George Rolland House II wore many hats. He was a California Highway Patrolman, an almond farmer, a member of the Hughson School Board and later a California State Assemblyman. The unwavering patriot and devout Christian died Thursday at a care facility, leaving old friends in his small hometown and across the state grieving.
House, 86, had been struggling with dementia for about seven year, said his widow Edna House of Hughson. He was being cared for at home until he required more intensive care months ago.
"What he was proud of more than anything was just being a farmer and a father," said Edna. "He really enjoyed his 30 years in law enforcement. He had a good passion for all of the things he was involved in. He will probably be remembered for being an Assemblyman."
House failed in his first try for state office. In 1992 he was defeated in the Republican primary by Barbara Keating-Edh who later lost the general election to Modesto Democrat Margaret Snyder. Snyder proved to be vulnerable and House saw an opportunity when the seat came up for grabs in 1994. House was elected that year as Republicans became a majority for the first time since 1970. His campaign sounded some ultra conservative themes. A House brochure noted: "My life in the Central Valley has been blessed by friendship and a love for our soil. It's clear to me that folks want to fend for themselves ... and they're certainly tired of government cheating them of their hard-earned wages. Neighbors here will always extend a hand, but like everyone else, I believe it's time to end welfare handouts to illegal immigrants. And, of course, we must protect our way of life by stopping the urban liberals and radical environmentalists who threaten it."
House drew fire from Democrats in 1997 when he quoted the Bible in opposition of legislation intended to bar discrimination against homosexuals on the job. He specifically was concerned with protecting the Boy Scouts which banned gays from being leaders at the time. That ban was lifted last year.
"He had a firm belief in his convictions and he wasn't quiet about it," said Mrs. House. "People found him kind of entertaining. He was a little different."
Curt Pringle, a former speaker of the state Assembly who served with House, said he was saddened to hear of his passing.
"George House was a wonderful colleague of mine in the State Assembly," Pringle told the Courier. "He was a clear thinker and a clear speaker. You would always know where he stood. But more importantly he knew why he stood there. He was a strong man of faith. He was a faith anchor in our caucus. He regularly spoke of his love of his God, of his wife and his family, and of his state and his country."
Pringle said House was sorely missed when Republican members reunited in January on the 20th anniversary of that Republican majority. "Nearly everyone present at our reunion dinner that night spoke of George and how blessed we all were to have served with him."
House ran for re-election in 1996, handily defeating Democrat Ed Elliott in a 58.3 percent to 38.3 percent outcome. He was opposed in 1998 by Oakdale Democrat Wesley Firch who lost to House by a greater margin. House served in the 25th District until term limits forced him out in 2000 and back to his Hughson almond farm.
In campaign literature George bragged about his Nov. 20, 1929 birth taking place in a log cabin at the foot of Rattlesnake Bluff. Edna said it was true and that her husband took her to his birthplace more specifically located near Indianola, Okla.
Before his entry into local and state politics, House was a Modesto Police officer for two years before becoming a California Highway Patrolman and area commander for 30 years. He also served as a juvenile traffic court hearing officer for eight years.
A private graveside service is being held Thursday. A public memorial service at 10:30 a.m. on Friday, Aug. 5 at the Church of Christ, 1519 Tully Road, Hughson.
He leaves behind his wife Edna House of Hughson; five children, George Rolland House III of Corvallis, Ore., John House of Hillsboro, Ore., Paul House of Guthrie, Okla., Nathan House of Orlando, Fla., and Jessica House Bingham of Orange County; and 11 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.