The Nation’s Largest African American Video Oral History Collection Mobile search icon Mobile close search icon
Advanced Biography Search
Mobile navigation icon Close mobile navigation icon

The Honorable Diane E. Watson

Former U.S. Congresswoman and foreign ambassador Diane E. Watson was born on November 12, 1933 in Los Angeles, California in a devout religious household. Upon graduating from Dorsey High School (Los Angele) in the late 1940s, Watson attended Los Angeles City College. She went on to receive her B.A. degree in education from University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) in 1956, and her M.A. degree in school psychology from California State University in 1958. In 1987, Watson earned her Ph.D. in education administration from Claremont Graduate School; and later, completed courses at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

Watson began her professional career in 1969 as a psychologist with California State University. Then, from 1971 to 1975, she worked as a health occupation specialist with the Bureau of Industrial Education of the California Department of Education. In 1975, Watson became the first African American woman to serve on the Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education. There, she worked to expand school integration and make academic standards more rigorous. In 1978, Watson became the first African American woman to be elected to the California State Senate where she played a major role in formulating the state of California’s TANF program. Watson also sought funding to help teen mothers complete their education and gain employment through the Cal-Learn program. In 1993, Watson authored the California Birth Defects Monitoring Program Act and the Residential Care Facilities Act. She introduced legislation to improve food health safety requirements for restaurants in 1997, and also played a key role in the enactment of legislation to promote breast cancer research. She served as chair of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee from 1981 to 1998, and also served on the Senate Judiciary Committee.

At the end of her senate term in 1999, President Bill Clinton appointed Watson to serve as the United States Ambassador to the Federated States of Micronesia. Watson continued in the role of U.S. Ambassador until 2001 when she was elected to fill the vacancy of the late U.S. Representative Julian Dixon under a special election. She was re-elected in 2002 and 2004 to serve two consecutive terms, and retired in 2011.

Former U.S. Congresswoman Diane Watson was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on October 5, 2005, July 25, 2008 and November 26, 2012.

Accession Number

A2005.233

Sex

Female

Interview Date

10/5/2005 |and| 7/25/2008 |and| 11/26/2012

Last Name

Watson

Maker Category
Middle Name

E.

Schools

Susan Miller Dorsey High School

University of California, Los Angeles

Harvard University

California State University, Los Angeles

Claremont Graduate University

Birdielee V. Bright Elementary School

James A. Foshay Learning Center

First Name

Diane

Birth City, State, Country

Los Angeles

HM ID

WAT06

Favorite Season

Holiday Season

State

California

Favorite Vacation Destination

Bermuda

Favorite Quote

It Is Going To Be All Right.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

California

Birth Date

11/12/1933

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Los Angeles

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Mexican Food

Short Description

Foreign ambassador and U.S. congresswoman The Honorable Diane E. Watson (1933 - ) was the U.S. Ambassador to the Federated States of Micronesia and was a representative to the U.S. Congress from California's 33rd congressional district from 2001 to 2011.

Employment

California State University

California Department of Education

Los Angeles Unified School District

California State Senate

Favorite Color

Red

DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of The Honorable Diane E. Watson's interview, session 1

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - The Honorable Diane E. Watson lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - The Honorable Diane E. Watson describes her mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - The Honorable Diane E. Watson relates how her maternal ancestors settled in Chicago, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - The Honorable Diane E. Watson relates how her maternal ancestors settled in Chicago, pt. 2

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - The Honorable Diane E. Watson recalls her maternal grandparents

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - The Honorable Diane E. Watson recalls the migrations of her maternal relatives, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - The Honorable Diane E. Watson recalls the migrations of her maternal relatives, pt. 2

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - The Honorable Diane E. Watson lists her mother's siblings

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - The Honorable Diane E. Watson reflects upon her maternal family's history in California

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - The Honorable Diane E. Watson describes her mother's upbringing

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - The Honorable Diane E. Watson describes her father's family background

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - The Honorable Diane E. Watson describes her father's creole heritage

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - The Honorable Diane E. Watson recalls visiting the convent as a child

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - The Honorable Diane E. Watson recalls how her parents met

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - The Honorable Diane E. Watson talks about her siblings

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - The Honorable Diane E. Watson recalls her father's career in Los Angeles, California

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - The Honorable Diane E. Watson recalls working with David Roberti in the California State Senate

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - The Honorable Diane E. Watson recalls her father's career at the Los Angeles Police Department

