David Sprague, Former Legislator Who Was Radical Thinker, Gadfly

David Gorton Sprague, longtime insurance broker and liberal Seattle Democrat, quit as a 37th District legislator after his home and other Central Area buildings were bombed in 1970.

He thought he was targeted because he was a white legislator in an area that was predominantly black. The home of the district's senator, Fred Dore, had been bombed two months before, and Mr. Sprague suggested the bombings stemmed from resentment about whites representing blacks.

"In my opinion," he reportedly said, "our home was targeted because I am a white legislator."

But David Sprague was no quitter. Before and after the bombing he was a radical thinker and gadfly.

He championed the cause of minorities, the poor and the developmentally disabled. He fought against more spending for highways, including a third and fourth Lake Washington bridge.

In one of his two terms as a legislator, he sponsored a bill that would have banned gasoline-powered vehicles in Washington state after 1980.

Mr. Sprague died of cancer Wednesday, June 25. He was 76.

Born in Corning, N.Y., he came by activism naturally: His mother, Iva Gorton Sprague, served as a nongovernmental observer at U.N. headquarters in New York and abroad. She also lectured and wrote on politics and literacy.

Mr. Sprague graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Wesleyan University and earned a master's degree at Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. In World War II he was a Navy pilot.

After the war he moved to Seattle and sold insurance. In 1958 he and M.M. Israel opened Sprague-Israel Insurance. The firm in 1959 won the contract to insure the state Liquor Control Board against burglary and theft. It also was the broker for the Vancouver-Portland bridges across the Columbia River.

In the 1950s he co-founded the Metropolitan Democratic Club, opposing anti-communist hysteria. As his children grew he served as PTA president for their schools.

In the 1960s he chaired the Legislature's citizens-advisory committee on urban affairs, speaking out for open space and public transit.

He was elected to the Legislature in 1966 and re-elected in 1968. But he chose not to run again after his home was bombed.

In the 1970s and 1980s he supported Democrats at all levels of government. He also chaired Metro's citizen transit-advisory committee, co-chaired Taxpayers for Accountable Government and served on the Downtown Human Services Council that campaigned for housing for homeless people with developmental disabilities.

Survivors include his wife of 37 years, Bette Sprague of Seattle; his daughter, Judy Clifford, also of Seattle; and his sons Mark Sprague, San Francisco; and Tom Nowak, Everett; and four grandchildren. His son Paul Sprague died in 1975.

Services are at 4 p.m. Tuesday at Church of the Epiphany, 1805 38th Ave., Seattle. Memorials may go to to the church (ZIP code: 98122).

Information from Associated Press is included in this