Dawn Lucien – the Grand Dame of Tacoma

By Morf Morford
Tacoma Daily Index

Photo by Morf Morford

Photo by Morf Morford

Many of us have mixed feelings about Tacoma. Dawn Lucien was not one of those people. In spite of Tacoma’s bumps and bruises, all-too-public scandals and lingering reputation as an industrial waste “armpit of the northwest,” Dawn was an unfailing advocate, if not cheerleader, of what she called “the gem of the universe.”

1977 was the year she began working with Congressman Norm Dicks in his Tacoma office. But she caught the political bug much earlier as a 22-year-old delegate for Harry Truman at the Democratic convention in 1948. She carried her community activism to the very end by working with and hosting strategy sessions for Jim Merritt’s campaign for mayor.

In the 1970s and early ’80, she and others who held an emerging vision of Tacoma, took on a wealth of problems that seemed to defy resolution. Tacoma was a grim place in the late 1970s (Check out this “walking tour” of Tacoma in 1979 – http://www.cysewski.com/seattleweb/tacoma/), but Dawn Lucien not only did not give up, she saw opportunity where others only saw only emptiness and abandonment.

Her legacy includes leadership of the successful efforts to resolve a long-standing property dispute between the Puyallup Tribe, the City of Tacoma and the Port of Tacoma, establish the University of Washington Tacoma campus, modernize our theaters into a thriving Broadway Center for the Performing Arts and burgeoning theater district, convert Union Station into a beautiful and memorable federal courthouse, and save the Murray Morgan Bridge, among many other accomplishments.

Dawn’s deep knowledge – and even deeper love – of Tacoma and her ability to bring people together for a cause had enormous impact on initiatives in government, arts, education, and the environment.  She was awarded the Greater Tacoma Peace Prize in 2014 (http://tacomapeaceprize.org/wordpress1/2017/07/26/lucien-remembered-as-treasured-friend-and-advocate-for-peace/).

She defined herself as a “community activist” and was fully aware that she didn’t do anything by herself – her firmest belief was not in the “destiny” but in the people of Tacoma. She believed that everyone in Tacoma could do great things.

She had no tolerance for negativity or for those who would say that something could not be done. She would find advocates and get things moving. She ran for office in Tacoma multiple times and served in official (and unofficial) settings for many years.

Her strategy was to have five projects in motion at any given time. She left two goals unfinished; the renaming of Mount Rainier to its original name of Mount Tacoma and the establishment of Tacoma as “the conflict resolution center of the world.”

I only met her a few times, and I have to say that she was certainly one of the most gracious and welcoming people I have ever met.