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Dan Ogden, political and civic leader, dies at 95

Vancouver man campaigned for John F. Kennedy

By , Columbian Science, Military & History Reporter
Published: February 9, 2018, 11:40am
6 Photos
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, left, and Dan Ogden applaud a speaker during a memorial service for Val Ogden on April 26, 2014, at Clark College. Dan Ogden died Wednesday. (The Columbian files)
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, left, and Dan Ogden applaud a speaker during a memorial service for Val Ogden on April 26, 2014, at Clark College. Dan Ogden died Wednesday. (The Columbian files) Photo Gallery

Dan Ogden Jr., whose lengthy political résumé included campaigning for John F. Kennedy as well as for his late wife, Val Ogden, has died.

The retired agency administrator died Thursday in Vancouver; he was 95.

Ogden also was a former political science professor who eventually took part in hands-on party politics. Dan and Val Ogden moved in 1985 to Clark County, where Dan became a Democratic activist while Val, who died in 2014, served 12 years in the state Legislature.

Did You Know?

Dan Ogden said that he once was the leading vote-getter on both the Democratic and Republican sides of an election for Whitman County precinct committeeman in the 1960s. The Washington State political science professor drew more than 600 votes on the Democratic side, he told The Columbian in 2013. Ogden said that the only vote cast for a Republican committeeman went to him, too.

Mike Gaston, who was on the other side of the political fence, said Friday morning that he’s lost a friend.

“Dan was a dear friend,” Gaston said. “Dan and I both believed that the opposing parties still had much in common.

“Although we were political opposites at the time — he was county Democratic chair and I was the Republican chair — Dan and I went into high school classes and spoke about politics,” Gaston said.

“Dan and I respected each other, although Val — she was a state representative at the time — wasn’t sure about me,” Gaston said with a laugh.

Ogden is survived by three adult children — Jan Martin, Helena, Mont.; Dan Ogden, Sammamish; and Patti Hunter, Vancouver.

A service is scheduled for 2 p.m. March  24 at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Vancouver, 4505 E. 18th St.

Ogden graduated in 1944 from what was then Washington State College. After serving in the Army, he returned to the Pullman campus as a political science professor. He had an unexpected opportunity to participate in the 1960 presidential campaign, Ogden told The Columbian in 2013.

On the campaign trail

Each party offered the opportunity to spend a year at Republican or Democratic headquarters. Ogden applied for the Democratic fellowship and won it.

“I was Whitman County Democratic chairman, and I had letters from all the Democrats who mattered” in the state, Ogden said.

John F. Kennedy had too many Boston Irishmen working for him at the time, Ogden said, and Democratic organizers wanted some campaign diversity in the nation’s heartland.

As an advance man, Ogden made sure the campaign stop had enough cars and drivers for the motorcade, a speaking platform at the rally site and a place for Kennedy to eat.

Arthur Peterson, who received the Republican-sponsored fellowship, teamed up with Ogden to write an insiders’ view of the campaign, “Electing the President.”

Ogden wound up working in Washington D.C. for the Interior Department.

In the realm of public policy, Ogden was a key player in establishing a nationwide system of trails and creating two signature national parks. During his tenure with the Interior Department, Ogden was named an assistant director of planning and research in the Bureau of Outdoor Recreation.

His work helped set the stage for creation in 1968 of Redwood National Park in California and North Cascades National Park in Washington. During that same ceremony, then-president Lyndon Johnson signed the National Wild Scenic Rivers Act and the National Trails System Act.

Doorbelled for Val

In 1968, he returned to the academic side of political science for 10 years as a professor at Colorado State University and then Lewis & Clark College. He then spent 10 years in public power policy, until 1988.

But the Ogdens weren’t done with elective politics. Val Ogden served 12 years in the state House of Representatives, and “I did signs and doorbelling” during her campaigns, Dan told The Columbian in 2013.

In 2014, the couple even wound up serving in the same public position. Val Ogden was elected to a county freeholder position in 2013; after her death, the remaining freeholders appointed Dan Ogden to serve in that spot for the board’s final two meetings.

Ogden received a Washington State University Alumni Achievement Award in 2014, matching a similar award his wife of 67 years had received in 1987. He was recognized for “a productive and amazing career that spans over fifty years” including 21 years in academic endeavors and 20 years in public service.

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