Department of Finance Directors

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Hale Champion

July 1, 1961 to January 1, 1967

Hale Champion was appointed Director of Finance by Governor Edmund G. Brown on July 1, 1961. He was born in Coldwater, Michigan, on August 27, 1922. Champion attended Michigan public schools, and later the University of Michigan from 1940 to 1942 but left in 1942 to join the Army. He served as a sergeant until the end of World War II. Following the war, he worked as a reporter and then enrolled in Stanford University, receiving his bachelor’s degree in English in 1952. Champion was also a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University from 1956 to 1957.

Champion was a reporter for United Press, Milwaukee Journal, Sacramento Bee, and the San Francisco Chronicle. He also served as an assistant to U.S. Representative Andrew J. Biemiller of Wisconsin from 1950 to 1951. On January 5, 1959, Champion was named Press Secretary to Governor Brown and moved to an Executive Secretary post on September 1, 1960 before being appointed Director of Finance.

In 1965, during his tenure as Director, he and his wife were kidnapped by two inmates who escaped an Oregon jail. The two inmates entered, at random, a house in Sacramento, which happened to be where Champion and his family resided. Champion, his wife, and daughter were forced to drive to Nevada, where at a casino, the two inmates were recognized by an intoxicated individual who tried to capture the suspects by shooting at them. Missing, the individual instead shot Champion in the thigh. The inmates fled the scene with Champion and his family. This abduction grabbed national media attention. Champion was thrown out of the car on their escape into Yosemite National Park. His wife and daughter were eventually thrown out of the car at the park, unharmed, with $600 from the suspects as hush money. The inmates were eventually captured in Yosemite National Park.

After Finance, Champion held many academic and public sector positions. At Harvard University, he was first a Kennedy Fellow of the Institute of Politics in 1966, the Vice President in charge of Financial Affairs from 1971 to 1977 and the first executive dean of the Kennedy School of Government beginning in 1980. He also taught at Harvard until retiring in 1995. He also served as the director of Boston’s Redevelopment Authority from January 1968 to August 1969, the undersecretary of health, education and welfare in President Jimmy Carter’s administration from 1977 to 1979, and the chief of staff for Michael Dukakis when the former Massachusetts governor was the Democratic Party nominee for president in 1988. He was chair of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation from 1990 to 1992.