Born: Sept. 30, 1922
Died: Aug. 4, 1987
Known for: Called "one of California's most influential public officials in the 20th century," Jesse Unruh served as Assembly speaker from 1961 to 1969 and state treasurer from 1975 until his death.
Background: A Kansas native, Unruh hitchhiked to California as a teenager. After serving in the Navy during World War II, Unruh enrolled at the University of Southern California. While still a student, he ran unsuccessfully for the Assembly in 1948. After graduating, he established himself as a grass-roots leader in the Democratic Party. On his third try, in 1954, Unruh won a legislative seat and quickly worked his way up through the ranks. In 1966, Unruh was a key architect of Proposition 1-A, creating the state's full-time Legislature. He unsuccessfully ran for governor against Ronald Reagan in 1970 and for mayor of Los Angeles in 1973.
Highlights: Unruh wrote California's landmark Civil Rights Act and a host of consumer protection, civil liberties and anti-poverty laws. He also turned the obscure state treasurer's office into an investment powerhouse with clout in both the state and nation.
In History's Spotlight profiles of Sacramento newsmakers were published originally in 2007 to commemorate the 150th anniversary of The Sacramento Bee. They were written by Anthony Sorci. Look for them every Sunday in Sac History Happenings.