Paull H. Shin: First Korean American elected to state Legislature advocated for education, trade, economic development

Paull Shin

Dr. Paull H. Shin, who served in the 21st Legislative District for many years, died peacefully in his home April 12, 2021. He and his family have been residents of Edmonds since 1968.

Dr. Shin was the first Korean American elected to the Washington State Legislature, where he served for 18 years. He was born in Korea in 1935. He lost his family at an early age and survived, often begging for food on the streets of Seoul until the outbreak of the Korean war in 1950, at which point he became a houseboy for a group of U.S. Army officers. In 1954 one of them, a dentist named Dr. Ray Paull, adopted him and brought him to his home in Utah.

Despite knowing little English, Dr. Shin completed his GED in 18 months, went on to earn his BA in Political Science from Brigham Young University, an MPIA from the University of Pittsburgh, and both an MA & PHD from the University of Washington. Dr. Shin was an American & Asian history professor at Shoreline Community College for 31 years, during which time he served several governors in many advisory capacities.

He was a staunch advocate for education, trade, economic development, and strong families. He worked tirelessly to help disadvantaged and marginalized populations to achieve the American dream. He encouraged students, immigrants and young people everywhere to get involved in local government and become a positive force for progress and change. Dr. Shin during his life was also very active serving in the Korean American community, many worthy organizations, and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, where he served as a missionary and Mission President of the Korea, Seoul mission.

Dr. Shin is survived by his wife Donna, two children and their spouses, five grandsons and spouses, three great grandchildren so far, his adopted American family, his Korean family of four brothers and their spouses and children, one sister and spouse and children, and many wonderful friends.

In lieu of flowers, donations to Mukilteo Boys & Girls Club, Veterans of Foreign Wars or World Vision would be greatly appreciated.

  1. My first memory of Paull Shin was my World History professor. I took the three quarters of it from him and also Japanese history he was a great teacher. Years later I was active in politics and I reconnected with him, he served the people of Washington State with honor and honesty.

  2. My mother taught at Shoreline Community College and became friends with Paull Shin. I remember meeting him when I was still in grade school and thought he was very nice. I later attended SCC and took a couple of his classes. He recognized my name and was always kind and offered gentle guidance and support. My mother was not easily impressed, but she had great respect for Paull and his incredible life and accomplishments. I am sad I did not get a chance to reconnect with him. After an absence of over 25 years from Washington, I recently returned and thought of him, but didn’t get around to reaching out. My thoughts and prayers are with him family.

  3. My first encounter with Senator Shin was during a legislative visit as a member of the South Snohomish Chamber of Commerce to advocate for legislation to improve the economic climate for struggling businesses. I was impressed by his quiet demeanor and willingness to listen to our needs. His primary focus then at the Legislature was on the Senate Committees for Higher Education and Economic Development plus International Trade issues with Asian Pacific neighbors. Although our delegation was unhappy when he could not directly take up our issues but was sympathetic to our concerns. It was my first recognition that each elected official were assigned specific committees that they were worked on. I learned my first valuable lesson about being an effective advocate and that is you must research carefully each elected official’s areas of interest and demonstrate how your specifc issue relates to their area of interest. Also, one of my Asian attributes was learning patience and the ability to form long-term relationships with our respective elected official. It is the long-term associations that build trust. When I was appointed as a trustee for Edmonds Community College, I was able to reconnect with Senator Shin. Although we represented different Asia cultures (Chinese vs Korean) I would refer to him as my “elder brother” out of respect and affection. His story as a young Korean child struggling to survive during the Korean conflict and his adoption by an American Officer was inspiring and his achievement as an educator and life of service to his adopted country and our state speaks to the integrity of honor and devotion to his adopted country. We were fortunate to have him serve our community and our State.

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