Culp, Gordon C. (1926-2006)

  • By Frank Chesley
  • Posted 3/06/2007
  • HistoryLink.org Essay 8100

Gordon C. Culp came out of Auburn, Washington, during the Great Depression, and never forgot his roots or his old friends. He went on to become a counsel to United States Senator Henry M. Jackson (1912-1983), co-founder of the Culp, Dwyer, Guterson & Grader law firm in Seattle, influential Pacific Northwest power-utilities attorney, University of Washington Regent, University of Washington Medical Center board member, and the key negotiator in bringing together the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance. He attributed his success in life to luck. In the words of one of his obituaries, "He had great credibility with public power leaders, federal officials and Washington's congressional delegation" (Shaw). Culp was content to be an out-of-the-spotlight negotiator, bringing disparate groups together in common cause. A former law partner said, "His roots were so deep, his comfort with himself was so deep, he didn't have to pander to people" (Marritz). He was a wordsmith, raconteur, and debater who relished discourse but had little patience for uninformed opinion. He was devoted to public service, and to the University of Washington.

Rural King County Roots

Gordon C. Culp was born on February 17, 1926, in Auburn, Washington, to Norman and Cara Virl Carter Culp, the third of four children. His father was 45 and his mother was 37. His siblings were sisters Shirley, who died in 1949, Audrey, and Wilda. Norman Culp's ancestors were religious refugees, Swiss Mennonites, and Tories who settled first in Pennsylvania, then moved to Canada, which was politically more compatible for them. Norman first came to the United States in 1906, moved back and forth a few times and in 1930 brought in a herd of polled (hornless) Herefords. He settled with his wife, children,  and cattle on a rented ranch in King County's Soos Creek area, between Auburn and Black Diamond, just in time for the Great Depression.

Culp once recalled: "He saved for years and years ... and then you couldn't give (the cattle) away. He lost the whole thing, a life's work, for a $500 feed bill" (Whiteley). Norman found work as an accountant for the federal Public Works Administration, but the experience had a debilitating effect on Gordon, for years after. Whether because of it or in spite of this, young Culp excelled in school. He was a straight-A student, class president, and otherwise active in student affairs, including the debate team, drama club, and cheerleading. "I was always mouthy," Culp explained (Whiteley).

He was christened Calvin Carter Culp, but his mother disliked the name and called him Gordon. He changed his name legally in 1953.

Culp had a newspaper route and won a bicycle for obtaining the most new subscriptions. Auburn was a railroad hub, telephones were far from universal, and he  also worked as a call boy, sent out to wake engineers for their shifts. Years later, he would occasionally don his old, distinctive, blue-and-white railroad engineer's cap. He regularly visited his old Auburn buddies throughout his life. Culp never lost touch with those roots.

Discovering Law

Shortly before graduating from Auburn High School in 1944, he joined the Navy, which made more sense to him than waiting to be drafted into the Army. He served as an Electronic Electricians Mate in the United States and the Philippines until 1946. His father died that year and his mother died in 1969.

He entered the University of Washington under the GI Bill, the Servicemen's Readjustment Act of 1944 that put higher education within the reach of millions of veterans of World War II and succeeding wars. Culp had enjoyed his Navy experience and was considering engineering or prelaw. "Culp remembers, 'There were lots of girls to be met and beer to be drunk,' and prelaw offered more flexibility for doing that." He majored in philosophy and economics as an undergraduate, and found time and enthusiasm to be a cheerleader. He enjoyed law school, because "It was fun to argue all day long" (Whiteley).

Culp served on the Law Review, was president of the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity, and graduated from the UW School of Law in 1952, with the modest expectations of a Depression child. He reflected, "I was going to get a hot job as an insurance adjuster. I was going to end up making $10,000 a year ... That was the extent of my planning" (Whiteley). That $10,000 a year was the dream for thousands of young men entering the work force in the wake of World War II.

