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35th Governor of
California, January 3, 1983 - January 7, 1991

Born:  June 6, 1928, in Menands, New York

Marriage:  Gloria Saatjian (1957), 2 daughters, 1 son


California’s 35th governor, named Courken George Deukmejian, Jr. at birth, stopped using his first name when he was a student. Later he was nicknamed “Duke” by his friends at Siena College.


Early Life

George Deukmejian was the son of Armenian refugees who settled in New York. George attended Siena College, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in sociology in 1949 while working at a variety of part-time jobs. He graduated from St. John’s University Law School in 1952, and then spent three years in the U.S. Army during the conflict in Korea.



Accepted to the bar in both New York and California, Deukmejian began to practice law in Long Beach in 1955. His political career began there also, as deputy county counsel in Los Angeles. In 1963 he was elected to the State Assembly where he served one term, followed by three terms as State senator. His anti-crime program included the “Use a Gun, Go to Prison” act, which he authored, as well as the death penalty initiative.

In 1978 Deukmejian became attorney general of California, where he continued his emphasis on “law and order” and stopping crime. When he ran for governor in the 1982 election with Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley as his opponent, he was supported by conservatives.



A depleted state budget led to big cuts in education and medical aid at the beginning of Deukmejian’s term as governor. As the economy improved, so did the governor’s popularity. Educational funding, however, remained an issue between Deukmejian and Superintendent of Public Instruction Bill Honig.

During Deukmejian’s time in office, the state lottery was created (1985) and the Olympic Games were held in Los Angeles (1984).


Later Years

After his second term as governor, Deukmejian moved to Los Angeles where he became a partner in a law firm. In 1997 Deukmejian Way, a street on the campus of California State University, Long Beach, was named for the former governor in recognition of his support of construction projects there.


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