Charles Hastings Deuel was the editor and publisher of the Chico Record newspaper from 1897 until 1945, when he and his partner, V.C. Richards, sold the newspaper, according to a volunteer researcher with the Chico Heritage Association. In 1948, the town’s two newspapers merged and today the paper is known as the Chico Enterprise-Record.
Fraternally, Deuel was a member of the Native Sons of the Golden West and the Benevolent Protective Order of Elks, of which latter organization he was a trustee, as well as a director of the Elks Hall Association.
As both an editor and a politician, he fought against excessive spending: “It is folly to buy new automobiles of expensive makes for state department heads, and raise their salaries and those of judges — when our taxpayers are crying for relief. The real need is not for new taxes. It is for common sense pruning of swollen state spending programs.”
In his book “The California Legislature,” Secretary of the Senate Joseph Beek noted, “To the individual who has inhabited the Senate Chamber of the State of California longer than any other citizen of the State, the passing of Senator Charles Deuel marked the departure from that beautiful old room of the most kindly and most sympathetic presence it has ever known.”
Always interested in the activities of the community in which he lived, Deuel served many years as a trustee of the Chico Public Library, resigning in 1918, to accept the position of commissioner of the Bidwell Park and Playgrounds, which was formed in that year by the City of Chico to control the parks and playgrounds donated to the city by the late Annie E.K. Bidwell. He also served on a committee to aid in deciding on the future use of the Bidwell Mansion, now a state historic park in Chico. He also served as a director on the Chico Chamber of Commerce and the Chico Businessmen’s Association.
In September 1917, he was appointed by President Wilson as a member of the Butte County Exemption Board, and was chosen secretary of that body; and in this capacity, he gave months of his time without compensation to the arduous duties of the administration of the Selective Service Act in Butte County.
Deuel entered politics in 1924, when he was elected to the state Assembly. A lifelong Democrat, he served continuously, mostly in the Senate, which he was elected to in 1930 and served until his death while in office in 1947. During most of his career, he combined being a legislator with publishing the Chico Record. He was the author of many of the state’s modern prison laws.
Deuel served on a special panel convened by Gov. Earl Warren in late 1943 to investigate corruption and mismanagement in the state’s prison system. He later carried the legislation that ultimately dismantled the old system and replaced it with the new Department of Corrections.
Deuel authored legislation to create the California Vocational Institution in 1945. Two years later, he passed away and the institution was renamed the Deuel Vocational Institution, in his name in 1951. The facility opened in Tracy in 1953 and was expanded in 1959, 1981 and 1993.