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Ernest Lister

Gov. Ernest Lister

  • January 11, 1913 - June 14, 1919
  • Democratic
  • June 15, 1870
  • June 14, 1919
  • Other
  • Married Alma Thornton; two children
  • Pronounced Dead in Office


ERNEST LISTER was born in Halifax, England. His family immigrated to the United States when Lister was fourteen to be near his uncle, who was mayor of Tacoma, Washington. He operated a foundry and woodworking shop in Tacoma and won election to the Tacoma City Council in 1894 as a Populist. After managing John Rogers’ successful gubernatorial campaign, he was appointed chairman of the State Board of Control, giving him authority over the state’s welfare institutions. He and Rogers both joined the Democratic Party in 1900, and he made an unsuccessful bid for the party’s nomination. However, the successful nominee was declared ineligible shortly before the general election and Lister won the election—the only elected Democrat in Washington’s executive branch of government. He won reelection in 1916, again as the only victorious Democrat. As governor, he supported agricultural aid, irrigation and reclamation projects, and state industrial accident insurance. He vetoed legislation that would have denied civil rights to members of the Industrial Workers of the World. And his efforts helped bring the eight-hour work day to the Pacific Northwest. He became ill during his second term and relinquished his office to the Lieutenant Governor. He died one day before his forty-ninth birthday.


Official Records at Washington State Archives, 1912-1919, 70.5 cubic feet.

List of finding aids available at the Division of Archives and Records Management, Office of the Secretary of State. Available in hard copy: Guide to the Papers of the Governors of Washington, Volume 2: 1889-1919—Governor Ferry through Governor Lister.

The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography, Vol. 15. New York: James T. White & Company.

Sobel, Robert, and John Raimo, eds. Biographical Directory of the Governors of the United States, 1789-1978, Vol. 4. Westport, CT: Meckler Books, 1978. 4 vols.

Washington State Library: Governors of Washington State

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