Richard P. ("Dick") Nelson
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Richard ("Dick") P. Nelson

The family of Richard P. "Dick" Nelson, a lifelong civic activist and former Washington State Legislator, is sad to announce that Dick passed away peacefully on June 3, 2019 after a brief illness. He was 83 years old.

Dick was born in Seattle. He has one surviving brother, Lloyd Nelson, and eight nieces and nephews, Mark Tollfeldt, Bob /Jenny Nelson, Kathryn / Jim Apolito, Eric / Jackie Tollfeldt, Dave/Claire Tollfeldt, Sue Nelson, Tina Baker, Laurie/Kaare Otness, 8 great nieces and nephews, and 7 great-great nieces and nephews. His parents, Andrew and Annie Nelson, and siblings, Eric and Will Nelson, and Anne Tollfeldt, predeceased him. His family is of Swedish descent, which he celebrated regularly through Scandinavian dance, music, food and association with family and the local Nordic community.

Dick was a well-educated and enthusiastic policy researcher who felt it was his responsibility to contribute to a better world. He received a B.S. in Engineering from the University of Washington and a Sc.D. (Materials Science / Physics) from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His professional career began with working as a nuclear engineer at Hanford in the Tri-Cities, but a heart-felt reaction to injustices and environmental dangers he saw in the early 1970s led him to political activism, public service and back to Seattle.

From 1977 through 1992, Dick served as a Washington State Representative from the Wallingford, Fremont, and Ballard areas. He chaired the Energy and Utilities, Housing, and Joint Telecommunication committees, and served on the Transportation and Local Government committees. Dick was a co-sponsor of the 1990 Washington State Growth Management Act (GMA) and was a member of the committee that prepared the GMA's 1991 amendments. He also co-authored successful legislation that addressed state transportation planning, establishment of Sound Transit, incentives for use of public transportation, and transportation demand management.

Dick's activism was informed by historical and social movements including civil rights, world peace, the nuclear weapons threat, and environmental protection. At his passing, Dick was president and senior researcher at Integrated Transport Research, a nonprofit he founded in 1993. He specialized in transportation, land use, and telecommunications research, planning, and policy development. He was appointed Senior Fellow for Urban Growth and Transportation at the Center for the New West and Research Associate at the Mineta Transportation Institute at San Jose State University. He was recently working with many others in the community on proposals to make Washington State's tax system less regressive. Over his career he was a member of numerous state and local boards, commissions and advisory committees.

Dick was a dedicated and humble civic servant who put people first. He will be greatly missed by

family, friends and colleagues.

The family would like to celebrate Dick's life with you on

June 26 at The Swedish Club, from 11:00am until 2:30pm.

Remembrances to further Dick's causes may be sent to Planned Parenthood Northwest, Family Works, Zero Waste Washington and Giffords-The courage to fight gun violence.

Sign Dick's online

Guest Book at

To Plant Memorial Trees in memory, please visit our Sympathy Store.
Published in The Seattle Times on Jun. 16, 2019.
Celebration of Life
11:00 - 02:30 PM
The Swedish Club
Memories & Condolences
Guest Book sponsored by The Family
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13 entries
August 26, 2019
Poster displayed at Dick Nelson's Celebration of Life
John Niles
June 27, 2019
Dick Nelson was heroic in his selfless dedication to creating a better world and I was blessed to have been his friend.
Carol McMillen
June 26, 2019
I worked for Dick as his legislative assistant in the early 1980s. He was a very dedicated civil servant then, and remained so for the rest of his life. The people of the state of Washington and the city of Seattle have suffered a great loss at his passing. RIP, Dick.
Donna McNamara
June 25, 2019
Claire Tollfeldt
June 25, 2019
Claire Tollfeldt
June 18, 2019
I met Dick in the mid 1970's. He and I and the former Director of the Church Council of Seattle, bought stock in Boeing so that we could attend the shareholders meeting and protest Boeing's involvement in the support for the B2 bomber, being used in the Vietnam War. Dick helped us with the money for the stock but because of his position as a legislator, let Bill and I represent us at the stockholders meeting. He had a quiet determination and dedication to doing the right thing. Over the years, I often would run into Dick at various events promoting justice and peace. He was definitely one of the good guys and will be missed.
Sooz Appel
June 17, 2019
I met Dick when he was still at Hanford, through the peace and civil right movements. He was then, as always, a kind, generous man and one of the most intelligently selfless I have ever known, completely dedicated to making the world a little better for his being here. A good man!
Mary Jean Lord
June 17, 2019
Mary Jean Lord
June 17, 2019
What an amazing human being. He was so kind and generous and thoughtful. I remember ice cream social fundraisers and dorbelling and even being in a TV commercial as a kid. So sorry to hear of his passing. The world is a better place for having him.
Jacqueline B
June 17, 2019
When I read of Dick's passing my clearest recollection was of the many times he and I would carpool to Olympia in the 1970s. We had some great discussions.
Charlie Smith
June 16, 2019

Greetings - I first met Dick in the '70s when I worked at the King County Democrats and he was busy with 32nd District (and beyond) business. He and I became involved in politics for the same reasons only he was much smarter! He was the nicest guy! Always so thoughtful and calm and with a good sense of humor. I was able to catch up with him through the years at various events until I moved to New Mexico some time ago. He continued to be thoughtful with his reasoned opinions on issues of the day that were always right on. I have only been in touch with him recently through Facebook, but, somehow that was reassuring enough. He was truly one of the good guys! I am very sad to hear of his death. Sending all good thoughts and all my sympathies your way.

Sandy (Cutter) Jacoby
Sandy Jacoby
June 16, 2019
I'm sorry to hear of Dick's passing. Many memories from my old activist days, and in the neighborhood recently. I'll miss seeing him and knowing that he's working on our issues!
Mardie Holden
June 16, 2019
I knew Dick and admired his selfless work to make Seattle and this world a better place. His interests and passions encompassed many scientific and practical aspects of life that he was always a joy to talk with. I worked with him on his 1979 campaign, and his energy and understanding of what people went through in their day to day lives touched the hearts of so many.
Marilyn Holt
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