James B. Metcalf (AG from 1887-1889). A Mississippi native and Confederate veteran of the Civil War, Metcalf worked his way west after the war while studying law at night. In 1870 he was admitted to the California bar. After moving to Washington Territory, he became a distinguished trial attorney and was appointed territorial Attorney General in 1887. After statehood, Metcalf resumed his private practice and became a cable car promoter in the rapidly growing city of Seattle.
William C. Jones (AG from 1889-1897). Jones was Washington's first elected Attorney General. He litigated four cases before the U.S. Supreme Court during his tenure. Three of the four were concerned with the ability of the new state to establish harbor lines in and around Puget Sound in order to aid the safe expansion of commerce. In one of the cases, General Jones faced the powerful Northern Pacific Railroad. In all three cases, General Jones prevailed and helped establish the authority of the State in its ability to manage its resources to promote the public welfare. General Jones left office in 1897 when he was elected to the U.S. Congress.
Patrick Henry Winston (AG from 1897-1901). Winston was a Confederate veteran of the Civil War from North Carolina and member of the populist People's Party. A former U.S. Attorney for Washington for prior to his election, General Winston was so exhausted by his campaign for Attorney General that his health was permanently damaged. He remained ill throughout most of his tenure, and left office after only one term.
Wickliffe Stratton (AG from 1901-1905). Stratton was a Republican and native of Wisconsin. Although Stratton was just 30 when elected, he had already served as the South Bend City Attorney and Pacific County Prosecutor. Stratton was particularly concerned during his single term in office with preserving and promoting the power of the state to collect taxes. He successfully battled several Washington towns to ensure they collected and forwarded to the state the tax collected on liquor. In addition, General Stratton, like his predecessor, General Jones, took on the powerful Northern Pacific Railroad. General Stratton was successful in establishing that even the Northern Pacific was not exempt from paying property taxes on its land in Washington. After leaving office General Stratton formed a Seattle law partnership with former Governor Henry McBride and served on the board of directors for a number of Seattle companies. He died in 1937.
John Atkinson (AG from 1905-1909). General Atkinson was a native of Pennsylvania where he began teaching school at age 15. A school principal as well as an attorney after he moved to Washington, he was appointed to the State Board of Education and served as the elected State Auditor before being elected Attorney General. General Atkinson was primarily concerned with the ongoing pressures brought by the railroads and the growing demands of providing adequate public education. In 1905, the Legislature created the state Railroad Commission to regulate various aspects of the railroad industry in Washington. This commission was represented by the AGO and Commission matters took up most of General Atkinson's time. General Atkinson was also closely involved in litigation surrounding grants of public lands made for the siting of public schools. General Atkinson ran unsuccessfully for Governor in 1908. After losing the election he returned to his law practice in Seattle.
Walter Bell (AG from 1909-1911). Bell was a Republican and born in Iowa. In his early adulthood he was a teacher, cattleman, farmer, and steamship purser before becoming a lawyer. Prior to becoming Attorney General, he was the Snohomish City Attorney and Snohomish County Prosecutor. General Bell was responsible for making the position of Assistant Attorney General a full-time job. Prior to that time, most assistants had worked only part-time for the state, with the remainder of their time spent in private practice in Seattle. General Bell also required that his assistants move to Olympia. General Bell was directly involved in pursuing two U.S. Supreme Court cases with the State of Oregon during his tenure. One involved the border between the two states. General Bell lost this case. However, he was successful in defending the rights of a Washington resident who, although fishing in Washington's part of the Columbia, was charged by Oregon authorities with violating Oregon fishing statutes. In 1911, General Bell stepped down to accept an appointment to the Superior Court in Snohomish County. Following his service on the bench he returned to Everett and resumed the private practice of law until his death in 1927.
