A TOTAL OF SEVEN of Idaho’s 32 governors have had close ties to The College of Idaho. Two have been graduates, two were former faculty members, and three served as trustees.
Founder DR. WILLIAM JUDSON BOONE was himself a candidate for the office of Governor of Idaho on two occasions. He twice carried the banner of the Prohibition Party. In the 1894 race he garnered 178 votes statewide and in 1900 he tallied 914 votes (a 500+% increase over his previous campaign). Deciding to ignore the implications of that impressive momentum, thereafter Dr. Boone refrained from political impulses. However, in later years he would confide to his diary that the 13 years, 10 months, and 19 days of the 18th Amendment (1920-1933) had been a golden era.
FRANK STEUNENBERG (1861-1905) of Caldwell served two terms as Idaho’s fourth governor. The youngest man to be elected to the governor’s chair, Steunenberg was in office (1897-1901) when a term was for two years. Steunenberg was on the first faculty at the C of I, having been drafted by founder Dr. William Judson Boone in the fall of 1891.
A native of Ohio and one of ten children, Steunenberg had been drawn to territorial Idaho by Caldwell’s attractive business climate. Gaining a toehold in local development by purchasing a newspaper, he soon joined with a brother to gain interests in banking, real estate and stock raising. Coupled with a college education and experience as a unionist, his wit and intelligence helped launch his political career. He first served as a member of the state constitutional convention and subsequently was elected to the Idaho legislature.
While governor violent labor unrest in the mines of North Idaho caused Steunenberg to invoke martial law during his second term. Four years after he was out of office, having returned to his business career in Caldwell, Steunenberg was assassinated outside his home by Harry Orchard, who later confessed to being a hired killer for the Western Federation of Miners. The saga of that era, when Idaho was the focus of international attention, was the subject of the 2007 docudrama, “ASSASSINATION: IDAHO’S TRIAL OF THE CENTURY,” produced by Idaho Public Television.
Documents from Steunenberg’s administration are maintained in an online archive as part of the C of I’s webpage.
Idaho’s sixth governor, JOHN T. MORRISON (1860-1915), was another Caldwellite who had been on Dr. Boone’s first faculty at the C of I. (Morrison and Boone, both native Pennsylvanians, had been fraternity brothers as undergraduates at the College of Wooster, in Ohio, in the 1880s.) Upon completing his work at Wooster, Morrison went to Cornell to study law. By 1890, having followed Boone to the American West, Morrison had opened a law practice in Caldwell, a partnership he formed with a Cornell law school classmate, John C. Rice. The firm of Morrison and Rice drew up the articles of incorporation for the first private college in Idaho. Rice went on to serve as a justice on the Idaho Supreme Court.
Morrison served in office one term, 1903-1905. His administration managed to enter office by avoiding the usual fractious local issues of mining disputes and range wars between cattle and sheep interests. According to the late Idaho historian Merle Wells, “Morrison joined in bringing a new era to Idaho politics that finally had considerable impact upon the state….He represented a nationally typical transition from an era of Populist proposals to progressive reforms characteristic of those who advocated significant political change after 1900.
After leaving office Morrison made a fateful decision that would effectively hamstring his political aspirations. That decision was to accept an invitation in 1907 from Clarence Darrow to join the defense team for Bill Haywood and other officials of the Western Federation of Miners accused of conspiring to murder former Governor Frank Steunenberg in 1905 (see ASSASSINATION: TRIAL OF THE CENTURY, above). Thanks to the taint of Haywood, and to what Wells identifies as “an addiction for political misadventures that retarded his career in government,” Morrison never won another election.
H.C. BALDRIDGE (1869-1947) of Parma, a chairman of the C of I board of trustees for a dozen years, was Idaho’s 14th governor, serving two terms from 1927 to 1931. A native of Illinois, Baldridge began his political career in Idaho in 1911 as a member of the Idaho House of Representatives. In 1913 he was elected to the Idaho State Senate, serving a single term there as well. He was elected the 15th Lieutenant Governor of Idaho in 1922, serving in that capacity in the administration of Governor Charles C. Moore.
According to historian Mary J. Tate, while Baldridge was not a lustrous politician (being a product of his party and his times), “His integrity has never been challenged; he was respected for his fairness and kindness.” Baldridge felt that significant contributions of his two terms included bolstering the state highway system, the state hospitals, and the state penitentiary. However, in Tate’s assessment, “the most important legacy” of his administration was federal action following his 1930 proposal that a large portion of central Idaho be declared a roadless wilderness. “The United States Forest Service responded the next year with over a million acre Idaho Primitive Area that eventually developed into a still larger block of wilderness set aside for the benefit of succeeding generations.”
Baldridge was a cousin and business partner of E.M. Kirkpatrick, another Illinois native transplanted to Parma, who was also a C of I trustee. After retiring from politics Baldridge served as Idaho’s observer at the San Francisco United Nations Conference.
