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Obituaries

Chester B. 'Chet' Wray, 82; Former O.C. Assemblyman, Union Leader

January 31, 2006|Jean Pasco | Times Staff Writer

Chester B. "Chet" Wray, who represented Orange County in the Assembly from 1976 to 1982, has died. He was 82.

Wray died Dec. 28 at his home in Rocklin, near Sacramento, said his wife of four years, Cleo. He had suffered from Parkinson's disease.

A self-described "good-ol' boy," Wray ran for the 71st Assembly District in northern Orange County in 1976 after serving as president of the United Auto Workers union local in South Gate.

"He was pretty much a blue-collar worker, one of the last of a dying breed," said John Pope, a former staff member and past chairman of the Orange County Democratic Party. "He had always been involved as a union president in lobbying people on issues important to auto workers, so it was a natural transition."

As co-chairman of the Assembly Transportation Committee, Wray pushed for funding and attention to "probably the No. 1 problem in Orange County -- getting to and from work," Wray told The Times in 1978.

He also was known for his work on alternative-energy bills.

When he first ran for election, Wray eked out such a slim victory that his Republican opponent demanded a recount. After his 54-vote victory shrunk to just 38 votes, Wray was given the whimsical nickname "Landslide" Wray.

Born May 26, 1923, in Searcy, Ark., Wray attended the University of Arkansas and UCLA, where he studied political science.

After losing his bid for a third Assembly term, he was appointed to the state Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board in 1982 by then Gov. Edmund G. Brown Jr. and moved to Sacramento.

He was preceded in death by his wife of 54 years, Mary, and a son, Chester B. Jr.

In addition to his second wife, Wray is survived by daughters Karen Morgan of Loomis, Sharen Peterson of Rocklin and Linda Baughman of Auburn; and eight grandchildren.

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