Seattle City Council appoints Liem Tuai to Council on May 19, 1969.

  • By Alan J. Stein
  • Posted 6/04/1999
  • Essay 1233

On May 19, 1969, the Seattle City Council appoints Seattle lawyer Liem Tuai (1925-2003) to fill the seat of Paul Alexander (1904-1969), who had died two weeks earlier. Tuai is the second Chinese American to sit on the council.

Tuai was chosen with a vote of 6-2 on the fourth ballot, but he was not even considered in the first two ballots. Also considered for the seat were Alexander's son and several other past candidates for City Council. The council agreed to choose a Republican to preserve the political makeup of the body.

The council's first Asian American member was Wing Luke (1925-1965), who had disappeared in a private plane with two others over the Cascades four years earlier.

In 1974, Tuai became an unsuccessful candidate for mayor of Seattle, and in 1977 he was appointed to the King County Superior Court. He served as a judge for 18 years.

Liem Eng Tuai was born in Port Townsend, the son of a railroad worker and laundry man. He dropped out of Bremerton High School in ninth grade to work as a machinist at Boeing before serving in the U.S. Air Force in Japan from 1946 to 1950. He entered the University of Washington at age 25, and upon graduation attended the University of Washington School of Law.

Liem Eng Tuai died of lung cancer in Seattle on March 2, 2003.


Walt Crowley, Rites of Passage: A Memoir of the Sixties in Seattle (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1995), 269; The Seattle Times, May 19, 1969, p. 1; Seattle Post-Intelligencer, May 19, 1969; "Liem Tuai, 77, Attorney, Civic Leader, Family Man," The Seattle Times, March 5, 2003.
Note: This essay was updated on March 13, 2003.

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