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State Senator Alfred E. Alquist

Author of Senate Bill 164, Statutes of 1969, Legislation That Established EOPS

State Senator Alfred E Alquist

Senator Alfred E. Alquist was born in Memphis, Tennessee, on August 2, 1908, the eldest son of eight children of a Swedish immigrant who worked for the railroads.


Alquist himself began a 40-year career working for the railroads at the age of 11, carrying water to railroad work crews and eventually working his way up as a timekeeper, switchman, brakeman and conductor.


After serving as an Army Air Corps instructor in WWII, Alquist and his first wife, Mai, to whom he was married for 55 years, settled in San Jose with their son, Alan.  He worked as a yardmaster for the Southern Pacific Railroad.

He served in the California Legislature for 34 years proudly representing Santa Clara County, and was elected to the Assembly in 1962 where he served for four years and then to the Senate in 1966 where he served for 30 years.


Senator Alquist’s career in the California Legislature was marked by his strong support for unions, labor, the railroads, education, and the 13th Senate District.


A pragmatic New Deal Democrat, he earned a reputation for helping the poor and representing the interests of labor. When term limits forced him to retire in 1996, he was the Legislature's ranking member.


Among his numerous legislative accomplishments were:


  • Championing the creation of the Extended Opportunities Programs and Services (EOPS) in 1969. 

  • Creating the Seismic Safety Commission in 1972.

  • Creating the California Energy Commission in 1974 to develop alternative energy sources, among other things.

  • Creating the Department of Information Technology in 1996. 

  • Reforming California’s “Unitary Tax Method” in 1986.


A forceful and savvy state legislator, Senator Alquist chaired the powerful Senate Finance Committee for 15 years. He also routinely chaired the two-house conference committee that wrote the final version of the state budget before it went to the Assembly and Senate floors.

A state office building in downtown San Jose is named for him. His wife Senator Elaine Alquist represented the same 13th Senate District as her husband did.


He passed away at age 97 in 2006.

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