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Jesse “Big Daddy” Unruh Knew How to Run a State


Aired 4/20/09

Maureen Cavanaugh : When you hear about a politician with the nickname "big daddy," you may picture a cigar-chewing Southerner, or a glad-handing member of the Chicago political machine.  But not somebody from progressive, sunny California.

Well, then you (and I) have a lot to learn about one of the most influential and powerful politicians the state of California has ever produced - Big Daddy, Jesse Unruh.

In the middle of the last century, Unruh was arguably the most powerful member of the California Assembly, especially during his eight  years as assembly speaker.  And he was also a major player in the National Democratic Party supporting Robert Kennedy's campaign for the presidency.


  • Bill Boyarsky , author of "Big Daddy: Jesse Unruh and the Art of Power Politics," is a lecturer at the Annenberg School for Communications at USC and was a columnist and editor for 30 years with the Los Angeles Times.

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