OLYMPIA — The late former state senator Sid Snyder received a fitting tribute Wednesday during the official unveiling of his new biography, aptly titled, “Across the Aisles,” which drew more than 100 people from both political parties and all walks of life, including a few oyster and crab fishermen.
Snyder, who died last October at the age of 86, never saw more than the completed first chapter of the book, says author Jeff Burlingame, a former Daily World staffer.
“He died Oct. 14 and just two days after that I hoped to return with the finished product,” Burlingame said. “I regret not being able to share the book’s final product with him but feel comfort that he didn’t need to hear it because he helped create it.”
Burlingame wrote the book, which was edited by former Daily World publisher John Hughes, as a joint project of the Legacy Project in the Office of Secretary of State and the Legislative Oral History Project.
Hughes said he chose Burlingame, the national NAACP Image Award-winning author with more than 20 other books under his belt, because he had a clear understanding of Snyder and the region.
The unveiling was done inside the Legislative Building at the Capitol, where Snyder first got a job as an elevator operator in 1949, became secretary of the Senate in 1969 and served in the state Senate for 12 years, retiring in 2002 as Democratic Senate Majority Leader.
“Sid was a self-made man who personified public service and whenever I walk through these halls I feel privileged,” Hughes said. “I remember how much Sid adored this building and the majestic highlights and often times as he would walk out of the building, he would touch a marble column. It really symbolizes how he felt about public service and he told me in one of our last conversations that, ‘From the first day here in the elevator to my last day as a senator I never lost my awe for this institution.’ …
“It’s like he’s still here,” Hughes added. “You expect to turn a corner, hear his voice, see his smile, that mischievous smile, and he really leaps out of the pages in this important book.”
Burlingame said he titled the book “Across the Aisles: Sid Snyder’s Remarkable Life in Groceries & Government” because it was fitting for both of Snyder’s careers.
“There was the hard working businessman who bought his first store in 1953, founded his first bank branch in 1969 and invested in real estate and other industries to become a self-made millionaire,” Burlingame said. “And then there was the political Sid, who came to the Capitol for a low-level patronage job as an elevator operator in 1949 and steadily rose through the ranks to become majority leader of the senate in the 1990s and eventually became the national legislator of the year in 2002. But personally, there was only one Sid Snyder. And that’s the one I spent most of last year getting to know. The gentleman legislator. The governor of Southwest Washington or, as one newspaper put it and Sid had no problem with it, by the way, ‘the portly grocer.’ ‘Nobody likes a skinny grocer,’ Sid always said.”
Snyder’s widow, Bette, is well known for the humorous poems she has written over the decades of Snyder’s service.
“Instead of a reading of ‘The Perfect Wife’ or ‘The Perfect Husband,’ I’m going to read this one called, ‘Can this marriage be saved?’” Bette said before unleashing, a gut-busting poem of the antics her late husband put her through when he had hip replacement surgery.
“Doctor Kevorkian dominated my thoughts,” she read. “His ministrations I nearly sought. At one point when things got grim, Prozac was prescribed for me, not him.”
She received a standing ovation from the crowd, which included former Republican Gov. Dan Evans and a who’s who of legislators.
Marty Brown, a one-time secretary of the Senate, who went on to work for then-governors Gary Locke and Chris Gregoire, boasted, “If I asked all the members of the Senate to stand up, we’d probably have a quorum.”
“I’m sorry Dad can’t be here, but in a way, that’s OK,” said Sid Snyder Jr. “Dad was a humble person and a little uncomfortable when receiving accolades. …
“This book is not destined to be a best seller and, like most books, fewer and fewer people will glance at its pages,” Snyder’s son added. “But for those who do come across the book, there’s a wonderful lesson to be learned. It’s not so much my dad’s personal story, as such; rather, in my view, there’s something bigger here. The book illustrates beautifully how one person with honest, integrity and purpose and determination and an unselfish person of uncommon courtesy and civility, a person of great generosity good will and good deeds can so positively impact a community and beyond. That’s Dad’s story. That’s his legacy and through this book, a shining example of how one person can live a fulfilled life that touches so many others for generations.”
State Sen. Jim Hargrove, D-Hoquiam, said Snyder was “an absolute legend.”
“The thing that means the most to me, and I hope to his family, too, is that Sid finished well,” Hargrove said. “There were no stains, there were no faults, no political strategies. There were no deals broken. There was nothing that people can look back on and say, ‘Well, he was here a long time. He got a lot done, BUT.’ Sid finished very well and we miss him a lot. … Bette, thank you very much for letting Sid be part of our lives.”
State Sen. Brian Hatfield, D-Raymond, now holds the 19th District Senate seat, and worked with Snyder as a staffer.
“Trying to succeed Sid Snyder is impossible,” Hatfield said. “We can’t fill even one of those shoes. …
“Whether you were a staffer or a colleague, Sid treated everyone the same,” he added. “It didn’t matter if you were an intern serving your first week in the session or a janitor or a governor or head of state. … People would criticize me sometimes. They would say, ‘Well, he’s just Sid’s boy.’ And I would say, ‘Yeah, you’re damn right.’ Sine die, good friend.”
The book is available for purchase for $25 in the State Seal store, located in the Office of Secretary of State on the second floor of the Legislative Building in Olympia and online. It will be available to purchase at Amazon.com next week. It was printed with private funds. A free electronic version is available online at http://www.sos.wa.gov/legacyproject/oralhistories/sidsnyder/