George Deukmejian, Former Governor of California

George Deukmejian, Former Governor of California

George Deukmejian was the first Armenian-American governor of the state of California, in office from 1983-1991. He saw himself as a tough-on-crime candidate and was also supportive of human rights issues, divesting Californian investments from South Africa in a bid to help the anti-apartheid movement. He was also being considered as a potential candidate to run as vice president on George Bush’s presidential ticket, but ultimately declined.


Deukmejian was born in New York State in 1928 but moved to California in the 1950s. His parents were immigrants from Ainteb (Gaziantep today) and Erzurum, escaping the Genocide where Deukmejian’s father’s sister was killed.

Claim to fame

Being the governor of California, potential vice president candidate and ally of the anti-apartheid movement.

What he said

“I think that it is in our own country’s best interest to adopt and carry out policies that are in accord with our own strong principles with respect to freedom and respect to human rights, civil rights.”

What others said

“Nelson Mandela and George Deukmejian never met. They never even communicated. But Mandela's freedom and the demise of South African apartheid resulted in no small part because of California's governor.” – Los Angeles Times

“He was the quiet-spoken, strong-willed type. ‘Iron Duke,’ they called him.” – Los Angeles Times

“A law-and-order champion takes office in California.” - TIME

Noteworthy work

Life and Career of George Deukmejian