Former legislator Web Hallauer dies

“In all things, Web Hallauer was always a compassionate person—this at a time long before the word ‘compassionate’ became an adjective to a political ideology,” Robert Bailey, former Washington State Senator.

Wilbur Hallauer
Wilbur Hallauer

OROVILLE – Wilbur “Web” Hallauer, former Oroville City Councilman, state representative and state senator, passed away at age 99 in his Oroville home Thursday, Dec. 19.

Although he was born in New York state, Oroville’s elder statesman moved to Washington when he was 12-years-old, settling in Yakima. From there he went to the University of Washington in Seattle and after graduating moved to Oroville to run the family’s fruit processing plant Valley Evaporating Company, making dried apples and other products.

He served on the Oroville Council in the early 1940s and was elected to the Washington State House of Representatives in 1948 and served there for eight years. He was then elected to the state Senate in 1957 and served there another 12. The late governor,  Dixy Lee Ray, appointed Hallauer to be the first head of the newly created state Department of Ecology.

The former legislator was also the subject of an oral history as part of the Washington State Oral History program commissioned by the Secretary of State. He was interviewed by Thomas J. Kerr for the book which was published in 2001.

“He distinguished himself as a master of the state budget process, serving as chair on the House Revenue Committee and the Senate Appropriations and Ways and Means committees. As a Senator, he was the chairman of the Legislative Interim Committee on Water Resources — a committee that had the distinction of recommending ten major pieces of legislation, all of which were subsequently enacted. He was also noted for his passionate defense of civil liberties, including his courageous defense of Representative John Goldmark during Washington State’s ‘McCarthy era,'” from Wilbur G. “Web” Hallauer – An Oral History (which can be read online at

Goldmark, from Okanogan, was a fellow Democrat and was serving in the House of Representatives when Goldmark and his wife were accused of having ties to the Communist Party. The Goldmarks sued and eventually won a libel suit against several of their accusers and Hallauer was by their side during the trial.

In the preface to the Oral History Hallauer writes, “The political circus attracts many who do not become performers within the charmed rings of public observance. Whether carrying water to the elephants or setting up the wire cables for the high trapeze acts, the work of these associated workers is necessary to the gladiators who hold the public attention. Without dedicated and talented people to help, the show could not go on. Often the political and intellectual acumen of the politician’s support group is the making of that politician. This applies in my own case.”

In the forward to the Oral History, former state senator Robert Bailey writes, “In all things, Web Hallauer was always a compassionate person—this at a time long before the word “compassionate” became an adjective to a political ideology.”

A lifelong Democrat and proud member of the American Civil Liberties Union, Hallauer continued to champion Democratic causes in words and deeds, including in letters submitted to the Okanogan Valley Gazette-Tribune. Over the years he also submitted several historical articles to this newspaper outlining the history of the local area, on both sides of the border. In the early 1950s Hallauer bought the Tonasket Times from Frank Putnam. In the oral history he tells Kerr he bought the Times to keep it out of the hands of Ashley Holden. Holden was one of the people who would accuse the Goldmarks of being communists. Hallauer hired a woman as the editor of the newspaper, but he said the equipment and advertising were poor. He said what really happened was that Holden and his son started a rival newspaper, The Tonasket Tribune, and the Times was shut down nine months after he had purchased it.

Hallauer himself recalls that he was the target of 1961 newspaper ad that was part of a “smear and distortion” campaign that was run by opponents to attack him and other Democrats in state politics.

Hallauer had several interests including publishing his own series of books, mining and hydroelectric power. He was a strong supporter of the wise use of natural resources. He and his late-wife, Josephine, were also supporters of the remodeling and expansion of the Oroville Public Library as well as other local causes. She served two terms as President of the Washington State Library Association.

Hallauer Obituary