William V. Tanner (AG from 1911-1919). Tanner, at the age of 29 remains the youngest Attorney General in Washington's history. Tanner was a native of Minnesota, and had worked his way up the ladder in the AGO, having worked there as a law clerk, stenographer, and Assistant Attorney General before being appointed to succeed General Bell. General Tanner, also a Republican, served out Bell's term and was twice reelected to his own terms of office. He served from 1911 through 1919. General Tanner, like his predecessors, again took on the Northern Pacific Railroad when he assisted the Attorney General of North Dakota in filing suit against the railroad to require it to follow the intrastate rates set by North Dakota, rather than those set by the federal government. Northern Pacific won this battle on the grounds that the federal government had taken over the nation's railroads during World War I and, therefore, Northern Pacific, through the federal government, had the power to set rates. General Tanner was very active in representing Washington in the U.S. Supreme Court. During his tenure the AGO was a litigant in almost 15 cases that came before the Court. His concern for the protection of Washington workers was exemplified by his victory before the Court when it affirmed the ability of the State to collect premiums due under the State's Worker's Compensation Act. These Supreme Court cases also demonstrate General Tanner's belief in the power of the State to regulate the largely unregulated corporate entities of the day, including the Northern Pacific Railroad and Standard Oil. In 1919, General Tanner resigned from office to represent Washington in U.S. Supreme Court litigation regarding the rate-making authority of the railroad administrators. After leaving office General Tanner was a partner in the Seattle law firm of Tanner, Garvin, and Ashley where he served as legal counsel to the Seattle Post Intelligencer. He eventually became the managing publisher of that newspaper between 1932 and 1936. He also served for a number of years on the board of directors for the Washington Mutual Savings Bank.
L.L. Thompson (AG from 1919-1923). Thompson, born in Sumner, was the first native-born Washington State Attorney General. When he was appointed Attorney General, Thompson was just 31 years old. Thompson was elected in 1920 on the Republican ticket, but resigned in 1923 in order to return to a more lucrative private practice. Only 34 when he resumed his private practice in Tacoma, he long remained a prominent member of the Pierce County bar and was active in numerous civic and professional organizations, including the Washington State Judicial Council.
John Dunbar (AG from 1923-1933). Dunbar, a native Washingtonian, was appointed to succeed Thompson. General Dunbar's parents were early settlers in Washington. Dunbar's father was also a distinguished Washington attorney serving as a Washington Supreme Court Justice from 1889 to 1912. Appointed Attorney General at age 33, Dunbar was elected to a full term the following year and another term four years later. He served until 1933. During his tenure, he was involved in numerous cases before the U.S. Supreme Court. These cases continued to involve common carriers and the interstate commerce clause, intrastate public transportation issues, and public utilities. The Great Depression intruded upon the end of Dunbar's term as Attorney General. General Dunbar was involved in the litigation that resulted from the changes the Depression forced upon Washington's taxation scheme. General Dunbar was defeated in the 1932 Democratic landslide that occurred with the election of President Franklin Roosevelt. Following his defeat, General Dunbar returned to private practice in Olympia where he remained until his death in the early 1940s.
Garrison Hamilton (AG from 1933-1940). Hamilton was the first Democrat elected Attorney General. At age 78, Hamilton, a native of Ohio, is the oldest Attorney General to serve.General Hamilton was intimately involved in litigating matters involving not only taxation, but also the new areas of public health and welfare. Hamilton was elected to two terms and died in office in 1940 at age 86.
Smith Troy (AG from 1941-1952). At the time of his appointment, Troy was the Thurston County Prosecutor. General Troy served out the remainder of Hamilton's term and was reelected in 1944 and again in 1948. From 1943 to 1945, General Troy served in the Army in Europe as Lieutenant Colonel Troy and earned five battle stars. During this time, Troy's deputy served as acting Attorney General. In 1941, at General Troy's urging, the Legislature passed the Monopoly Statute, RCW 43.10.067. This law required all state agencies to rely upon the AGO for legal representation. Not surprisingly, this led to an immediate increase in the workload of the Office and an increase in staff. Important and noteworthy cases handled during General Troy's tenure included the condemnation actions surrounding the creation of Olympic National Park. Much of the land the federal government sought to condemn to create the park contained valuable timber owned by the State. General Troy filed suit against the federal government. A settlement was eventually reached and the State received more than 99 percent of the total amount claimed in its suit. In another important case, General Troy represented the state in its attempt to get insurers to reimburse the state for the collapse of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge. The insurers initially declined to cover the loss. However, after filing a declaratory judgment action regarding the insurers' liability for the loss, the insurers agreed to fully reimburse the State. General Troy was also successful in a case before the U.S. Supreme Court involving the fishing rights of Native Americans. The Court held that in signing various treaties with the native tribes in the 19th century, the state had not given up the right to regulate fishing by tribe members outside native lands. Despite his incumbency, Troy lost reelection in 1952. Troy then returned to private practice in Olympia where he remained an active member of the state bar until his death in 1988.
