, but soon entered politics. He was elected to the California Assembly in 1962, representating Long Beach. In 1966, he moved to the State Senate. By 1969, he was the majority leader in the State Senate. He first ran for Attorney General of California in 1970, finishing fourth in the Republican primary. He won the election for Attorney General in 1978 and served from 1979 to 1983.

In 1982, he was elected to his first term as Governor of California, defeating Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley in the general election. He defeated Bradley again in a 1986 rematch. Deukmejian served as governor from 1983 to 1991. He is generally regarded as a moderate, more conservative than most California Democrats but considerably more liberal than right-wing Republican groups such as the California Republican Assembly.

Deukmejian was considered to be a conservative hard-liner on law and order issues, however; he largely made his career by being tough on crime. When he was in the legislature, he wrote California's capital punishment law. As governor, he orchestrated the removal of three justices of the California Supreme Court in the 1986 election, due to their consistent opposition to the death penalty in any and all circumstances. One of them (the best known) was Rose Bird, the first female Chief Justice of the Court (and the first one to be voted off).

From 1991 to 2000, he was a partner in a Los Angeles law firm. He retired in 2000, but reentered public life by serving on special commissions. He heads a commission to reform the California penal system, serves on a charter-reform commission in his hometown of Long Beach, and is overseeing a revamping of the UCLA Willed Body Program, after a scandal involving the sale of human body parts donated for science.


"Attorneys General don't appoint judges – Governors do."
Deukmejian explaining why he ran for Governor instead of running for a second term as Attorney General


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