Kathryn Pinion, a centenarian who worked for the clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives during the New Deal, died Thursday morning in her apartment at Village at the Harbour in Friday Harbor. Her daughters were at her side.
Mrs. Pinion was active, outgoing and in relatively good health on her 100th birthday, but had been in declining health lately. Daughter Pauline Mulligan said her mother was comfortable and ready to go.
Mrs. Pinion was believed to be one of two centenarians on the island. She celebrated her 100th birthday on Feb. 23. Dave Champlin, another Village resident, celebrated his 100th on Sept. 12.
Mrs. Pinion moved to Village at the Harbour on May 15, 2008.
She was born Mary Kathryn Martin on Feb. 23, 1910 in Tennessee. She had an older brother and a younger brother. In high school, she was active in theater and enjoyed giving speeches in front of her fellow students.
She graduated from high school on the eve of the Great Depression and finding a steady job was difficult. She worked at the post office and, when she was about 20, she went to Memphis to take a business course. While taking the course, a state senator offered her a job working for the legislature.
When Mrs. Pinion was 24, she moved to Washington, D.C., and went to work as a secretary to the clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives, South Trimble of Kentucky. Franklin D. Roosevelt was president, Henry T. Rainey of Illinois was speaker of the House (to be succeeded by Joseph W. Byrns of Mrs. Pinion’s home state).
She was thrust into the flurry of activity spawned by the New Deal and national recovery. It was 1934, a year that would see establishment of the Gold Reserve Act, giving government control over fluctuations in the value of the dollar; the Import-Export Bank of Washington, to encourage commerce between the U.S. and foreign nations; the Civil Works Emergency Relief Administration; the Jones-Costigan Act, authorizing controls on beet and cane sugar as well as sugar imports; the Securities Exchange Act, establishing the SEC to regulate security transactions (the first chairman was Joseph P. Kennedy); the National Labor Relations Board; the Corporate Bankruptcy Act, allowing corporations facing bankruptcy to reorganize if two-thirds of their creditors agree; the Federal Housing Administration, to insure loans for construction, renovation or repairs of homes; the Taylor Grazing Act, setting aside some 8 million acres of public land for grazing; and several programs to help farmers keep their farms, refinance loans and avoid foreclosure.
In 1935, she met her husband Dwight, a graduate of Grand Island Business College working for the Bureau of Veterans Affairs. They married in 1937, the year he received his law degree from Southeastern University and joined the staff of the Securities and Exchange Commission.
In 1937, she was working alone in the House clerk’s office when a tall, lanky congressman-elect entered to present his credentials. It was Lyndon B. Johnson. She also knew Rep. Thomas J. D’Alesandro Jr., D-Baltimore, who served in Congress from 1939-47; his daughter is House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Mrs. Pinion retired in 1942, the year her husband joined the Office of the Legislative Counsel of the U.S. Senate, where he remained until 1969. From 1967-69, he was legislative counsel to the U.S. Senate.
As legislative counsel, Mr. Pinion was considered an expert on agricultural issues and civil service legislation, among others, and he worked closely with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. When he retired, Sen. Barry Goldwater, R-Arizona, recognized him in the Congressional Record as a “personal friend” and “an exceptional public servant.”
The Pinions raised three daughters, Carolyn, Nancy and Pauline. After Mrs. Pinion retired in 1942, she was active in school activities, Girl Scouts and church programs. Mr. Pinion was a Boy Scout scoutmaster, practiced fly-casting in the Reflecting Pool on the Mall with the National Capitol Casting Club, and enjoyed camping and skiing.
Mr. and Mrs. Pinion lived in Arlington, Va., for 26 years; and in McLean, Va., for 38 years. In 2001, they moved to Deming, N.M., where Mr. Pinion died in 2004.
After her husband died, Mrs. Pinion moved to Bellingham and then to Village at the Harbour to be closer to her daughter, Pauline Mulligan of Friday Harbor. Her daughter, Carolyn Rice, lives in Deming, N.M.; her other daughter, Nancy Stehman, lives in Leesburg, Va.
Mrs. Pinion also has three grandchildren, two great-granddaughters and one great-grandson.