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - The Honorable Diane E. Watson describes her friendship with Edward M. Davis

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - The Honorable Diane E. Watson remembers her parents' divorce

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - The Honorable Diane E. Watson recalls her childhood neighborhood in Los Angeles, California

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - The Honorable Diane E. Watson recalls the changes that followed her parents' divorce

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - The Honorable Diane E. Watson recalls her elementary school experiences

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - The Honorable Diane E. Watson describes her family's Catholicism

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - The Honorable Diane E. Watson recalls her elementary school teacher, Birdielee V. Bright

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - The Honorable Diane E. Watson recalls notable people from her elementary school years

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - The Honorable Diane E. Watson describes her experiences in junior high school

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - The Honorable Diane E. Watson describes life during World War II

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - The Honorable Diane E. Watson recalls her mother and father's parenting styles

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - The Honorable Diane E. Watson remembers her ambition to attend college

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Slating of The Honorable Diane E. Watson's interview, session 2

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - The Honorable Diane E. Watson describes her family's relationship with the University of California

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - The Honorable Diane E. Watson describes her experiences at the University of California, Los Angeles

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - The Honorable Diane E. Watson recalls athletes and student leaders on the UCLA campus

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - The Honorable Diane E. Watson recalls her early career as an educator

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - The Honorable Diane E. Watson recalls teaching in Okinawa, Japan

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - The Honorable Diane E. Watson describes her experiences teaching in Okinawa, Japan and France

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - The Honorable Diane E. Watson recalls returning to the U.S. after teaching abroad

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - The Honorable Diane E. Watson remembers the Civil Rights Movement

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - The Honorable Diane E. Watson recalls teaching at Selma Avenue Elementary School, pt. 1

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - The Honorable Diane E. Watson recalls teaching at Selma Avenue Elementary School, pt. 2

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - The Honorable Diane E. Watson recalls a scandal involving the principal of Selma Avenue Elementary School

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - The Honorable Diane E. Watson recalls her students' parents at Selma Avenue Elementary School

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - The Honorable Diane E. Watson recalls studying counseling at California State University in Los Angeles

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - The Honorable Diane E. Watson recalls instituting a trial system in her classroom

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - The Honorable Diane E. Watson describes working as a counselor in the Los Angeles Unified School District

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - The Honorable Diane E. Watson talks about Leonard Deadwyler and the Watts riots

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - The Honorable Diane E. Watson recalls race riots in Los Angeles

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - The Honorable Diane E. Watson recalls her decision to run for public office

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - The Honorable Diane E. Watson recalls her friend and campaign manager, Tom Stewart

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - The Honorable Diane E. Watson remembers Tom Stewart's murder

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - The Honorable Diane E. Watson describes her career in the California State Senate

Tape: 8 Story: 2 - The Honorable Diane E. Watson recalls her Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education campaigns

Tape: 8 Story: 3 - The Honorable Diane E. Watson recalls being attacked by the Ku Klux Klan

Tape: 8 Story: 4 - The Honorable Diane E. Watson remembers Congresswoman Bobbi Fiedler

Tape: 8 Story: 5 - The Honorable Diane E. Watson recalls implementing busing in Los Angeles public schools

Tape: 8 Story: 6 - The Honorable Diane E. Watson recalls befriending Edward M. Davis

Tape: 8 Story: 7 - The Honorable Diane E. Watson recalls the early days of forced busing in Los Angeles public schools

Tape: 8 Story: 8 - The Honorable Diane E. Watson describes the changing demographics of the Los Angeles Unified School District

Tape: 9 Story: 1 - Slating of The Honorable Diane E. Watson's interview, session 3

Tape: 9 Story: 2 - The Honorable Diane E. Watson describes the Federated States of Micronesia

Tape: 9 Story: 3 - The Honorable Diane E. Watson describes her life as ambassador to the Federated States of Micronesia

Tape: 9 Story: 4 - The Honorable Diane E. Watson describes her duties as ambassador to the Federated States of Micronesia

Tape: 9 Story: 5 - The Honorable Diane E. Watson talks about ancient cultures, pt. 1

Tape: 9 Story: 6 - The Honorable Diane E. Watson talks about ancient cultures, pt. 2

Tape: 9 Story: 7 - The Honorable Diane E. Watson recalls her decision to run for the U.S. Congress

Tape: 10 Story: 1 - The Honorable Diane E. Watson describes her African American predecessors in the U.S. Congress

Tape: 10 Story: 2 - The Honorable Diane E. Watson recalls her election to the Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education

