“Filled with the kind of insights that only a seasoned observer of the ways of Sacramento could provide.”
(San Francisco Chronicle
“For those who revere the era of California politics when personalities were bigger than political offices in a state where the future seemed brighter every day, this book is a ‘must read.’”
(Larry N. Gerston California History
"Sheds light on California's less-than-sedate politics after World War II . . . a telling perspective on the present state of our political affairs."
(Peter Schrag Los Angeles Times Book Review
“For insight into California’s government, history and politics, or simply an account of a fascinating personality, this is a book well worth reading.”
(Richard M. Mosk Daily Journal
"A veteran political reporter provides much detail and insight into both his [Unruh’s] alcohol-saturated, woman-chasing personal life and political career."
(Dan Walters Sacramento Bee
From the Inside Flap
"Jesse Unruh was a remarkable phenomenon in American politics, a figure of tremendous energy and intelligence, with flaws to match. Although he never held public office beyond his home state, his institutional creativity as Speaker of the California Assembly and as State Treasurer had nationwide impact. Bill Boyarsky followed Unruh's career from the early days, and has produced a careful, fair-minded, and appreciative portrait without neglecting skeletons in the closet, buried bodies, and other colorful details of California politics that only a long-term, well-informed observer could provide."Nelson Polsby, University of California, Berkeley
"Jesse Unruh was California's most flamboyant and influential legislator. He has a worthy biographer in Bill Boyarsky, one of the state's best-ever political reporters. Boyarsky has written a lively treasure of a book that is at once critical and sympathetic: he unflinchingly describes Unruh's larger-than-life flaws but gives him deserved credit as an effective populist who wrote civil rights and education laws that were well ahead of their time. Beyond biography, this fascinating book provides a revealing examination of a state capitol culture that has been swept aside by the modern era of term limits and lavish campaign spending. Boyarsky writes about a vanished time when people cared about politics, and politicians like Unruh also cared about the people."Lou Cannon, author of Governor Reagan: His Rise to Power
"Big Daddy is the gripping real-life story of Jesse M. Unruh and the development of California following WWII. Boyarsky reveals how Unruh's multi-faceted character shaped his significant contributions. He was an institution builder who created a professional legislature and a passionate centrist who promoted civil rights, shareholder rights, and a responsible system of educational financing and accountability. This page turner pulls no punches in describing the complexities of the man and his times and their relevance for today's divisive politics."Ann N. Crigler, chair of the Department of Political Science, University of Southern California
"If Bill Boyarsky had merely written about "Big Daddy" Unruh, one of the most powerful California politicians of the 20th Century, this would have been a valuable book. Jesse comes alive in all his bullying bulk and commitment to progressive public policy. But Boyarsky's work is much more than that. It is a close-up look at California's Capitol when it consistently worked, not always in a pretty way. Those politicians may have sinned, but they definitely succeeded in meeting the needs of a fast-growing state. This is an enjoyable read with many lessons."George Skelton, L.A Times State Political Columnist
"Only a seasoned reporter such as Bill Boyarsky would have the insight and skill to chronicle the life and times of this flamboyant but enigmatic politician, this gruff giant, this wizard of the legislative process, this ardent advocate and fierce opponent, the late great Jesse Unruh."Kevin Starr, Professor of History, University of Southern California