Instead Culp joined the Seattle law firm of Ferguson and Burdell for two years, then opened his own practice. In 1957, Culp wanted to take time off to work on the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Territories and Insular Affairs, chaired by Senator Henry M. "Scoop" Jackson (1912-1983). In the meantime, an old law school friend, William L. "Bill" Dwyer (1929-2002), had gone on to earn his law degree from New York University, complete a U.S. Army tour in West Germany, and was working as law clerk for state Supreme Court Justice Charles Donworth. Vasiliky Dwyer, Bill Dwyer's widow, recalled, "Gordy talked to Bill about taking over his practice, which was very little. Gordy said, 'When I get back, we can talk about maybe going into practice together.' Bill took over, got close to Charlie Burdell, who was in the same building, Charlie then brought Bill into the Dave Beck case, and that was the beginning, really, of Bill's career" (Dwyer).

Working for Scoop Jackson

Senator Jackson and other Washington state politicians strongly supported statehood for the territories of Alaska and Hawaii, though powerful interests, especially southern segregationists, opposed both. As counsel for Jackson's subcommittee, Culp was a major contributor to the crafting of both measures. The Alaska statehood bill was signed in 1958 and the Hawaii statehood bill in 1959.

By chance, another subcommittee assignment involving a plan to increase Pacific Northwest salmon runs led Culp to the region's power industry, where he would spend his professional career.

Marriage to Joan Procter Culp

While working for Senator Jackson, Culp became friendly with the senator's appointments secretary, Joan Proctor (1930-1996), and they married in 1958. When they returned to Seattle that year, she managed Jackson's Seattle office, worked on Jackson's presidential campaigns, and continued working for him until 1974. She was a Ballard native, daughter of a union organizer, and a major bulwark for Culp, her family, and others. Joan was a skilled cook who provided everything from elaborate four-course gourmet meals for 12 to whipping up gourmet delights for the gang of Husky football tailgaters that the Culps hung with.

Both Gordon and Joan Culp were voracious readers and inveterate travelers. During their 39 year marriage (until her death in 1996 after a long battle with emphysema) he and Joan enjoyed many sojourns both exotic and mundane. They traveled all over the Pacific Northwest, went fishing in New Zealand, cruising to Antarctica, riding the Trans-Siberian Express; and they were left on the beach by a cruise ship at al Àqabah, Jordan, part of their  odyssey around the world. Along the way, the Culps met people who became lifelong friends -- a German military pilot wedded to a Japanese woman, a Burmese student, and many others. Culp's travel tales were always punctuated with the amazement of a boy only recently out of Auburn.

Seattle Law Firm

In 1958, Culp and William Dwyer teamed up as a law firm, with offices in the Hoge Building, the endeavor set forth in a one-page contract. Murray Guterson, another old UW School of Law classmate, joined them shortly. George Grader joined the firm in 1964, when Dwyer took a sabbatical to write The Goldmark Case: An American Libel Trial about a landmark suit Dwyer pursued to the United States Supreme Court.

Culp, Dwyer, Guterson & Grader began making news in a range of other high-profile cases -- some pro bono and highly controversial, others involving high-stakes gambles -- cheeky antitrust suits that ultimately earned the firm multimillion-dollar fees and made the pro bono work possible.

Culp, meanwhile, was establishing himself out of the public eye, orchestrating complicated, politically sensitive power projects and finding common ground among sometimes disparate interests -- tricky work, which he mostly shrugged off as "magoozling." (Seattle author Bill Speidel defined a magoozle as "a method by which we get things done in America. It's neither legal nor illegal, but it gets the job done" [Magoo website].)

Power Treaties

Culp's first major success was a landmark treaty signed with Canada in 1964 to enhance Columbia River hydroelectric potential. Robert Marritz, a lawyer who worked with Culp on energy issues, said: "They were looking for someone with political savvy, someone who knew power, and knew how to put this together -- the politics of it -- on both sides of the border. Culp had much to do with putting this complicated deal together, and the millions of dollars in benefits that flowed from it." Under the treaty, the Canadians built three dams on the upstream reaches of the Columbia River and both Canada and the United States shared the downstream benefits of the added firm power created by the new dams. The Canadians at first didn't need their share of power, so they sold their entitlement to utilities in the United States, under an arrangement known as the Columbia Storage Power Exchange (CSPE), which Culp was also instrumental in creating.

The treaty and CSPE, along with differences in West Coast geography and climate, prompted another inter-regional contract. Peak power demand in California and other Southwest states came during the summer air-conditioning season, when the Pacific Northwest enjoyed a surplus. This led to development of the West Coast interties (high voltage lines traveling great distances to link two or more electric power systems), connecting the Pacific Northwest to California energy markets. The interties permitted large seasonal exchanges of power, mostly surplus sales from the Northwest. 

