Bullitt Family, The

  • By David Wilma
  • Posted 12/30/2004
  • HistoryLink.org Essay 7184

The family of KING Broadcasting founder Dorothy Stimson Bullitt (Seattle’s First Citizen for 1959) continued her tradition of community service and philanthropy and each has distinguished him- or herself both in community service and in philanthropy. Family members include Charles Stimson “Stim” Bullitt (1919-2009), Harriet Overton Bullitt (1924-2022), Priscilla “Patsy” Bullitt Collins (1920-2003), Katharine “Kay” Muller Bullitt (1925-2021), and Dorothy C. Bullitt (b. 1955). The Seattle-King County Association of Realtors named the Bullitt Family as its First Citizen for 2000.

Charles Stimson "Stim" Bullitt

Charles Stimson “Stim” Bullitt was the first child of A. Scott Bullitt (1877-1932)  and Dorothy Stimson Bullitt. He grew up in The Highlands, north of Seattle, and was educated at Yale and the University of Washington School of Law. During World War II, he served in the U.S. Navy as a Lieutenant (junior grade) and he received a Purple Heart for a shrapnel wound at Leyte in the Philippine Islands.

Bullitt followed in his father’s footsteps and became active in Democratic politics. In 1961, he became president of King Broadcasting Company. He led the company, in particular KING-TV in Seattle, through the turbulent 1960s. In 1966, he took the almost unprecedented step of publicly criticizing U.S. foreign policy and the war in Vietnam. He also expanded the company to include Seattle magazine and a variety of other business activities.

While with King Broadcasting, Bullitt became interested in revitalizing downtown Seattle. He wanted to make the run-down core an attractive place to live again. He gradually acquired depressed properties along 1st Avenue with a view to redeveloping them as combined residential and commercial buildings. Stimson’s Harbor Properties eventually constructed more than 1,300 residences, including affordable housing, extended-stay and multifamily units, and the signature Harbor Steps, which connect 1st Avenue with the waterfront. As a lawyer, Bullitt was known for his work on behalf of human rights and environmental causes. He wrotethree books, including To Be a Politician (1959) about politics, and River Dark and Bright: A Memoir (1995).

Harriet Overton Bullitt

Harriet Overton Bullitt is Scott and Dorothy Bullitt’s youngest child. She founded Pacific Search magazine (later Pacific Northwest) and ran it for 25 years. In the 1990s, she started Sleeping Lady Conference and Retreat Center near Leavenworth, and a radio broadcasting company with stations in Chelan and Leavenworth. In addition to being associated with numerous conservation causes, she serves on several boards, including the Bullitt Foundation, Icicle Creek Music Center, and the National Audubon Society.

Priscilla "Patsy" Bullitt Collins

Priscilla “Patsy” Bullitt Collins was Scott and Dorothy Bullitt’s middle daughter. As soon as she reached the age of 21, she exercised control of her own affairs by writing a check for $1,000 to Children’s Orthopedic Hospital (later Children’s Hospital and Regional Medical Center).

During World War II, she worked for the American Red Cross and served overseas in the Philippines and in Japan. Her tour in Japan took her through the remains of Hiroshima, which helped solidify her liberal and antiwar views. Known for “adding zest” to every project she touched, Patsy has an extensive record of civic involvement. Beneficiaries of her efforts include several historic landmarks, low-income housing projects, classical music, various conservation endeavors, the Garden of Remembrance at Benaroya Hall, and the YMCA.

When she heard in 1986 that her grandparents’ former home on First Hill, the Stimson-Green Mansion, was to be converted to law offices, she bought it. She wanted to preserve the 10,000-square-foot house, in memory of her mother, but also to preserve some of Seattle’s architectural heritage. Collins started a catering company to maintain the house and to use it as a venue for celebrations.

When Dorothy Bullitt died in 1989, Patsy and Harriett inherited King Broadcasting. They sold the business in 1991 and together with their brother Stim, contributed millions of dollars toward the Bullitt Foundation’s $100 million endowment, which benefits environmental and educational causes. She gave $3 million to the Seattle Public Library Foundation, $1 million to the Puget Sound Environmental Learning Center on Bainbridge Island (now known as IslandWood), $800,000 to the Cascades Conservation Partnership to preserve a four-mile stretch of shoreline along the Yakima River, and $240,000 to help build schools in Afghanistan and Iraq. Patsy Collins died in 2003.

Katharine "Kay" Muller Bullitt

Katharine “Kay” Muller Bullitt (Harvard, Phi Beta Kappa, ‘46) was married to Stimson Bullitt, and for more than four decades she devoted her time and resources to organizations involved in international relations, education, civil rights, historic preservation, arts, health and social services, the environment, and politics. Kay founded Private Initiatives in Public Education (PIPE) and chaired the Bedouin Early Education Project. When Seattle’s school system was struggling to desegregate in the 1970s, she helped organize the Coalition for Quality Integrated Education. She died in 2021 at age 96.

Dorothy C. Bullitt

Dorothy C. Bullitt (B.A., M.B.A. University of Washington, J.D. Boston University) is the daughter of Stimson Bullitt and Katharine Muller Bullitt. She is a lawyer and author of two best selling books, Filling the Void: Six Steps from Loss to Fulfillment and (with Jim Wickwire) Addicted to Danger: a Memoir. She serves as executive director of Habitat for Humanity for Seattle/South King County. Dorothy is a committed citizen active on numerous civic, charitable, business, and academic boards.

She chaired Washington State’s Rhodes Scholar Selection Committee, and Washington’s Public Lands Advisory Committee, and she conceived and chaired the High Point UNITY Project. In 2001, she served as president of the Rotary Club of Seattle, the world’s largest Rotary Club. In 2004, she served as treasurer of the Washington State Convention and Trade Center


Delphine Haley, Dorothy Stimson Bullitt: An Uncommon Life (Seattle: Sasquatch Books, 1995); O. Casey Corr, KING: The Bullitts of Seattle and Their Communications Empire (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1996); Daniel Jack Chasan, On the Air: The King Broadcasting Story (Anacortes, WA: Island Publishers, 1996); Vanessa Ho, “Rare Appearance for Core Seattleite,” Seattle Post-Intelligencer, June 22, 2004, p. B-1; HistoryLink.org Online Encyclopedia of Washington State History, “Priscilla ‘Patsy’ Bullitt Collins,” (by Cassandra Tate), http://www.historylink.org/ (accessed November 3, 2004); Theresa Morrow, “Harriet Stimson Bullitt and Patsy Collins Bullitt,” The Seattle Times, November 11, 1990, p. 10; Jack Broom, "Stimson Bullitt, Former President of King Broadcasting, Dead at 89, The Seattle Times, April 20, 2009: additional information from the Bullitt family.
Note: This essay was updated on April 20, 2009.

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