Don Eastvold (AG from 1953-1956). Attorney General Eastvold is the last Attorney General to have served just one term. General Eastvold was heavily involved in Republican politics and chaired the credentials committee at the 1952 Republican National Convention. He also gave one of the nominating speeches for Eisenhower at the convention. During General Eastvold’s tenure, the real estate sales tax law of 1951 was passed. This led to an increase in litigation and Attorney General opinions on property tax issues. These new laws led to the formation of what would become the Office’s Revenue Division. Attorney General Eastvold also formally organized what was then called the Highways Division. This Division soon became one of the largest units in the Office as the rapid expansion of the state's highway system got underway as a result of the federal interstate highway program. General Eastvold ran for Governor in the 1956 election, but was defeated. After this election loss he left politics and went into real estate development, promoting a number of large scale developments on the Washington coast. He passed away in 1998.
John J. O'Connell (AG from 1957-1968). O'Connell, a Democrat, was 37 years old when he was first elected. A World War II Army veteran of the South Pacific, O'Connell had previously served for two terms as the Pierce County Prosecutor. After becoming Attorney General, O'Connell became active in the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG), an activism continued by each of his successors. He received NAAG's award for Outstanding Attorney General in 1961 and was president of the organization in 1963. One of the cases handled by the Office during General O'Connell's tenure grew out of the anti-communist excesses of the 1950s. O'Connell successfully defended the constitutionality of a state law that required employees of state universities to sign an oath that they were not members of the Communist party as a condition of their continued employment. General O'Connell was also involved in other, less controversial, litigation. The Consumer Protection and Antitrust Act (CPA), passed in 1961 at the urging of General O'Connell, led to a large increase in work for the Office. There was considerable growth within the office during O'Connell's tenure. There were 40 attorneys when he was elected, and approximately 110 when he left office in 1968. In 1968, O’Connell ran unsuccessfully for Governor against Dan Evans, he then returned to private practice in Tacoma and remained active in politics for many years. O'Connell passed away in 1998.
Slade Gorton (AG from 1969-1980). General Gorton served in the Army after World War II and then entered law school. After law school, he entered private practice in Seattle. Prior to his election as Attorney General he served as a member of the Legislature from 1958 to 1968, eventually becoming House Majority Leader. After his election, General Gorton became involved in NAAG. From 1972 to 1979, he was a member of NAAG's executive committee. He also served two terms as NAAG's president. General Gorton was active not only professionally but physically as well. In 1973, he took time off to bicycle coast to coast across the U.S.. General Gorton continued his predecessor's vigorous enforcement of consumer protection actions. He was also instrumental in the Legislature’s enactment of the Shoreline Management Act in 1971. In addition, although the AGO has no original criminal jurisdiction, General Gorton became involved in organizations to enhance the training of police and corrections officers. Arguably the most important case that the Office was involved in during General Gorton's tenure was what has become known as the Boldt decision (United States v. Washington, 384 F. Supp. 312 (1974)) involving Native American fishing rights. During his time in office, General Gorton created the Office's Ecology Division. The number of attorneys in the Office doubled during General Gorton's three terms to approximately 220 by 1980. General Gorton was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1980 where he served as the State's senior Senator for nearly 20 years. Gorton passed away in 2020.