Culp was in the middle of it all. There were some bumps in the road, however. With development of the interties, Northwest utility lawyers became concerned about potential antitrust suits by third parties, so Culp and others, working with the offices of Senators Jackson and Warren G. Magnuson (1905-1989), crafted a bill that would exempt from the antitrust laws utilities already under federal regulation.  Marritz was working for the rural electric co-ops in Washington at the time, and wondered "who's behind this thing? It was Culp and Grinstein."  Working with Culp was Gerry Grinstein, a top aide for Magnuson who went on to become president and CEO of Western Airlines, chairman and CEO of Burlington Northern, and then CEO of Delta Airlines. This was the first time Marritz had heard Culp's name, never dreaming he would later become his law partner. "The bill was brilliant in its simplicity," Marritz recalled, "but it was too broad."  Rather than stir up a hornet's nest, Culp and Grinstein decided to drop the bill.

Power Politics

The offices of Jackson and Magnuson were major forces in Pacific Northwest power politics -- as they were in all regional politics -- and former staffers, in addition to Culp and Grinstein, were scattered influentially throughout the industry. Longtime Jackson chief-of-staff Sterling Munro (1932-1992), for instance, was administrator of the Bonneville Power Administration from 1978 to 1981. One-time Magnuson aide Eric Redman represented industrial customers of BPA at Seattle's Preston, Thorgrimson, Ellis law firm, where his boss was Gerry Grinstein.

According to Egil "Bud" Krogh, a Seattle lawyer who worked for the Culp Dwyer firm and who also specialized in energy issues, the CSPE and the intertie "transformed the energy infrastructure of the Northwest. It all took root in the fertile mind of Gordy Culp ... . When this was first put together, there was an ability on the part of public power, the investor-owned utility community, the direct-service customers of Bonneville, the governments of Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Canada, BC Hydro, the U.S., and Canadian regulators, to work together. Culp was absolutely crucial because he had an ability to bring people together and get them to see the common good, and back off from very narrow interests" (Krogh).

Culp also was instrumental in developing the Pacific Northwest Utilities Conference Committee (PNUCC) into a significant industry forum-cum-lobbying group. PNUCC  was formed in 1946 "as a voluntary, informal organization of public and private utilities to assess regional power supply in the West Group Forecast and to support federal appropriations for power projects in the region" (PNUCC website). The direct-services industries (DSIs) -- aluminum manufacturing firms -- which consumed one-third of the power from the federal dam system on the Columbia, became members in 1971.

Lou Nawrot, a former Culp Dwyer attorney, recalled: "Public and private power companies had their own lawyers, but they didn't speak to each other very much. Whenever there was something of common interest, they had trouble getting to a position where they could agree on anything." Robert Marritz added, "There was a need to coordinate conflicting, overlapping interests: public power -- itself diverse -- private utilities, aluminum companies, and the public interest. Culp was the titular head of the power industry legal community, figuring out these problems, trying to get the parties together to get more kilowatts out of the resource."

Politics Beckons

In 1960, Culp took a leave of absence to return to politics. He and wife Joan hit the road as an advance team for Jackson, then National Democratic Chairman and a leading vice-presidential candidate to run with John F. Kennedy (1917-1963). Kennedy, counting potential votes in the conservative-leaning South, instead chose Texas Senator Lyndon B. Johnson (1908-1973). The Culps also worked on Jackson's own presidential campaign in 1972, Gordon as scheduler. On the eve of this eagerly awaited new adventure, Culp had said, "This train only passes once."  And an adventure it was. In late April 1971, with Gordon already in Washington, D.C., scheduling and writing speeches, Joan drove across the country in her 1968 Mustang – she liked sporty cars – with her 11-year-old nephew Don Devan for company, and arrived in time for the May Day anti-war riots, which shut down the nation's capital.  The Culps also worked on Jackson's second attempt at the presidency in 1976.

Meanwhile, fear of an energy shortage was beginning to permeate the Pacific Northwest power industry. When the first Columbia River hydroelectric dams were built in the early 1930s, critics claimed they would produce more electricity than the region could ever use. But 20 years later, industry analysts, including the Bonneville Power Administration, were projecting that the region's demand for electricity would double every 10 years, beyond the capacity of the hydropower resource. The solution would be nuclear and "economies of scale"  -- the plants of the Washington Public Power Supply System (WPPSS), created by the state Legislature in 1957, and privately funded nuclear or coal-fired plants as well.

