Washington State Penitentiary Superintendent B. J. Rhay

B. J. Rhay

Variously known as Bob, Bobby. B. J., warden, superintendent, and Mr. Rhay, B. J. Rhay has the distinction of being the longest serving superintendent of the Washington State Penitentiary in the prison’s history.

A decorated fighter pilot from World War II, Rhay returned to Walla Walla in 1945 where he got a degree in sociology from Whitman College and married the prison superintendent’s daughter. When his father-in-law joined the ranks of the unemployed due to a change in the governor’s mansion, Rhay went to work for Earle Stanley Gardner (of Perry Mason fame) on Gardner’s 1950s radio and TV show, “Court of Last Resort.”

Rhay was appointed superintendent in 1957 at the age of 35, making him the youngest prison superintendent in the country. Twenty years later, at the end of his tenure, he had been superintendent of the same maximum security prison longer than anyone else.

Rhay was the father of seven daughters, all raised in the superintendent’s residence in the shadow of the prison walls.

B. J. Rhay died in June, 2012, at the age of 91.

2 thoughts on “SUPERINTENDENT B. J. RHAY

  1. where you aware of the psychological experiments being done at WSP in the late 60’s and early 70’s by University of Washington psychologist? If so, how long did those experiments go on at WSP? They were done with this superintedents permission and the governor.

    • I know there were medical experiments involving radiation that left men sterile. These were stopped sometime around 1970. I don’t know anything about psychological experiments. What do you know about them?

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