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Print Print Belle Reeves Photo courtesy of
The Washington State Archives

Belle Reeves
First Secretary of State
1938-1948

“She was one of the most highly respected
public officials ever to hold office in this state.”


- Washington 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 affairs.

“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.

  • Born on an Ohio farm, Reeves moved to Washington and made history as a pioneer newspaper publisher.
  • In 1938, Washington Governor Clarence Martin named the ever-conscientious Reeves Secretary of State.
  • Billed the "Sweetheart of Washington," Reeves dedicated more than a quarter-century to public service and recruited other women candidates.
  • The Secretary was memorialized by the first - and to date only - State Funeral in the House Chamber on January 5, 1948.