Nuclear Power

"Culp was pro-nuclear and believed in economies of scale. It was the conventional wisdom ... and I don't think there was any credible information at the time that was contrary to that" (Krogh). Indeed, it not only was "conventional wisdom," but official state policy. In 1969, Governor Dan Evans (b. 1925) announced plans "to make Washington the nation's leader in nuclear energy development" (HistoryLink.org).

By the late 1970s, however, WPPSS was rapidly approaching disaster. Inflation, design changes, contractor boondoggling, and mismanagement by WPPSS officials and managers had pushed costs far beyond original estimates. Energy shortages driven by the 1973 oil embargo, and a rising tide of environmentalism also were reducing demand and fueling a conservation ethic.

But the industry and state and federal officials were still operating under "a politics of scarcity" (Morgan). The political battle was coalescing in Washington, D.C., where a centralized Pacific Northwest power overseer was being hammered into shape. "The first bill, introduced by Jackson in 1977, was written largely by PNUCC" (Morgan). Actually, that bill was largely the result of a consensus developed by Culp and his associates at Culp Dwyer.

"Culp was really comfortable in that milieu. Culp was just Culp. He was a man of Auburn, the U-Dub [University of Washington]. So sharp, so tuned in, and yet so regular. There was not a phony bone in his body. His roots were so deep, his comfort with himself was so deep, he didn't have to pander to people. Some said he was in the pockets of the private power companies, but that was never true" (Marritz).

George Grader recalled: "Gordy mingled at ease and as an equal with the giants of his day, yet never lost that impish-kid quality, always ready with a shaggy-dog story, told with a conspiratorial grin."

Susanne Tsoming, Culp's secretary at the law firm, also remembered her boss fondly. "He was a great mentor and always a gentleman. Even when I made a mistake, he treated me with kindness ... . He liked puzzles and challenges. He looked at a problem from every angle, upside down, and sideways. Other people would have given up, but he would turn it over in his mind as if looking at a Rubik's Cube for a solution."

Three years from the time that first bill was introduced, the disparate parties and virtually all politicians in the four-state region agreed on the Northwest Power Act of 1980, which created what became known as the Northwest Power and Conservation Council. The addition of Conservation to the agency's name summed up the evolution of conventional wisdom in Pacific Northwest power over the ensuing 20 years.

Meanwhile, WPPSS was en route to a $2.25 billion meltdown – the largest default in municipal bond history.  The collapse, in 1983, was the result of "bad judgment and bureaucratic bungling on an unprecedented, almost unimaginable scale" (Time).  "They came to Culp and our firm, and it was a natural choice," Marritz said. "They wanted someone who was knowledgeable about the business and skilled litigators, and in that firm you found both -- power expertise and terrific litigators."

WPPSS lost, however, when the state Supreme Court decided that the WPPSS participants' contracts -- "take-or-pay" contracts that were standard throughout the industry -- were not valid. "The Supreme Court made a very political decision," Marritz said.

New Challenges

In 1977, in the middle of this regional upheaval in energy, Governor Dixy Lee Ray (1914-1994) named Culp to the University of Washington Board of Regents, a prestigious pro bono appointment. Some assumed that his pro-nuclear beliefs influenced the vociferously pro-nuclear Ray, but in fact they had never met. According to Culp, "I got a call out of the blue" (Whitely).

The man whom Culp would later recruit as UW president, William P. Gerberding (1929-2014), said, "I always thought he was an insider with Ray, this odd character who suddenly became governor. [But] Gordon was very surprised." Some of Ray's appointments to the UW Board of Regents may have been fishes-out-of-water, but Culp was "a fish in water ... . He was ideally suited for it. He took no easy answer and he was very shrewd."

A year after Culp was appointed, UW President John R. Hogness (b. 1922) announced he was stepping down and in June 1978, Board of Regents President Mary Gates (1929-1994) named Culp to head the search committee to find a successor. Mary Gates, a highly respected philanthropist, was the wife of William Gates Jr., another old UW law school classmate of Culp, mother of Microsoft founder Bill Gates III, and had known Culp for many years. According to Gerberding,  "Gordon and Mary became very close right away. A power center, certainly ... . Gordon and Mary were distinctive. Not only were they great regents, ambitious for the university, but almost irrationally fond of the university. Gordon was a very proud citizen of the Pacific Northwest" (Gerberding).

