Mike Lowry made a profound impact on our region. He was a champion for equity and worked to alleviate suffering and channel resources to oppressed people and communities.
Lowry held public office in Washington State for 19 years. He was elected to the King County Council in 1975, and four years later began serving in the U.S. House of Representatives, where he spent the next 10 years. Lowry was then Governor of Washington state from 1993 to 1997. With his passing May 1, 2017 from complications of a stroke, Washington has lost one of its greatest leaders.
From Solid Ground’s vantage point, Lowry is perhaps best remembered as one of the principal sponsors of the McKinney-Vento Act, which provides federal funding for homelessness services. He made similarly positive, progressive impacts on issues ranging from protection of the marine environment, to services for people living with AIDS, reparations for Japanese Americans incarcerated during WWII, to peace in Central America. The Lowry Community Building, a community space at the center of Solid Ground’s Sand Point Housing campus, was named in his honor in part because of the way the McKinney-Vento Act prioritized distribution of surplus federal property (such as the naval base at Magnuson Park) to serve people experiencing homelessness.
“We join the many, many persons in our region, state and across the country who have benefited from Governor Lowry’s commitment to service, equity and those who have been forgotten or oppressed. He cared deeply about those in poverty and was a fervent leader in the fight against homelessness and housing instability,” said Gordon McHenry Jr., Solid Ground President & CEO.
One of our Sand Point residents, speaking at the 2011 dedication of the Sand Point Housing campus, said this, which stands as a fitting testimony to Mike’s impact, but only if you multiply it by the hundreds of thousands of formerly homeless people supported by McKinney funding:
“I have peace of mind knowing that I don’t have to pack my bags in a few months and I don’t have to transfer my kids to another school again. I don’t have to sleep in a car again or call to put my name on a waiting list for shelter. I don’t have to expose my children to unhealthy living anymore. I went from being homeless to being stable and secure. There’s peace of mind here!”
“Mike was an incredible advocate for the most oppressed groups in our state,” commented Tony Lee, Solid Ground’s Senior Advocacy Fellow. “For example, he saved the General Assistance program for the disabled from deep cuts when he was the Governor. He also was a champion for progressive policies for the old AFDC public assistance program for low-income families with children. During his administration, we passed a sweeping healthcare reform bill that was a forerunner to the Affordable Care Act. I would say that we have not ever seen a governor in our state who was a more dedicated and effective advocate for marginalized groups in our society.”
“I think of Mike as a kind man whose smile warmed the heart and whose first concern was how others were doing,” McHenry remembered. “He was accessible and he really cared about people who were suffering and the organizations that provided support. He was also a leader from the bygone era of bipartisanship. I ask you to take a moment to reflect upon Mike Lowry’s service and legacy, and to send your thoughts and prayers of support to his family.”