Ken Eikenberry (AG from 1981-1992). After graduating from law school, Eikenberry was an agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation. He followed this with service for several years as a deputy prosecutor in King County. During his time at the prosecutor's office, Eikenberry became increasingly involved in politics. From 1971 to 1976, he served in the State House, and from 1977 until his election as Attorney General, Eikenberry was a member of the Republican National Committee and a chairman of the Republican State Central Committee. One of General Eikenberry's priorities was to bring more of the resources of the Office of the Attorney General into the state's criminal law enforcement efforts. A result of this focus, and a result of the Legislature's enactment of RCW 43.10.232, that granted the Office of the Attorney General concurrent authority to investigate and prosecute crimes, was the creation of the Office's first formally designated Criminal Prosecution Unit. This unit immediately began to assist in criminal prosecution matters referred to the Attorney General by the Governor or county prosecutors. During his tenure Attorney General Eikenberry also began a period of reorganization within the Office designed to address some of the challenges that arose from the growth of the Office. He consolidated or reconfigured several divisions to improve the lines of communication between the many attorneys, and to otherwise meet the demands of more than three decades of continued expansion of Washington state government. He also further modernized the Office's budgeting and fiscal processes during this period and reallocated Division resources to better match the necessary legal services with the needs of the various agencies.Attorney General Eikenberry received the 1992 Republican gubernatorial nomination but narrowly lost the general election that year. Now semi-retired, Eikenberry still makes his home in Olympia where he works as a political consultant and is active in various other endeavors.
Christine Gregoire (AG from 1993-2004). Gregoire is a Democrat who grew up in Auburn, Washington, and the first woman to be elected Attorney General in Washington. She began her legal career in 1977 as an Assistant Attorney General, and in 1981 became the first woman appointed Deputy Attorney General. In 1988, she left the Office to become Director of the Washington Department of Ecology. As Attorney General, Gregoire continued to champion the rights of consumers. In addition to the traditional litigation brought by the Office under the CPA, General Gregoire assisted in bringing the CPA into the computer age, encouraging legislation and assisting in the enforcement of anti-spamming laws, and forming a High Technology Unit to combat Internet fraud. She was elected president of NAAG in 2000. During General Gregoire's tenure, the Office has continued to appear before the U.S. Supreme Court in several important cases. In one case, the Court upheld the constitutionality of Washington's law banning physician-assisted suicide. General Gregoire established the position of Washington State Solicitor General. Perhaps Attorney General Gregoire's most significant achievement to date was her instrumental leadership in the national settlement reached with the tobacco industry. General Gregoire and her colleagues from other states reached an agreement in which the industry agreed to pay states more than $206 billion through 2025. The tobacco settlement bans the industry from using cartoon characters in advertising, from targeting youth in its marketing, from using billboards and transit advertising, and from the sale and distribution of clothes and other items that essentially serve as billboards for tobacco. For her leadership in this settlement, Gregoire was named the most influential attorney general in the country by the Campaign for Tobacco-free Kids. In the wake of the Enron scandal, Gregoire led the effort to recoup $97.5 million lost by the Washingtonians in Enron bonds and she investigated Enron and other companies engaged in illegal business practices in the Western power market. Gregoire ran for Governor in 2004 and served two terms before retiring.
Rob McKenna (AG from 2005-2012). McKenna, a Republican, is an Eagle Scout and was student body president at the University of Washington. He went to law school at the University of Chicago where he was on the law review. Afterward, McKenna entered private practice until 1995 when he was elected to the Metropolitan King County Council. He served two terms as Attorney General, from 2005-2013. While in office, he successfully argued three cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, and negotiated three of the largest consumer protection settlements in national history, all involving mortgage lending and servicing. He was an active leader in the National Association of Attorneys General and served as 2011-12 President. McKenna was the Republican nominee for Governor in 2012. He returned to private practice as a Partner with Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe in Seattle. He is the proud father of four grown children.
Bob Ferguson (AG from 2013 - Present). Ferguson was elected as Washington’s 18th Attorney General in November 2012. Ferguson is a fourth-generation Washingtonian.