Recruiting a University President

Relations between Governor Ray and the UW were testy at best and the assignment had a high potential for disaster. But at the time, Culp was described as "the kind of guy who gets things done without being conspicuous about it ... . Culp will have the delicate job of keeping the selection ... free of politics at a time when the Board of Regents is politicized and subject to the possible maneuvering by Gov. Dixy Lee Ray" (Emery).

Governor Ray had taught zoology at the UW from 1945 to 1960. "She had unhappy memories of the university and didn't hide that," Gerberding reflected. "But she made some very good appointments, with Gordon as exhibit A. Hans Lehmann also was very good. I had a decent relationship with Ray, but she was not a friend of the university, budgetarily or otherwise" (Gerberding).

For Culp, the assignment was something of a crusade. "This is a Gordon-type story," Gerberding said, by way of introduction. "By then, anyone in the university or business world looking for a CEO would hire a headhunter. Gordon said, 'We'll do it ourselves.' He didn't trust their judgment or motives." The committee included Regents Robert Philip, president and co-founder of the Tri-City Herald, and R. Mort Frayn (1906-1993), onetime Speaker of the state House of Representatives. "Both were Republicans, but that was not an issue. There was no partisanship. One of Mort Frayn's closest friends, in fact, was Maggie [Senator Magnuson], back in the days when those things could happen." The committee also included representatives of the university's administration, faculty, students, and alumni association. "It was the usual Noah's Ark committee, which Gordon had to manipulate" (Gerberding).

William P. Gerberding had been on the job as chancellor of the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (UI) only a few months when he first met Culp for a couple of hours at Chicago's O'Hare Airport in December 1978. Ostensibly, Culp was picking the chancellor's brain about other candidates. Gerberding didn't consider himself a possibility because of his relatively brief tenure at UI, "but about two months later, Culp called and said, 'What about you?,' " Gerberding recalled.

Gerberding and his wife, Ruth, visited Seattle in March 1979 for interviews, and he accepted the job offer. "I liked the spirit of it, the mood of it. I said Seattle was San Francisco populated by Minnesotans," he recalled.

Gerberding was inaugurated UW's 27th president in January 1980. He became fast friends with Culp, as well as others on the board. With Culp he shared the Navy experience, a major in philosophy, an intense interest in political affairs, and stints as congressional staff. Gerberding had served on the staff of Senator Eugene McCarthy (1916-2005), D-MN. 

His honeymoon was short-lived. The state's budget went deep red about seven months after he took office: Departments were cut, hundreds of faculty and staff jobs were lost, and all programs scaled back. "We lost at least 10 percent of our core budget in that process. It was very severe, and not anticipated," Gerberding said.

While Gerberding was busy lobbying the Legislature and Ray (and later Governor John Spellman) for more money, in 1981 Culp "was in the forefront of the UW's campaign to win more autonomy from the Legislature" (Schaefer).

In 1982, Governor John Spellman (b. 1926), a Republican, reappointed Culp to another six-year term. Said Gerberding: "If Gordon was involved in something, people who were serious-minded quickly came to respect him" regardless of party.  Culp had a reputation for detail beyond the pale. "We'd be at a board meeting or some other setting, talking through a difficult issue, and think we'd come to a kind of consensus. And about that time, Gordon would want to spin it around one more time, or two more times. He was a philosophy major and a lawyer, a wordsmith. Nothing was obvious to him."

Health Care and Cancer Care

When Culp's two terms on the Board of Regents ended, Gerberding appointed him to the UW Medical Center board, where he would serve until 1998, one term as president. Culp was a founding chairman of the board of the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance. In the summer of 2006 the new board room of the Cancer Care Alliance was dedicated as the Gordon C. Culp Board Room.

Culp was also active in the UW Physicians Network (Neighborhood Clinics) and a member of the Fred Hutchinson/University of Washington Cancer Consortium Strategic Planning Committee.

