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Former Washington state legislator George Fleming dies at 83

Senator george fleming
Sen. George Fleming in 1971

Groundbreaking Seattle legislator and college football star George Fleming has died at age 83, family members said.

Fleming died Monday at his Seattle home, according to a statement from Fleming’s family on Wednesday.

Fleming was elected to the state House in 1968 and two years later was elected to the state Senate, becoming its second African American member. He was chair of the Senate Democratic caucus between 1980 and 1988.

Fleming represented Seattle’s 37th Legislative District for 22 years, with legislative accomplishments including creation of the state’s Office of Minority and Women’s Business Enterprises and Housing Finance Commission, The Seattle Times reported. Fleming also ran unsuccessfully for lieutenant governor and retired from public office in 1991.

“Senator Fleming led an incredible and awe-inspiring life that was dedicated to public service and advocacy for the underrepresented,” his family said in the statement.

Fleming also was a standout running back and kicker at the University of Washington from 1958 to 1960 and was selected by the Oakland Raiders in the second round of the 1961 American Football League draft. He played for the Raiders in 1961 and 1962 before joining the Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the Canadian Football League from 1963 to 1965.

Many statements honoring Fleming from civic and political leaders said they’d benefited from his advice and example over many decades.

“George Fleming was one of my childhood heroes scoring touchdowns in the Rose Bowl as a Washington Husky, and he was a hero to me in adulthood as he became a tireless public servant in the Legislature,” Gov. Jay Inslee said.

Seattle Mayor-elect Bruce Harrell said in a statement Seattle lost “a trailblazer and warrior” with Fleming’s passing, saying “he forged a trail of success that I followed. He never hesitated to help me, advise me and inspire me.”

Fleming is survived by Tina, his wife of 54 years; their daughters Sonja and Yemi; and five grandchildren.

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