Photo courtesy of
The Washington State Archives
First Secretary of State
“She was one of the most highly respected
public officials ever to hold office in this state.”
Governor Monrad C.
Wallgren on the life of Belle Reeves.
Just five feet tall, Secretary of State Belle Reeves typically sat next to her grandchildren
in a black Buick Road Master. Reeves couldn’t drive. Her relatives, often grandchildren
with a penchant for speeding, took the wheel, shuttling their grandmother to government
“My dear! We are lawmakers, not lawbreakers,” she’d declare if the car picked up
too much speed.
The coal black hair of her younger years and deep blue eyes set off a powerful contrast.
Reeves’ husband Frank endearingly called her “the most beautiful woman in the state
of Washington.” The traditional portraits don’t do her justice, add her family.
In the 1880s near Quincy, Ohio, you could find a young Belle Culp in a classic little
red schoolhouse. She was raised on a nearby farm and eventually moved with her family
to Kansas where she attended a teacher’s college. Reeves met husband Frank and the
two eloped. They moved to the Coeur d’Alene, Idaho mines but “lost their shirts”
and packed their bags for Eastern Washington where they started some of the first
newspapers in Ellensburg, Wenatchee, and Leavenworth.
When the couple moved to Wenatchee, Frank Reeves began a law practice and started
Wenatchee’s first firm, Reeves & Reeves. Belle immersed herself in the community.
Belle Reeves’ illustrious career as a Washington lawmaker began in the State House
in 1922. The Democrat earned a favorable reputation as a beloved elected official,
known for her gentle approach, her integrity, and her values. Her family calls her
a force in education and the state park system.
Governor Clarence Martin appointed Reeves Secretary of State in 1938. She was elected
to the post in 1940. In 1944, she returned to the office by voter mandate, “the
largest vote ever cast for a candidate” in the state, reported The New York Times.
In 1948, Belle Reeves was memorialized in the first—and the only– State Funeral
in the House Chamber.