And he had been a founding board member of the Henry M. Jackson Foundation, established in 1983 to continue the senator's work. Culp "played an influential role in shaping the organization's strategic direction" (The Jackson Legacy). In 2004, he was awarded the Henry M. Jackson Award for Distinguished Public Service.

A Husky Fanatic

Culp retired from his law firm in 1990, but continued to answer the public-service call. In 1992, he was appointed chairman of a panel asked to investigate allegations of racism on the part of UW basketball coach Lynn Nance. The panel -- two African American members and two Caucasian -- cleared Nance of the racism allegations, but questioned his coaching style. Nance resigned a year later, after the university agreed to buy out the final year of his contract.

Culp's devotion to Husky football was legendary. He not only attended all home games, but videotaped them  -- as well as all away games -- for future viewing. According to Gerberding, "The two biggest Husky football fanatics that I ever encountered -- and boy, that's a high standard -- were Dan Evans and Gordon Culp" (Shaw). And, again proving that he had no problem rowing against the tide of popular opinion, he remained a defender and champion of Rick Neuheisel (b.1961), UW football coach fired in 2003.

In 1993, a year after the Nance investigation, the "taxpayer revolt" had wended its way up from California and Initiatives 601 and 602 were threatening the already beleaguered state budget -- and the state's colleges and universities. Culp was instrumental in forming Citizens for Higher Education, a political action committee to raise money to fight the anti-tax initiatives on the fall ballot, and was its treasurer and spokesman. Supporters included regents and trustees, administrators and faculty members who were alarmed by the damaging effects of tax revolts on higher education in Oregon and California. Culp said: "The University of California system was the pride of this country for generations. It's been decimated. Now the Oregon system is approaching shambles. The same thing would happen here" (Hadley).

End of the Law Firm

Throughout the years of Culp's public service, the law firm, Culp, Dwyer, Guterson & Grader, had continued to prosper. Bill Dwyer had established a reputation as an outstanding antitrust lawyer and civil libertarian, and was appointed a U.S. District Court Judge by President Ronald Reagan (1911-2004). Culp had retired in 1990, and in 1995, the remaining 40-odd members of the Culp Guterson & Grader voted to disband.

Culp was philosophical about the end of the firm he founded. He told a reporter, "Times change. It doesn't do all that much to me ... Bill and I and George Grader and Murray were there 35 years, and we developed it as we wanted. Others can decide how to go forward"  (Miletich).

Lawyer Bud Krogh reflected: "Gordy and Bill were the animating spirit of a law firm that was ... and I don't want to overstate it, but in a way it was Camelot when the two of them were there. Not only were they super competent and extraordinarily effective lawyers and litigators, but they had a social conscience. They really felt strongly about making their community better, and contributed enormous amounts of their time to it" (Krogh).

Marriage to Kathie Werner

A year or so after Joan Culp's death, Gordon met Kathie Werner (b. 1947), a Seattle editor (mostly for Microsoft) and writer who'd had a career as a bookseller and publisher's rep. They had many things in common, including Auburn, where Kathie's father had run a variety store and been a fellow Rotary Club member with John Peckenpaugh, one of Culp's oldest friends. Werner, who grew up in Tacoma, was also a formidable debater: She had won several of the same debate tournaments Culp had won 20 years before.  She had attended the University of Washington, becoming a Husky fan and ASUW President Thom Gunn's paid speechwriter. She graduated in 1971.

After meeting in 1997, Gordy and Kathie became a couple and they married in 2002.  They were enthusiastic travelers, going to Vietnam and Singapore, taking the Silk Road tour of China, and traveling also to Italy and Germany. Kathie Werner says, "Gordy reminded me of a line from a Theodore Roethke poem: 'The right thing happens to the happy man.'"

A Passion for Discourse

Culp was "mouthy," loved discourse, repartee, argument, didn't suffer fools gladly, and didn't trust the media. " 'If they ever call ... say nothing,' " his former secretary Susanne Tsoming said, recalling his instructions. "'You have to be very careful when you talk to them. They're only human and they may have a bias.' I was very young then. I thought what they said was the truth." 

Culp made no secret of his political passions, or any others, as long as he could draw a breath and put pen to paper. In a letter in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, March 30, 2003, only 10 days after the Iraq War began, Culp rejected the conventional wisdom of the time that finding weapons of mass destruction would have justified the invasion in the eyes of the world. He was prescient.

