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Gary Locke
Updated: 2009-05-21 15:13

Gary Faye Locke (born January 21, 1950) is the current United States Secretary of Commerce and was the 21st Governor of Washington, serving from 1997 to 2005. Locke was the first, and remains the only, Chinese American to serve as governor of a state in United States history. 

Family and education 

Gary Locke

Locke is a 36th-generational-grandson of Luo Binwang, one of the Four Greats of the Early Tang. Locke was born on January 21,1950 in Seattle, Washington. A third-generation American with paternal ancestry from Taishan, Guangdong in China, Locke is the second of five children of James, a native of the United States, and Julie Locke from Hong Kong,China.

He graduated with honors from Seattle’s Franklin High Schoolin 1968. Locke achieved Eagle Scout and received the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award from the Boy Scouts of America. 

Through a combination of part-time jobs, financial aid and scholarships, Locke attended Yale University, earning a bachelor’s degree in political science in 1972. He then earned a law degree from the Boston University School of Law in 1975.

On October 15, 1994, Locke married Mona Lee, a former television reporter for the NBC affiliate KING 5 television in Seattle. Her father was from Shanghai,China and her mother from Hubei,China. The Lockes have three children: Emily Nicole, born in March 1997, Dylan James, born in March 1999 and Madeline Lee, born in November 2004. 


In 1982, Locke's South Seattle district elected him to the Washington House of Representatives, where he served as chairman of the Appropriations Committee. Eleven years later, in 1993, Locke made history by becoming the first Chinese American to be elected King County's County Executive, defeating incumbent Tim Hill. In 1996, he won the primary and general elections for governor, becoming the first Chinese American state governor in United States history. His political committee was fined $2,500 by regulators in 1997 after admitting to state campaign finance law violations during his successful 1996 campaign. Locke easily won re-election in the 2000 governor's race.

Democrats criticized Locke for embracing the Republican Party's no-new-taxes approach to dealing with Washington's budget woes during and after the 2001 economic turmoil. Among his spending-reduction proposals were laying off thousands of state employees; reducing health coverage; freezing most state employees' pay; and cutting funding for nursing homes and programs for the developmentally disabled. In his final budget, Locke suspended two voter-passed, pro-school initiatives while cutting state education funding. That same state budget, though, had record-high allocations for construction projects.

Supported by the state's political left, former Washington Supreme Court Justice Phil Talmadge announced his plans to challenge Locke in the 2004 Democratic primary. Talmadge ended his campaign early for health reasons.

On the national stage, Democrats saw Gary Locke as a rising star and a possible vice-presidential pick. He was chosen to give his party's response to George W. Bush's 2003 State of the Union address. In 1997, Gov. Locke was a guest at that year's State of the Union.