Jay Michael: Vice President of the University of California, and Chief Sacramento Lobbyist Director, Office of State Governmental Relations, 1966-1976
Conducted by Neil Henry in 2013, Regional Oral History Office, The Bancroft Library, University of
California, Berkeley, 2014.
Jay Michael left city management in Claremont, CA. to become the University of California’s
representative and chief lobbyist in Sacramento in 1966. The man who hired him, University
President Clark Kerr, was fired from his post shortly after Michael took up his position, but
Michael stayed on the job through the next decade under President Charles Hitch and through the
gubernatorial administration of Ronald Reagan, before leaving to become chief lobbyist for the
California Medical Foundation.
In this oral history Michael reflects on his early education and happy Mennonite childhood in
California, the seminal influences that led him to a career in public administration, and the
challenges he faced in the turbulent 1960s and 1970s protecting the mission, independence, and
finances of the University of California. At that time the University was under fierce attack from
many different corners, including from Governor Reagan. Michael explains how he built a
grassroots coalition known as the “key contact system” of University supporters throughout the
state, and the day to day work lobbyists do in cobbling together political backers and legislative
support in the capital for their various causes and interests. He also recounts humorous
experiences he had working with many storied leaders in Sacramento from Jesse Unruh and
Willie Brown to Reagan.
What comes through most clearly in this interview, which was conducted over three sessions in
Michael’s home in the Sacramento suburb of Carmichael, CA, is Michael’s passion and idealism,
and his unwavering belief in the University of California as an engine for human betterment.
The Michael interview joins a series of over seventy oral histories which shed light on the university's statewide administration for more than a century, from the presidency of Benjamin Ide Wheeler, 1899 to 1919, to current times.