"Not so," he wrote:

"Even if we discover such supplies, our choice of war and the death of innocent people have forever precluded the world from knowing whether the ongoing, universally supported disarmament procedure would have worked.

"Many friends of the United States (as well as all who already dislike, fear and distrust us) will not soon exonerate us from destroying the possibility of a peaceful solution. That cannot bode well for our future safety and comfort, not to mention our self-respect."

Last Years 

Gordon Culp was diagnosed with cancer in 2003, and the disease became terminal in 2006. The end in sight, he held court for friends and family, with "courage and characteristic forthrightness," said an encomium signed by University of Washington leaders past and present -- Bill Gates Jr., Gerberding, Philip, and Grinstein among them. Grader recalled a final visit with Culp, along with Murray Guterson, Lou Nawrot,  and another law firm partner, Jerry McNaul: "As we trooped up the stairs, having said our goodbyes, he called out and waved and yelled, as best he could, 'It's been a great ride, hasn't it boys?'"

Gordon Culp died on April 23, 2006. His memorial service was held at the University of Washington's Kane Hall, and was filled with representatives of Washington state's power structure, from former governors Evans and Mike Lowry on down. Jackson Foundation Executive Director Lara Iglitzin, in her remarks at the service, recalled: "Gordy gave Kathie strict orders about the reception: 'I want very good food,' he said, and 'fairly good' wine."


Sources:

Frank Chesley interviews with Susanne Tsoming, October 17, 2006, November 29, 2006; Frank Chesley interview with Audrey Culp Walker, October 18, 2006; Frank Chesley interview with William Gerberding, November 16, 2006; Frank Chesley interview with Egil “Bud” Krogh Jr., November 27, 2006; Frank Chesley interview with Robert Marritz, October 23, 2006; Frank Chesley interview with Vasiliki Dwyer,  November 29, 2006; Frank Chesley interview with Don Devan, December 15, 2006; Frank Chesley interview with Kathie Werner, February 24, 2007; George Grader letter, February 26, 2007; Linda Shaw, “Gordon Culp Knew his Way Around the Halls of Power,” The Seattle Times, April 29, 2006 (http://seattletimes.nwsource.com);  Peyton Whitely, “Energetic Gordon Culp: Age 61 – Going on 20,” Ibid., January 3, 1988, p. B-1; Hugh McGough, "What's a Magoo? A Magoozle?" McGough Miscellanea
website accessed January 2007 (http://www.magoo.com/hugh/magoo.html); Pacific Northwest Utilities Conference Committee (PNUCC) website accessed January 2007 (http://www.pnucc.org/Historynew.htm); “Whoops! A $2 Billion Blunder,” Time magazine, August 8, 1983, p. 50; HistoryLink.org, Online Encyclopedia of Washington State History, “Governor Dan Evans announces plans to make Washington the nation's leader in nuclear energy development on July 23, 1969 (by David Wilma), http://www.historylink.org/ (accessed December 12, 2006); Dan Morgan, “Pacific Northwest Faces Kilowatt Crisis,” The Washington Post, October 28, 1979, p. A-1; Northwest Power and Conservation Council website accessed December 13, 2006  (http://www.nwcouncil.org/energy/powersupply/outlook.asp); David Schaefer, "Carlson named UW regent; Culp kept on board," The Seattle Times, October 1, 1982, p. C-27; Lee Moriwaki, “New UW Regent Conscious of Connection to Students,” Ibid., January 21, 1989, p. A-11; Julie Emery, “Regent Who Gets Things Done Heads Presidential Search,” Ibid.,, June 7, 1978; p. A-8; Jane Hadley, “Higher Education Backers Form PAC, Group Raises Money to Fight Anti-tax Initiatives 601, 602,” Seattle Post-Intelligencer, September 24, 1993, p. B-3; Lily Eng, “Gerberding Expected To Announce Retirement -- UW Grew In Size, Status On His Watch,” The Seattle Times, January 21, 1994, Seattle Times Web site accessed February 8, 2007 (http://seattletimes.nwsource.com); Steve Miletich, “Seattle Law Firm Culp Guterson & Grader to Disband,” Seattle Post-Intelligencer, July 18, 1995, p. B-1; The Jackson Legacy newsletter, Fall 2006, p. 1.
Note: This essay was updated on January 8, 2015.


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