Bob Monagan, a courtly, shrewd, pro-business Republican from Tracy who served two years as speaker of the Assembly during Ronald Regan’s first term as governor, died Jan. 7 in a Sacramento convalescent home following a lengthy illness. He was 88.
The political landscape of the Central Valley has changed since Monagan’s era, when an A-list of GOP stars exerted influence in the Legislature, even when the Capitol was dominated by Democrats — which was most of the time.
Monagan was the last Republican Assembly speaker to serve a complete two-year stint. Nearly three decades later, Republicans narrowly won control of the Assembly following a year of bitter infighting, but then-Speaker Curt Pringle – now the mayor of Anaheim – lasted less than a year.
Like other Valley Republicans – such as Ken Maddy of Fresno who ran for governor in 1978, Clare Berryhill a senator and Assemblyman who later served as agriculture director, and Howard Way, a lawmaker who later headed the state’s prison system – Monagan was considered a pragmatist, a top-drawer negotiator not bound by ideology. In that regard, he differs from the current crop of Valley Republicans, who appear far more ideologically driven.
Monagan was elected to the Assembly in 1960 after serving as mayor of Tracy. He served as speaker in 1969-70, after the GOP won control of the house.
Robert Timothy Monagan Jr. was born on July 5, 1920, in Ogden, Utah and grew up in Vallejo. He attended what later became the University of the Pacific, where he served as student body president. Her served in the Coast Guard during World War II, and after the war he returned to the University of the Pacific to serve as graduate manager of athletics. He later served a 16-year stint as a regent of the school.
A small businessman who ran a local insurance brokerage, Monagan served on the Tracy City Council for two years before going to Sacramento, where he served six terms in the Legislature. In 1973-74, he served in the U.S. Department of Transportation in the President Reagan’s administration. He later was a member of the President’s Council on Private Sector Initiatives.
Monagan made a brief run for state treasurer in 1974, but withdrew early in the GOP primary, and in 1990 he served as chair of the California State World Trade Commission.
The Robert T. Monagan Scholarship Fund was established in 2002 to provide financial aid to a leader among the Omega Phi Alpha Chapter of the Delta Upsilon Fraternity, and a portion of I-205 from I-5 to I-580 is named the “Robert T. Monagan Freeway”.
He also had been president of the board of Sutter Health, the Sacramento-based regional health group, and was president of the board of Del Paso Country Club in Sacramento.
He is survived by his wife, Ione Monagan of Sacramento; a son, Mike Monagan, and his wife, Wendy, of Sacramento; a daughter, Marilee Monagan, and her companion, Brent Seizer, of Sacramento; two grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren.