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Former Washington governor John D. Spellman dies at 91

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SEATTLE -- John D. Spellman, Washington's 18th governor, and the first King County executive has died at age 91.

A spokesman for Gov. Jay Inslee said Spellman died Monday night.

“Gov. John Spellman was one of the nicest people in public life I’ve ever met," Gov. Jay Inslee said in a statement. "Trudi and I send our deepest condolences to the Spellman family, many of whom we had the chance to get to know over the last few years."

“John took office during a time of great economic uncertainty, and he laid the groundwork for our ongoing effort to protect Puget Sound from oil spills and preserve the natural beauty of our state. During his time as King County executive, he was instrumental in bringing professional baseball and football to Seattle," Inslee added.

Spellman was elected governor in 1980 amid nationwide gains for his fellow Republicans, including Ronald Reagan's victory over incumbent President Jimmy Carter.

Spellman served a single term and remains the last Republican to hold the state's top office. His actions as governor included blocking attempts to put an oil pipeline under Puget Sound.

Spellman served as King County executive from 1969 to 1981. Spellman helped put Seattle on the big-time sports map with the creation of the Kingdome.

"John was a true statesman and a deeply spiritual man who promoted racial equality and environmentalism, and persevered at every turn to build the Kingdome," Secretary of State Kim Wyman said in a statement.

“Personally, I greatly admired Governor Spellman for his integrity, his vision and his tireless dedication to the people of Washington. Our thoughts and prayers remain with his family during this difficult time.”