Diane Watson

Diane Watson
Diane Watson Congressional portrait 2007.jpg
Member of the
U.S. House of Representatives
from California
In office
June 5, 2001 – January 3, 2011
Preceded byJulian Dixon
Succeeded byKaren Bass
Constituency32nd district (2001–03)
33rd district (2003–11)
United States Ambassador to Micronesia
In office
Preceded byMarch Fong Eu
Succeeded byLarry Miles Dinger
Member of the
California Senate
In office
December 4, 1978 – December 3, 1990
Preceded byNate Holden
Succeeded byRalph C. Dills
Constituency30th district (1978–82)
28th district (1982–90)
In office
December 5, 1994 – December 7, 1998
Preceded byCharles Calderon
Succeeded byKevin Murray
Constituency26th district
Personal details
Born (1933-11-12) November 12, 1933 (age 86)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
ResidenceMalibu, California
Alma materCalifornia State University, Los Angeles
Claremont Graduate University
University of California, Los Angeles
OccupationCollege administrator
CommitteesHouse Foreign Affairs Committee
House Oversight and Government Reform Committee

Diane Edith Watson (born November 12, 1933) is a former US Representative for California's 33rd congressional district, serving from 2003 until 2011. She is a member of the Democratic Party. The district is located entirely in Los Angeles County and includes much of Central Los Angeles, as well as such wealthy neighborhoods as Los Feliz.

A native of Los Angeles, Watson is a graduate of the University of California, Los Angeles, and also holds degrees from California State University, Los Angeles and Claremont Graduate University. She worked as a psychologist, professor, and health occupation specialist before serving as a member of the Los Angeles Unified School Board (1975–78). She was a member of the California Senate from 1978 to 1998, and the US Ambassador to Micronesia from 1999 to 2000.

Watson was elected to Congress in a 2001 special election to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Representative Julian C. Dixon. She was re-elected four times, but retired after the end of the 111th Congress.

Early life, education and career[edit]

Earlier photo of Watson

Born in Los Angeles, California, Watson was raised Catholic.[1] According to a DNA analysis, some of her ancestors were from the Central African Republic.[2] She was educated at Dorsey High School, Los Angeles City College and the University of California, Los Angeles, where she earned her BA in Education (1956). Watson became a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha.

She earned an MS from California State University, Los Angeles in School Psychology (1967) and a PhD in Educational Administration from Claremont Graduate University in 1987. She also attended the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. Watson taught elementary school and was a school psychologist in the Los Angeles public schools. She has lectured at California State University, Long Beach and California State University, Los Angeles. She was a health occupation specialist with the California Department of Education's Bureau of Industrial Education.

Watson was elected to the California State Senate from 1978 to 1998. The longtime chair of the Health and Human Services Committee, she gained a reputation as an advocate for health care for the poor and children. Term limited, she was replaced by Kevin Murray.

When, in 1988, the US government proposed the addition of the category of "bi-racial" or "multiracial" to official documents and statistics, some African American organizations and African American leaders such as Watson and Representative Augustus Hawkins were particularly vocal in their rejection and opposition of the category. They feared massive defection from the African American self-designation.

In 1992, Watson ran for the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors. After a hard-fought campaign that often turned negative, Watson narrowly lost to former Supervisor Yvonne Burke, who was supported by US Representative Maxine Waters.

President Bill Clinton appointed her United States Ambassador to Micronesia in 1999.

U.S. House of Representatives[edit]

Committee assignments[edit]


  • Chair of the Congressional Entertainment Industries Caucus
  • Co-chair of the Congressional Korea Caucus
  • Co-chair of the U.S.-UK Caucus
  • Congressional Black Caucus

Congresswoman Watson supported withdrawal of US troops from Iraq,[3] opposed media consolidation,[4] supported expanding welfare coverage,[5] and opposed President Bush's proposal to privatize Social Security.[6] Watson opposed the Bush tax cuts, saying they were unaffordable.

She was one of the 31 members of the House who voted not to count the electoral votes from Ohio in the 2004 United States presidential election.[7]

In 2006, the National Journal ranked Watson as the most liberal member of Congress.[8]

On the issue of Cherokee Freedmen membership in the Cherokee tribe, Watson noted that 20,000 Cherokee lived in California. She opposed the Cherokee Nation's March 2007 vote to amend its constitution to limit membership to only those descendants with at least one Indian ancestor on the Dawes Roll. She noted that when freedmen were granted citizenship in the tribe in 1866 by a treaty which the Cherokees made with the US government, it was without restriction to those freedmen with Indian ancestry. Appeals to the Cherokee Nation's position were pending, in part because the tribe excluded descendants of Cherokee freedmen and intermarried whites from voting on the amendment. In June 2007 Watson introduced a bill to sever US relations with the tribe and revoke its gaming privileges unless the Cherokee restored membership in the tribe to descendants of Cherokee freedmen.[9]

Political campaigns[edit]

In the 2008 Democratic primary, Watson's district went overwhelmingly for Illinois Senator Barack Obama by a margin of 61-29. As a superdelegate, Watson continued to support New York Senator Hillary Clinton.

Watson defeated her challengers in the California June 3 primary, and defeated Republican David Crowley in the November 4, 2008, election.

See also[edit]


External links[edit]

U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
Julian C. Dixon
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from California's 32nd congressional district

Succeeded by
Hilda Solis
Preceded by
Lucille Roybal-Allard
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from California's 33rd congressional district

Succeeded by
Karen Bass
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Cheryl A. Martin, Charge d'Affaires, a.i.
U.S. Ambassador to Micronesia
Succeeded by
Larry Miles Dinger