Chaplain History

The tradition of appointing chaplains to the legislative branches of government dates to the beginning of the Republic when chaplains served both houses of Congress. In California, the first chaplain to serve the state Senate was appointed in 1897, the Rev. Charles L. Miel, who was the rector of St. Paul's Episcopal Church a few blocks from the State Capitol. Father Miel's church is much a part of California history; St. Paul's was established in 1849 - during the Gold Rush - and among the congregation's members and benefactors were Gov. Leland Stanford and his family. The second chaplain to the California Senate was the Rev. A.J. Sturtevant, a Baptist from Ukiah.

There have been 48 chaplains to the state Senate, most of them Christian pastors. The chaplains have also included four rabbis and one Buddhist. Three women have served as Senate Chaplain: the Rev. Canon Winifred Gaines, who is also the first woman ordained to the Episcopal priesthood in Northern California; Rabbi Mona Alfi of Congregation B'nai Israel in Sacramento; and our current chaplain, Sister Michelle Gorman of the Sisters of Mercy. The longest serving chaplain was the Rev. Walter J. Little, III, a Roman Catholic Deacon, who served for 10 years and retired at the end of the session in 2004. Several chaplains have served for multiple legislative terms. During the 1970s, chaplains served for a single year; in the 1980s the Senate returned to appointing chaplains to serve for a full two-year legislative session or longer.

The chaplains to the California Senate and their years of service are listed below, beginning with the year of their appointment and ending with the year their service concluded (religious affiliations are listed where known):

Chaplains from 1852-present
Rev. Sylvester Woodbridge, Jr. (1852, 1853, 1854)
Rev. Benjamin T. Crouch, Jr. Crouch (1855)
Rev. Horace L. Edgar Pratt (1855, 1856)
Rev. Joseph A. Gallagher (1857)
Rev. J.E. Dwinelle (1865-66)
Rev. J.S. McDonald (1867-68)
Rev. William Roland. Gober (1869-70)
Rev. John Harmon Charles Bonte (1871-72 1873-74)
Rev. John Lewis Trefen (1885, 1886)
Rev. H.C. Christian (1887)
Rev. A.C. Bane (1889)
Rev. Joseph Asbury Bruner (1891)
Rev. W.S. Hoskinson (1893, 1905)
Rev. G.A. Ottmann (1895)
Rev. Charles L. Miel (1897, 1903, 1906)
Rev. A.J. Sturtevant (1900, 1899)
Rev. W.C. Evans (1901)
Rev. C.H. Darling (1907)
Rev. Fr. Henry Wyman, C.S.P. (1909, 1910, 1911)
Rev. B. Dent Naylor (1913)
Rev. Fr. Henry Ignatius Stark (1915, 1916)
Rev. Isaac Dawson (1917)
Rev. S. Fraser Langford (1919)
Rev. Bryant Wilson (1921, 1927, 1928, 1929)
Rev. William E. Harrison (1923, 1925)
Rev. Dr. Sherman L. Divine, D.D., LL.P. (1931)
Rev. William F. Ehmann (1933, 1934)
Rev. Mewton E. Moats (1935, 1936)
Rev. Clarence A. Kircher (1937, 1938, 1945, 1946)
Rev. A. Raymond Grant (1939, 1940)
Rev. H.W. Opperman (1941, 1942)
Rev. Msgr. Raymond Renwald (1943)
Rev. Richard C. Dwyer (1943, 1944)
The Very Rev. William C. Pearson (1947, 1948)
Rev. Nelson E. Hinman (1949, 1950)
Rev. Fr. John G. Terwilliger (1951, 1952)
Rabbi Irving I. Hausman (1953, 1954)
Rev. Dr. Torrance Phelps (1955)
Rev. Fr. Luke Powleson (1956, 1957, 1958)
Rev. I.E. Metcalf (1959, 1960)
Rev. Edward L. Peet (1961)
Rev. Dr. John W. Pressly, Jr. (1962, 1965)
Rev. Fr. Keith B. Kenny (1963, 1964)
The Very Rev. Ogden Hoffman, Jr. (1966)
Rev. Wilbur W.Y. Choy (1967)
Fr. Constantine Raptis (1968)
Rev. Robert L. Carlson (1969)
Rev. Robert S. Romeis (1970)
Rabbi Amiel Wohl (1971)
Rev. Wilbur Carl Christians (1972)
Rev. A. Paul Jones (1973-74)
Rev. David R. Swope (1973-74)
Rev. Sholo Masunaga (1975-76)
Rev. Paul G. Trulin (1975-76)
Rabbi Lester A. Frazin (1977-78)
The Very Rev. Stavrofor Miladin Garic (1977-78)
Rev. Robert F. Clazie (1979-80)
Pastor Reinhold K. Tilstra (1979-80)
Rev. Wilbur A. Korfhage (1981-82, 1983-84, 1985-86)
Rev. Fr. Leo T. McAllister (1987-88, 1989-90)
Fr. Troy Powers (1989-90)
Rev. Canon Winifred Gaines (1991-92)
Rev. Deacon Walter J. Little, III (1993-94, 1995-96, 1997-98, 1999-2000, 2001-02, 2003-04)
Rev. Canon James D. Richardson (2005-06, 2007-08)
Rabbi Mona Alfi (2007-08, 2009-10, 2011-12, 2013-14)
Sister Michelle Gorman, RSM (2015-16, 2017-18, 2019-20)

Senate Chaplains

  • Rev. Robert F. Clazie (1979) - United Methodist

  • Rev. Canon Winifred Gaines (1991-1994) - Episcopalian

  • Rev. Wilbur A. Korfhage (1981-1986) - United Methodist

  • Rabbi Amiel Wohl (1971) - Jewish
  • Rev. Wilbur A. Korfhage (1981-1986) - United Methodist

  • Rev. Deacon Walter J. Little, III (1994-2004) - Roman Catholic

  • Rev. Fr. Leo McAllister (1987-1991) - Roman Catholic

  • Pastor Reinhold K. Tilstra (1980) - Seventh Day Adventist