Tape: 10 Story: 3 - The Honorable Diane E. Watson recalls her decision to retire from the U.S. Congress

Tape: 10 Story: 4 - The Honorable Diane E. Watson describes protests in the U.S. Congress against President George W. Bush

Tape: 10 Story: 5 - The Honorable Diane E. Watson recalls African American women who served with her in government

Tape: 10 Story: 6 - The Honorable Diane E. Watson recalls the controversy over the 2000 U.S. presidential election

Tape: 10 Story: 7 - The Honorable Diane E. Watson recalls how Congress changed during the George W. Bush administration

Tape: 11 Story: 1 - The Honorable Diane E. Watson explains her complaints with President George Walker Bush

Tape: 11 Story: 2 - The Honorable Diane E. Watson recalls President George W. Bush's foreign policy in the Middle East

Tape: 11 Story: 3 - The Honorable Diane E. Watson lists the congressional committees upon which she served

Tape: 11 Story: 4 - The Honorable Diane E. Watson describes the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa

Tape: 11 Story: 5 - The Honorable Diane E. Watson recalls being in the U.S. Capitol on September 11, 2001

Tape: 11 Story: 6 - The Honorable Diane E. Watson reflects upon the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001

Tape: 11 Story: 7 - The Honorable Diane E. Watson describes her duties on the U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs

Tape: 12 Story: 1 - The Honorable Diane E. Watson describes domestic healthcare debates of the 2000s

Tape: 12 Story: 2 - The Honorable Diane E. Watson describes global health issues from her congressional tenure

Tape: 12 Story: 3 - The Honorable Diane E. Watson recalls her policy work to address the AIDS crisis

Tape: 12 Story: 4 - The Honorable Diane E. Watson describes her work on the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Terrorism

Tape: 12 Story: 5 - The Honorable Diane E. Watson describes her U.S. Congressional subcommittee assignments

Tape: 12 Story: 6 - The Honorable Diane E. Watson recalls her work for the Congressional Entertainment Industries Caucus

Tape: 12 Story: 7 - The Honorable Diane E. Watson lists her U.S. Congressional caucus memberships

Tape: 13 Story: 1 - The Honorable Diane E. Watson talks about African American Republican politicians

Tape: 13 Story: 2 - The Honorable Diane E. Watson recalls the 2008 presidential primaries

Tape: 13 Story: 3 - The Honorable Diane E. Watson reflects upon Hillary Clinton's political career

Tape: 13 Story: 4 - The Honorable Diane E. Watson describes Congressional opposition to President Barack Obama

Tape: 13 Story: 5 - The Honorable Diane E. Watson talks about the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010

Tape: 13 Story: 6 - The Honorable Diane E. Watson recalls the legislative achievements of President Barack Obama

Tape: 13 Story: 7 - The Honorable Diane E. Watson describes Congressional partisanship in the 2000s

Tape: 14 Story: 1 - The Honorable Diane E. Watson describes her legislative work for health and education issues

Tape: 14 Story: 2 - The Honorable Diane E. Watson describes her Gang Abatement Plan

Tape: 14 Story: 3 - The Honorable Diane E. Watson reflects upon the early days of California's Civil Rights Movement

Tape: 14 Story: 4 - The Honorable Diane E. Watson recalls African American political victories in California

Tape: 14 Story: 5 - The Honorable Diane E. Watson reflects upon her life

Tape: 14 Story: 6 - The Honorable Diane E. Watson recalls campaigning to change racial identifiers on the U.S. Census, pt. 1

Tape: 14 Story: 7 - The Honorable Diane E. Watson recalls campaigning to change racial identifiers on the U.S. Census, pt. 2

Tape: 14 Story: 8 - The Honorable Diane E. Watson recalls her experiences teaching in Hollywood, Los Angeles, California, pt. 1

Tape: 14 Story: 9 - The Honorable Diane E. Watson recalls her experiences teaching in Hollywood, Los Angeles, California, pt. 2

Tape: 15 Story: 1 - The Honorable Diane E. Watson reflects upon her family life

Tape: 15 Story: 2 - The Honorable Diane E. Watson reflects upon her role models as a child

Tape: 15 Story: 3 - The Honorable Diane E. Watson describes how she would like to be remembered

Tape: 15 Story: 4 - The Honorable Diane E. Watson narrates her photographs, pt. 1

Tape: 15 Story: 5 - The Honorable Diane E. Watson narrates her photographs, pt. 2