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Congressman Marion Zioncheck commits suicide on August 7, 1936. Essay 5528 : Printer-Friendly Format

On August 7, 1936, U.S. Representative Marion Zioncheck (1901-1936) leaps to his death from his 5th-floor office in the Arctic Club building in downtown Seattle. The suicide of the two-term Congressman opens his 1st District seat to a bid by King County Prosecutor Warren G. Magnuson (1905-1989), who is elected the following November.

Marion Zioncheck was born in 1901 in Poland, and arrived in Seattle with his parents four years later. He attended the University of Washington and earned a law degree while also making a name for himself as a left-wing leader in the Democratic Party and Washington Commonwealth Federation (WCF), which supported his election to Congress in 1932.

As a Member of Congress, Zioncheck made headlines mostly for extracurricular antics and drunken escapades with his new wife, Rubeye Louise Nix, including one late-night frolic in a Washington, D.C. fountain. Newspaper accounts following his death reported that he had experienced periods of elation and depression. In the year before his death he had spent time in a Maryland mental hospital, from which he had escaped by jumping a seven-foot wall.

He was also beset by the press and by critics of Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal policies, which he ardently championed, Zioncheck had hinted that he might not seek re-election in 1936.

His friend and ally, King County Prosecutor Warren G. Magnuson, took him at his word and filed to run for Zioncheck's seat on August 1. This may have been the last straw for the embattled Congressman.

A newspaper report following his death had this to say about his mental illness:

"He had been advised by his physician to take a long rest, away from political turmoil, and had been told that he could recover completely. His mental ailment had been diagnosed as manic depression" ("Zioncheck Agreed to Quit...").

On August 7, 1936, Zioncheck completed his will and a farewell note declaring "My only hope in life was to improve the conditions of an unfair economic system." He then leapt from the window of his office on the 5th floor of the Arctic Club Building at 3rd Avenue and Cherry Street in downtown Seattle. His body struck the pavement directly in front of a car occupied by his wife.

Shelby Scates, Warren G. Magnuson and the Shaping of Twentieth Century America (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1997); "Zioncheck's Suicide Held Due to Fear of Sanitarium," The Seattle Times, August 8, 1936, p. 1; "Congress to Give Zioncheck Full Honors," The Seattle Times, August 8, 1936, p. 3; "Zioncheck Had Agreed to Quit Politics, Enter Asylum," The Seattle Times, August 8, 1936, p. 3.
Note: The date of this timeline essay was corrected on August 8, 2012.

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Related Topics: Government & Politics |

Licensing: This essay is licensed under a Creative Commons license that encourages reproduction with attribution. Credit should be given to both and to the author, and sources must be included with any reproduction. Click the icon for more info. Please note that this Creative Commons license applies to text only, and not to images. For more information regarding individual photos or images, please contact the source noted in the image credit.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License

Major Support for Provided By: The State of Washington | Patsy Bullitt Collins | Paul G. Allen Family Foundation | Museum Of History & Industry | 4Culture (King County Lodging Tax Revenue) | City of Seattle | City of Bellevue | City of Tacoma | King County | The Peach Foundation | Microsoft Corporation, Other Public and Private Sponsors and Visitors Like You

This essay made possible by:
Henry M. Jackson Foundation

Marion Zioncheck (1901-1936) and his wife Rubeye Louise Nix, August 1936
Courtesy Walla Walla Bulletin, WSU Libraries

Rep. Marion Zioncheck, Sen Lewis Schwellenbach, King County Prosecutor Warren G. Magnuson, 1934
Courtesy UW Special Collections

Marion Zioncheck tombstone, Evergreen-Washelli Cemetery, Seattle, August 2005 Photo by Priscilla Long

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