Ralph Davies Munro
Washington State’s 13th Secretary of State –
One of Washington’s best known and best loved politicians and humanitarians
Ralph Davies Munro was born on June 25th, 1943 in Seattle, Washington, the third child of George Alexander Munro and Elizabeth (Betty) Troll Munro. His father was an electrician at the Bremerton Naval Shipyard and his mother a first grade and kindergarten teacher. His Munro grandparents were Scottish immigrants who settled on Bainbridge Island in the late 1880s and Ralph was raised in the little house that was once the Munro Family Store, at the center of a close knit extended family and community. He graduated from Bainbridge High School in 1961 and earned a B.A. in education and political science from Western Washington University in 1966.
While in school Ralph held numerous part time jobs including mowing lawns for neighbors, selling newspapers at the Pt. White ferry dock, wheel boy on the Virginia V steamship, salmon barbeque cook for Sunset Lodge at Fort Ward, chef at the Teepee Salmon Barbeque at the Seattle World’s Fair, caretaker of Lakewood Properties on Lake Whatcom, bartender in numerous Bellingham taverns, etc.
After graduation from Western Washington University, he went to work at the Boeing Company’s Renton Plant where he was trained as an industrial engineer. He worked for Boeing off and on for several years.
At about the same time Ralph became very involved as a volunteer with developmentally disabled children. Working mostly at Fircrest School in North Seattle, he became a daily volunteer with two young boys at the institution -Terry Sullivan and Fred Shank.
Ralph’s first job in the political world was as a supply clerk in the basement of the Legislative Building in Olympia. A short time later Governor Dan Evans recruited him to serve as the state’s first volunteer coordinator and then as a special assistant on education and social-service issues. From there Ralph built a long and distinguished record of public service in Washington State and across the globe. From 1980 through 2001 he served as Washington’s Secretary of State, a position to which he was elected five times. During his tenure, Ralph was instrumental in improving voter registration participation, streamlining the corporate registration process, promoting economic development and serving as the state’s goodwill ambassador to the world.
However, Ralph’s finest achievements are examples of his boundless compassion and deep commitment to improving the lives of others. His accomplishments seem to effervesce from limitless energy, commitment and generosity laced with love. He’s fond of saying “We’ve been blessed”, and to those watching the enigma that is Ralph Munro, it appears that his mission in life is to share those blessing with as many people as possible. Some of his accomplishments include:
- Fighting for measures to improve life for the state’s disabled residents, including an “education for all” bill in the mid-1970s that paved the way for disabled students to attend public classrooms long before federal legislation did the same.
- Coordinating the state’s efforts to eliminate architectural barriers for people in wheelchairs. Passing legislation requiring curb cuts, ramps wider doors, wheelchair ramps, etc. as a statewide mandate.
- Instrumental in preserving historic landmarks, such as the Walla Walla site of the state’s 1878 constitutional convention, the steamship Virginia V, and much more.
- Spearheading numerous wildlife-protection efforts. He gained national attention 25 years ago when he led a drive to ban the capture of killer whales in Puget Sound.
- Honoring and assisting military and veterans’ groups.
- Tirelessly working with Rotary International to eradicate Polio around the world, including 14 trips to Ethiopia and East Africa over the past dozen years to vaccinate children, provide access to clean water, and build better schools.
- Initiating and facilitating archeological preservation and education in partnership with the Squaxin Island Tribe and South Puget Sound Community College. The partnership is now in their 12th year of an archeological dig on the Munro property at Mud Bay.
- The 7th American to be awarded the Medal of Friendship by the government of the Russian Federation. The award was presented by Consul General of Russia Georgi Vlaskin in front of a Joint Session of the Washington State Legislature hosted by Governor Gary Locke and Lt. Governor Joel Pritchard.
- Received the Award of Civil Merit from King Juan Carlos of Spain – the highest award given to non-Spanish citizens. The medal was presented in Madrid, Spain.
