The remarkable life of Sonoma County newsman and 'blind senator' Herbert Slater
On Nov. 8, 1910, newspaperman Herbert Slater was elected to serve the 14th Assembly District in California beginning a 37-year stint in the state legislature all while writing for The Press Democrat.
Slater began his journalism career covering the plant experiments of horticulturist Luther Burbank. In the early 1900s he wrote a story about a $5,000 commission Burbank received to create a hybrid tea rose, a jaw-dropping sum for the times. The story was picked up by the San Francisco Examiner and papers throughout the nation boosting the careers of both the plant scientist and newsman.
In 1910 when he was elected to the state assembly, Slater was a regular part of The Press Democrat news team covering everything from Burbank and politics to fish and game.
Though modern-day ethics policies forbid the paper’s journalists from holding public office, Slater never stopped writing for the paper, even while he served for decades in in the state Legislature, four in the Assembly and 33 in the Senate.
In 1919, a freak accident took Slater’s sight, earning him the nickname the “blind senator.”
It is said that Slater could recognize visitors by their footsteps as they approached his newsroom desk, which also served as his district office.
On Aug. 13, 1947, Slater died of a heart attack while en route to his office in Santa Rosa.
Click through our gallery above to take a look at the life and times of Herbert Slater.