Arthur Ohnimus Collection

Arthur Allen Ohnimus (1893-1965) was the longest serving Assembly Chief Clerk in California history and the Assembly’s first full-time staff member. Mr. Ohnimus served as an Assembly employee for 45 years, 37 years as the Chief Clerk. In the California Assembly, the nonpartisan Chief Clerk is the chief parliamentarian, overseeing the legislative procedures and keeping the official records of the house. During his long career, Mr. Ohnimus helped guide the Assembly’s modernization in the 20th Century, overseeing the installation of electronic voting and public address systems, managing the transition from Robert’s Rules of Order to Mason’s Manual of Legislative Procedure, and establishing the modern legislative staff structure.

Mr. Ohnimus began his legislative service in 1915 as a committee clerk and was first elected as the Chief Clerk in 1923, a position he held until his retirement in 1963 (except for a brief hiatus from 1937 through 1940). Prior to 1957, the job of Chief Clerk was a part-time position, so Mr. Ohnimus held full-time employment from 1924 to 1944 as Assistant District Attorney in San Francisco, and from 1944 to 1957 as a Deputy Attorney General of California. In 1956, California voters adopted Proposition 14, which authorized the legislature to employ full-time personnel for the first time in history. In 1957, The Assembly Rules Committee appointed Ohnimus as its first Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) in addition to his ongoing role as Chief Clerk. In his years as CAO, Mr. Ohnimus laid the foundations for the Assembly’s staff organization and procedures. Mr. Ohnimus retired on October 4, 1963, after having served in a nonpartisan capacity for more than 40 years under four Democratic and eight Republican Speakers.

When Mr. Ohnimus passed away in March 1965, his wife Bernice carefully stored his vast personal collection of legislative documents, historic photos, newspaper clippings, and political memorabilia dating back to the 1890s. The items cover numerous interesting events in California history. When Bernice passed away in 2007, her estate donated the items to the Assembly Chief Clerk’s office for archiving. Please see links below.

On April 1, 2008, the Assembly honored the legacy of Arthur and Bernice Ohnimus and their families, by adopting House Resolution 28 (Nunez). A brochure and a 10-minute documentary video (links below) were produced to highlight the importance of this historic collection. The State Capitol Museum, in conjunction with the Joint Rules Committee, the Speaker’s Office, the Chief Clerk's Office, and California State Parks, staged an exhibit in the Capitol to showcase some of the materials in the collection. Over 3,000 people attended the five day exhibit in April 2008. Some of the items from the Collection are posted on this web page for educational purposes. Some of the photos in the Collection were posted courtesy of the Sacramento Archives and Museum Collection Center, the Sacramento Bee, and the California State Library-California History Room.

 

Arthur Ohnimus Collection
Arthur Ohnimus Documentary Video - 10 minutes (Windows Media file 18.6 MB)
1958 Arthur Ohnimus audio interview by Assembly Member Jack Beaver (19 minutes). Topics covered: role of Chief Clerk, history of women legislators, Assembly traditions, committee system, districts, differences between Assembly and Senate, Joe Beek, budget process, etc. Note: audio picks-up mid-way into the interview
Information Brochure (pdf 17.4 mb)*
Timeline and Interesting Facts (pdf 5,330 kb)*
Documents
Photos
Scrapbook 1
Scrapbook 2
Scrapbook 3
Loose Papers
House Resolution 28 adopted April 1, 2008 (pdf 79 kb)*

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