Ralph was married to Karen Hanson Munro (now Karen Ellick of Bainbridge Island) for many years and they raised their son, George, together. Karen remains a loving strength and inspiration in the Munro family.
Ralph lives on Triple Creek Farm in Thurston County, Washington, together with his wife Nancy (Bunn) Munro. He continues to serve on numerous local, national and international boards and commissions. In addition, he serves on the Board of Directors of several domestic corporations, including Prepared Response, The Squaxin Island Tribal Museum, Panorama City Retirement Centers, Thurston First Bank and History Link. He also remains active in election reform and international trade issues, continues to advocate for wildlife and environmental causes in the Puget Sound, and to champion causes that support people with disabilities. He continues to strive to make Washington State a better place for our children then it was for us.
Nancy & Ralph Munro – 2018
“My Favorite Places” explores the unique beauty and history of Washington through the eyes of some of Washington’s best-known and beloved public figures. Ralph hosts the series highlighting special places around the state; from the personal and historical to the whimsical…. https://www.tvw.org/shows/my-favorite-places/episodes/
- Industrial Engineer. Boeing. 1966-1968.
- Volunteer Coordinator. Washington State. 1969. Governor Dan Evans appointed Munro as the first Volunteer Coordinator of Washington State.
- Advisor. White House. 1970. Helped formulate the federal agency ACTION, the “Federal Domestic Volunteer Agency”.
- Special Assistant. Washington State. 1972-1976. Special Assistant on education and social-service issues, enlisted by Governor Dan Evans.
- Secretary of State. Republican, Washington. 1981 – 2001. 20 year(s).
- Member. Western Washington University Board of Trustees. 10/01/2009 – 09/30/2015. Appointed by Governor Christine Gregoire.
- Association of Washington Business C. David Gordon Award for outstanding civic achievement (2008).
- Order of Civil Merit awarded by King Juan Carlos of Spain.
- Order of Friendship awarded by Boris Yeltsin, former president of the Russian Federation.
- League of Women Voters Executive Leadership Award.
- Warren G. Magnuson Award.
- Rotary International Board of Directors Service Above Self Award (2006).
- Puget Sound Energy Pioneer Award (2008).
- Seattle Biomedical Research Institute Advancing Global Health Award (2006).
- World Affairs Council World Citizen Award (1998).
- Co-Chairman, Washington State Centennial Committee, 1989.
- Co-Founder, Orca Conservancy, 1996.
- Director, Action for Retarded Children.
- Founder, Bald Eagle Preserve on Skagit River.
- Member, Advisory Committee on Volunteer Programs.
- Member, Board of Directors/Board of Trustees, Serves on corporate and non-profit Boards of Directors, including Prepared Response, Thurston First Bank of Puget Sound, Panorama Retirement Center, Squaxin Island Tribal Museum and HistoryLink.
- Past President, Seattle Rotary Club #4, the world’s largest Rotary Club.
- President, National Association of Secretaries of State, 1990-1991.
- The Seattle Times, December 29, 2000:”Ralph Munro leaving a career carved in stone”
- Transcript of Western Washington University Libraries Special Collections; Oral History Program – Interview of Ralph Munro on September 15, 2003
- Washington’s Secretaries of State – Past and Present: Ralph Munro
- Oral History with Ralph Munro
- 1968 The Year That Rocked Washington; Ralph Munro – Disability Rights Pioneer
- The Legacy Project, Office of the Secretary of State: “History Makers Details on Ralph Munro”
- The Seattle Times, December 29, 2000: “Ralph Munro leaving a career carved in stone”;
- Governor’s news release, September 25, 2009: “Gov. Gregoire appoints Ralph Munro to WWU board of trustees”;
- Puget Sound Business Journal, May 9, 2008: “Mud Bay archeological site has profound lessons for Ralph and Karen Munro”
- Puget Sound Energy, press release June 3, 2008: “PSE recognizes Karen and Ralph Munro with 2008 Pioneer Award”
Ralph can be contacted at RalphMunro@comcast.net