Diane Watson '56
On February 11, 2010, U.S. Rep. Diane Watson '56 (Calif.-33rd) announced her intention to retire from the U.S. House of Representatives when her term expires at the end of 2010, after five terms in office and 35 years of public service.
A lifetime resident of California’s ethnically diverse 33rd congressional district, Watson has served her home community throughout her entire 35-year career in public service.
A true Angeleno, Watson was educated in the Los Angeles school system from elementary through high school, then went on to attend Los Angeles City College and UCLA, where she received a bachelor of arts in education. She also holds a master of arts in school psychology from California State University, Los Angeles, and a doctorate in educational administration from the Claremont Graduate School.
Watson’s career also began in the Los Angeles public schools, first as an elementary school teacher and school psychologist and in 1975 as the first African-American woman elected to the Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education. Her legacy as an educator includes the expansion of school integration and institution of tougher academic standards.
In 1978, Watson was elected to the California State Senate, serving on the Senate Judiciary Committee, and as chair of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, 1981-98. During her tenure in the senate, she became a statewide and national advocate for health care reform, consumer protection and issues affecting women and children. In 1993, she authored the California Birth Defects Monitoring Program Act, which led to pioneering research into the causes of birth defects, and the Residential Care Facilities Act to ensure that senior citizens receive quality care in nursing and assisted living homes. In 1997, she introduced legislation to toughen food health safety requirements for restaurants. She also played a key role in the enactment of legislation to promote breast cancer research.
Watson has long advocated for welfare reform, playing a major role in efforts to provide education, child care, and employment to welfare recipients; and acquiring funding to help teen mothers complete their educations and obtain employment through the Cal-Learn program.
In 1999, President Bill Clinton appointed Watson to serve as the U.S. ambassador to Micronesia. In 2001, she returned to California to run for the vacant congressional seat in California’s 33rd district.
She serves on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee; as chair of the Subcommittee on Government Management, Organization, and Procurement; and as a member of the subcommittees for Domestic Policy, and for Information Policy, Census, and National Archives.