Barlow Der Mugrdechian
Saturday, September 18, marked a special day in the life of the university, when a panel discussion was held to formally announce the donation of the public papers of former Assemblyman Walter Karabian to the Central Valley Political Archive. The Fresno State Armenian Studies Program cosponsored the event. Mr. Karabian served in the State Assembly from 1966-1974 and his papers reflect the various issues which he championed, including his emphasis on opening the doors of politics to young educated Latinos, his commitment to his Armenian heritage, and various legislative contributions such as the Species Preservation Act, the Ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment, and the California Invasion of Privacy Act.
The Central Valley Political Archive (CVPA) was formally established in 2000 as a resource for researchers and is committed to preserving the legacy of legislators from the Central Valley and documenting all aspects of political life in the area, in particular the contributions of Latinos, Armenian- Americans, and other minority groups. The CVPA is located on the second floor of the Henry Madden Library.
The Karabian papers received at the CVPA measure approximately 30 linear feet and include
correspondence, press files, photographs, campaign material, articles, speeches, and memorabilia.
The core of the Karabian Collection consists of legislative bill files from Karabian’s years in the state legislature. A generous financial contribution made by Karabian has enabled the timely processing
of his papers. A guide to the collection is being prepared and will eventually be made available on the CVPA’s Web site at www.cvparchive.org.
The Karabian papers join those previously donated to the CVPA by state legislators Kenneth L. Maddy and Jim Costa, in addition to former U.S. congressmen Chip Pashayan and Bernie Sisk. Other
notable legislators from the Central Valley have also pledged their papers to this burgeoning archive.
Walter Karabian was born in Fresno. The Karabian family arrived in Fresno in 1896 led by Walter Karabian’s great-greatuncle, Krikor Karabian. Krikor was accompanied by his nephew, Hovsep Karabian, who was Walter Karabian’s grandfather. His grandmother was Haiganoush Simonian.
Karabian attended the University of Southern California where he served as student body president from 1959-1960. He also earned a Law degree and a Master’s degree from USC. He became a Deputy District Attorney for Los Angeles County in 1965 before winning a seat in the California State Assembly in 1966.
By the time he left the Assembly in 1974, he had served as the youngest majority leader in the history of that body. Karabian continues to reside in Los Angeles, where he has been a partner in the law firm of Karns & Karabian since the 1960s.
Barlow Der Mugrdechian of the Armenian Studies Program introduced participants in the panel discussion,which included some of those who have been influenced by Walter Karabian. They are former State assemblyman and Los Angeles City Council member Richard Alatorre, attorney Paul Krekorian, Democratic party activist and consultant Louis Moret, former State assemblyman Mike Roos, attorney James Shekoyan, State Democratic Party Chairman Art Torres, and former State assemblyman, senator and Associate Justice of the Fifth District Court of Appeals George Zenovich.
The first part of the discussion was devoted to those who knew and worked with Walter Karabian in the early 1970s when Karabian served in the State Assembly. The second part was dedicated to
Karabian’s impact on Armenians and encouraging them to run for office, and the third part focused on
Karabian’s legislative career and the issues which he championed.
Glenn Gray, archivist of the Central Valley Political Archive organized the event, with thanks to the following people from the Madden Library: Dean Michael Gorman, Marcie Morrison, Kellie Willis, Janet Bancroft, Tammy Lau, Nate Orgill and Jeremy Orgill, and from President Welty’s office, Amy DeGraw and Rosie Gutierrez.