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Walter J. Karabian Papers
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Collection Details
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  • Biography
  • Scope and Content Note

  • Contributing Institution: Henry Madden Library (California State University, Fresno). Central Valley Political Archives
    5200 N. Barton Ave. M/S ML 34
    Fresno, CA 93740-8014
    Creator: Karabian, Walter J. (1938- )
    Title: Walter J. Karabian Papers
    Date (inclusive): 1964-1992
    Date (bulk): 1968-1974
    Physical Description: 25 linear feet

    DVD, audiocassettes, video, and reel-to-reel audio tapes, photographs.

    Language of Material: Material is inEnglish


    Walter J. Karabian was born in Fresno, California, in 1938. He grew up in Fresno's local Armenian community and graduated from Roosevelt High School in June 1956. After high school, Karabian left Fresno to attend the University of Southern California (USC) in Los Angeles. While studying at USC, Karabian was elected Student Body and Junior Class President. He was awarded his Bachelor of Arts in American History in 1960 and then continued his studies at USC. In 1963 Karabian graduated from the USC Law School where he later obtained a Master of Science degree in Public Administration from that institution as well. In addition to his studies, Karabian took an early interest in politics, working for President Lyndon B. Johnson's reelection campaign in 1964. After college, Karabian was a Deputy District Attorney for the County of Los Angeles and entered into private practice with John H. Karns, in Monterey Park.
    Karabian moved directly into politics when, running as a Democrat, he was elected to the State Assembly in 1966 as a representative for the 45th Assembly District in the West San Gabriel Valley region of Los Angeles County. One of the youngest men to ever be elected to the Assembly, Karabian continued to represent the 45th District for the next eight years, continually winning reelection to the State Assembly. He published various legal articles during his years in the Assembly and gained a reputation as a significant legal author as well as legislator. Karabian came to occupy a position of leadership among California Democrats and was eventually appointed the Assembly Majority Leader in 1971. As an up-and-coming Democratic leader, Karabian mentored many future members of the Assembly, including Richard Alatorre and Art Torres. Considering himself to be a progressive Democrat, Karabian spearheaded various progressive issues in his legislation. He authored bills that dealt with crime and the law, prison reform, education, civil rights, free speech, and the preservation of endangered species in California. Karabian eventually ran for Secretary of State in 1974, but lost his bid for that office in the primary election and for the most part retired from public life afterwards.
    Since 1974, Karabian has practiced law for his firm, Karns and Karabian, in Los Angeles. He has continued to be a politically prominent individual since the 1970s. Karabian was selected as the co-chairman of a trade delegation that visited Cuba during Jimmy Carter's presidency and was named as the legal counsel for a legislative delegation to the Philippines in 1979. Descended from Armenian immigrants, Karabian has also taken an active interest in Armenian issues since 1974 and was selected to speak on behalf of a number of Armenian organizations relating to Armenian grievances and objectives before the Los Angeles World Affairs Council. Karabian currently resides in Los Angeles.

    Scope and Content Note

    The Karabian papers measure 25 linear feet and date from 1964 to 1992. The papers are arranged in nine series: Biographical information, Legislative files, Campaign materials, Correspondence, Writings, Subject files, Public relations files, Photographs, and Artifacts. The papers are the files that Karabian compiled in his career as a legislator, as well as other materials that relate to his career in the Assembly and his work in politics generally.

    Access Information

    The papers are open for research.

    Conditions of Use

    Copyright has not been transferred to California State University, Fresno.
    The papers were donated by Walter J. Karabian in 2003 and 2004.