Glyn Chandler (1926-1990) was 20 when he and his new bride relocated from Arkansas to Wenatchee and Chandler began a successful business career. Twelve years later he and his growing family moved to Moses Lake. In 1982 Chandler was recruited to run for the state House of Representatives. Elected in November of that year, he served his Columbia Basin constituents for eight years, advocating for the agriculture industries, the Port of Moses Lake, education, veteran's affairs, water rights, and banking and insurance reforms. "He was a very kind, decent, honest man who served his state well," said Governor Booth Gardner upon Chandler's death in 1990.
From the Tiny Town of Tulip
Glyn Dewayne Chandler was born in tiny Tulip, Arkansas, on March 29, 1926, to Minnie Belle Chandler and Noah Carr Chandler. Pottery and ceramic manufacturing were the primary industries of the area, which had never fully recovered from the effects of the Civil War -- many of Tulip's finest were killed in battle.
Glyn was the eighth in birth order of 12 Chandler children born in Arkansas. By the time he had entered high school, the family had relocated to Bauxite, Arkansas, about 20 miles west of Little Rock. Chandler’s public education was interrupted during spring break of his sophomore year when he enlisted in the Army at Little Rock. He attended 16 weeks of basic training, earning the expert infantryman’s badge. The Army assigned him to the 65th Armored Infantry Battalion upon arriving in France, where Chandler was made a tank driver because he was colorblind; U.S. Army tank commanders had come to learn that colorblind soldiers could easily discern the presence of German camouflage, thus giving away their hidden positions.
Chandler was wounded in combat three times. Once recovered, he drove trucks in a transportation battalion, and after the war with Germany ended, he was promoted to a dispatcher position. He sailed for home on January 3, 1946, arriving stateside two weeks later. In May 1946, Chandler received an honorable discharge and was awarded a combat-infantry badge and good-conduct medal, along with the usual overseas and combat-service medals.
The Chandlers in Washington
A short time after returning home, Chandler married his high school sweetheart, M. Frances "Fran" Talbert, on June 20, 1946, and the newlyweds relocated from Arkansas to Wenatchee. Both the bride and groom had sisters who had moved there during the war. While in Wenatchee, the Chandlers worked as fruit packers. The couple’s first home was a migrant farmworkers shack on Horan Ranch. Chandler recalled that he could stoke the fire in the wood-burning range on cold winter nights without having to leave the comfort of their bed. Eventually, Fran and Glyn scraped together enough money to purchase a modest home with a small orchard. They began selling their fruit to the packing houses where Fran worked.
Taking advantage of his GI Bill benefits, Chandler finished his high school equivalency while attending night school at the Kinman Business College in Wenatchee. Based in Spokane, Kinman Business College taught accounting and business-management classes, providing practical skills as Chandler began developing his Columbia Basin enterprises. While completing his studies, he took a job with Spinner's Trucking, driving dynamite for the building of Rocky Reach Dam. This type of activity did not seem dangerous to a veteran tank driver, but when Frances Chandler learned of the nature of his cargo, his truck-driving career abruptly ended.
It was fortuitous, as Chandler found work at Valley Tractor as an implement salesman. It was here that he began to hit his stride, applying his schooling in business management. A group of Valley Tractor employees formed an association, pooled their resources, and began purchasing farm-implement dealership franchises throughout Eastern Washington. With his savings, Chandler bought two franchises, one in Quincy, the other in Moses Lake. He and Fran sold their orchard, packed up and moved to Moses Lake. In 1958 they opened Grant County Tractor, D & M Leasing Company, and an auto-parts store. The family soon grew with five new additions. After son Bobby came siblings Gary, Debbie, Gregg, and David, all born in Moses Lake. In their spare time, the Chandlers planted another apple orchard. They also grew corn and hay, and ranched 800 head of cattle.
Civics and Politics
The Chandlers were prominent in civic and social organizations in Grant County. Chandler served as a deacon and Sunday School teacher at the First Baptist Church of Moses Lake. As with many politicians, Chandler's first foray into the political arena was with the PTSA of the Moses Lake School District, where he was appointed president of the organization. With his experience in education, he helped charter the Moses Lake Christian Academy. His other civic engagements included the Chamber of Commerce and the Columbia Basin Development League.
When asked how he became a State Representative, Chandler, with his Arkansas accent, drawled, "I was volunteered" ("Chandlers Carve Out Moses Lake Political Dynasty"). His youngest son, Dave Chandler, was working on Congressman Sid Morrison's campaign and recommended his father as a candidate for the State House of Representatives during a statewide GOP conference. Representative Sid Flannigan of Quincy had vacated his house position in a failed attempt to unseat Democratic State Senator Frank "Tub" Hansen. The announcement that Chandler was running for Flannigan's vacated position was made public in the Columbia Basin Herald on July 22, 1982.
Elected to the Legislature in November 1982, Chandler initially served on the Health Care and Agriculture committees. Later, he became the ranking Republican on the Financial Institutions and Insurance committees. Chandler was a free-enterprise Republican who sought ways to decentralize government. He also sought legislation to protect Washington farmers and ranchers from unscrupulous and predatory lending practices.
Chandler was the junior representative from the 13th District behind veteran lawmaker and Republican Curt Smith of Ephrata. Hansen, an influential Democrat from May Valley, held the district's senate seat. Hansen knew he could count on Chandler to vote for bills that mattered most to their constituency in the 13th District despite their ideological differences. This cooperation was especially true for bills affecting the agriculture industry, the Port of Moses Lake, Central Washington University, K-12 education, the formation of Big Bend Community College, Veteran’s affairs, water rights, and banking and insurance reforms.
Eventually, sons Gary and Dave Chandler would serve in elected positions concurrently with Glyn’s tenure in the legislature. Gary served as a Grant County Commissioner, and Dave as a Moses Lake City Councilmember. James "Big Jim" Amdahl, general manager of KSEM Broadcasting, recognized the dynamic nature of the Chandlers and their impact in government, by tagging the trio "The Kennedys of the Columbia Basin." Amdahl was not the only one to notice the Chandlers' powerful influence in the region. Reporter Roy Neese of the Columbia Basin Herald summarized, "Dave can take the city’s problems to Gary, Gary can take the county’s problems to Glyn, and Glyn can take all the problems to Olympia" ("Chandlers Carve Out Moses Lake Political Dynasty").
Glyn Chandler's most memorable political challenger was Democrat Jim Curdy, a farmer and orchardist from Mattawa. While running for office in 1982, Curdy sported an array of flashy neckties accented with a colorful beanie topped with a propeller that spun in the wind. He was a fixture at parades, political rallies, and county fairs from Yakima to Othello, where he mugged cameras for photo opportunities. Despite his colorful character, Curdy insisted that he was a serious candidate. The ballot count testified to his seriousness: Chandler won a tight race decided by absentee votes a week after election day.
Ellensburg farmer Martin Pedersen was the next to take Chandler to task, in 1984. Chandler had upset farmers in Kittitas County during his first week in office by stating that Kittitas agriculture lagged behind most other regions in the state. A former State Game Commissioner, Pedersen out-polled Chandler in Kittitas County by a sizable margin but failed to unite voters in Adams, Grant, or Yakima counties.
Steven Frazier, a Democrat from Moses Lake, was a 1986 challenger to Chandler’s incumbency. Frazier opposed Chandler because he felt Chandler was soft on the issue of hauling Seattle garbage to a proposed landfill at Vantage. "Frazier said he is running on the platform of 'conservation, conservation, and conservation'" ("Frazier and Chandler ..."). On election night, voters found Frazier a bit one-note on the issues and handed the election to Chandler in a landslide.
Mollie Buche, a Democrat from Moses Lake, was the 1988 challenger. Buche was spurred to run against Chandler after Chandler said the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services should be streamlined and less bureaucratic. Buche was an avid union supporter who owned and operated a small farm. Unlike Frazier before her, Buche put up a dogged fight. She tallied nearly double the votes garnered by Frazier two years earlier but still fell short.
In the late 1980s, Chandler became an ardent supporter of a cross-state high-speed rail corridor. He envisioned linking Sea-Tac International Airport with Spokane by utilizing the former Milwaukee Road right-of-way through Snoqualmie Pass and the I-90 median. In his plan, he saw the underutilized capacity of Larson Air Force Base at the Port of Moses Lake as a thoroughly modern, automated freight wayport. In Chandler’s proposal, all air cargo from Sea-Tac would be rerouted to the centrally located Port of Moses Lake. Here, the Port would have a large cargo-sorting facility that would move air cargoes onto semitrucks and high-speed trains for distribution to all parts of the state.
Chandler’s wayport idea was based loosely on the Federal Express model, albeit on a much smaller scale. The proposal was worthy of consideration by factions of both parties and on both sides of the Cascade Range. As proposed, the implemented plan would have reduced flight congestion at Sea-Tac by nearly 25 percent while systematically lowering the number of semitrucks significantly affecting the I-5 corridor.
The 1990 Legislative session opened in January. Chandler worked night and day advocating for his freight-capacity plan. But six weeks into the session, he fell ill from exhaustion. His immune system had been compromised by underlying medical conditions, including throat cancer and heart disease. Doctors were confident these issues had been brought under control with chemotherapy and heart medication, but Chandler died on February 28, 1990, at St. Peter's Hospital in Olympia from symptoms of pneumonia. He and Fran had enjoyed 44 years of marriage.
Memorials from Colleagues
Hours before his death, members of the Republican Caucus and other well-wishers arrived at his bedside to read a proclamation made in his honor by the Chief Clerk of the House, Alan Thompson. Chandler whispered, "Thank you," and expired several hours later. Despite their ideological differences, Hansen, fighting back tears, remembered Chandler fondly by saying, "He was a true friend" ("Basin and State Mourns ..."). Senior Representative Curt Smith remarked from the floor of the house chamber the following day, "He was dedicated to the point that, I felt, it was injurious to his health." When asked to provide comment for the public, Governor Booth Gardner, a Democrat, said, "Tell them the truth. He was a very kind, decent, honest man who served his state well" ("Basin and State Mourns ..."). Gardner later signed legislation that included a $500,000 statewide study based upon the Chandler plan. The house passed resolution 90-4761 honoring Chandler, and flags were ordered to half-staff.
Republican House Communications Officer Cindy Hough lamented that Washington had lost "a well-respected and much-loved" representative ("Rep. Glyn Chandler Obituary"). Glyn Chandler was interred at Pioneer Memorial Garden in Moses Lake. His son, Grant County Commissioner Gary Chandler, vacated his county post to fill his father’s house position, running successfully for the office the following November.