February 10, 2014
TACOMA, WASH. — George Hugo Boldt was not a man anyone would mistake for a revolutionary.
He was a bespectacled and conservative Republican, a former Army officer who grew up in Montana and kept his close-sheared haircut intact throughout the turbulent '60s and beyond.
Among his many conservative credentials, Boldt was known as the federal judge who in 1970 held a group of Vietnam War protesters called the Seattle Seven in contempt of court and sentenced them to prison for six months.
The only thing about Boldt that could be considered radical was his fondness for plaid sports jackets and bow ties.
The court ruling Boldt handed down 40 years ago this week is a decision now recognized as one of the most sweeping documents of economic and social reform in Pacific Northwest history.
The central question in United States v. Washington concerned tribal fishing rights, but ripples from the decision went far and wide.