The first alumnus of the C of I to be elected governor was ROBERT E. SMYLIE, a member of the Class of 1938. The 23rd governor, Smylie (1914-2004) served three consecutive four-year terms (1955-1967), the only Idaho governor to do so.
A product of Cresco, Iowa, where his family had endured the Great Depression, Smylie came to Idaho in 1934 to enroll at the C of I. While a student at the College he played football, served as yearbook editor, and was elected student body president. After graduation he attended George Washington University Law School where he received his Juris Doctor degree. Four years of World War II were spent in the Coast Guard, first as an enlisted man and later as an officer.
Smylie became active in Idaho politics after World War II. He was appointed assistant Idaho attorney general in 1947, and the same year, at the age of 33, was appointed attorney general. Three years later he won election as attorney general. He was elected to his first term as governor in 1954.
Smylie’s administrations addressed issues relating to public education and its funding, natural resources, public health, and the creation of a modern state park system. His participation in broad political affairs brought Idaho much national publicity.
After leaving office, Smylie entered into a law practice in Boise that kept him in close touch with Idaho political affairs. For many years he contributed a weekly newspaper column of political analysis. His loyalty to his alma mater was unrivalled. He was the school’s acting president in 1974. He is one of only two C of I trustees to be awarded the distinction of the title, “Trustee for Life.” His political legacy includes the creation of the Robert E. Smylie Archives at the C of I, a repository that emphasizes state and local government as well as the College’s history and proud heritage of public service. At his funeral, two C of I professors paid tribute to the man who had given so much to his state and college. Dr. Jasper LiCalzi said, in part, “Gov. Smylie’s support for the state sales tax brought Idaho into the modern era yet probably ended his political career.” And Dr. Howard Berger ended his summation, “Idaho is simply a much better place to live because of the life and career of Robert E. Smylie.”
CECIL D. ANDRUS, born in Oregon in 1931, another former chairman of the C of I’s board of trustees, was the longest-serving governor of Idaho. First elected as Idaho’s 25th governor in 1970 and reelected in 1974, Andrus resigned in 1977 to become Secretary of the Interior for four years during the administration of President Jimmy Carter. Andrus returned to Idaho and was elected to a third term as governor in 1986. He was reelected to an unprecedented fourth term in 1990.
Andrus launched his political career in Clearwater County. He was elected state senator as a Democrat in 1960, 1962, 1964, and 1968. His first attempt to become governor, in 1966, was unsuccessful, as he lost to Republican Don Samuelson.
However, running again for the governorship in 1970, Andrus sensed a shift as the electorate became aware of looming crises in air and water pollution. According to C of I Professor Jasper LiCalzi, Andrus was the first politician nationally to make an environmental issue (e.g., the White Clouds/molybdenum mine dispute) the lead issue in a campaign for elective office.
In the ensuing years Andrus came to be identified with numerous environmental success stories, including the passage of the Alaska Lands Act and the National Surface Mining Act of 1977 and with the creation of the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness Area, the Snake River Birds of Prey Area, and the Sawtooth and Hells Canyon National Recreation Areas. As a consequence, Andrus has won environmental awards including the William Penn Mott Park Leadership Award from the National Parks Conservation Association, Conservationist of the Year from the National Wildlife Federation, the Ansel Adams Award from the Wilderness Society, the Audubon Medal, and the Torch of Liberty award from B'Nai Brith. In 1995, Andrus founded the Andrus Center for Public Policy at Boise State University. He published his memoir, Politics Western Style, in 1998. Cecil D. Andrus Elementary School in Boise is named after him. Now 15 old, the Andrus Center, according to its website, “has convened conferences, produced research and analysis and served as ‘common ground’ for civil, serious discussion about public policy and some of the major issues of our times. The Center’s conferences have focused, among other issues, on the environment, wildland fire policy, water resources, journalism and public policy, national security, civil liberties and rural development.”
Further, “The Center has been instrumental in bringing to Idaho top national environmental and natural resources leaders, current and former members of Congress, nationally prominent journalists and business leaders.” The 27th man to be elected governor of Idaho was PHILIP E. BATT, becoming Idaho’s 29th chief executive in 1995. Also a former state legislator, state senator, and lieutenant governor, Batt served as a C of I trustee from 1974 to 1982.
Born in 1927 in Wilder, Batt combined a career as a successful farmer with a lifetime interest in politics. Besides his numerous terms in elected office, he also was state chairman of the Idaho Republican Party in the early 1990s. At that time, in the wake of the Andrus era, Republican politicians were in the doldrums. Batt is credited with rebuilding the party’s structure and rejuvenating Republican enthusiasm statewide.
His term as governor was marked by fiscal conservancy and an eye to Idaho’s future. He directed the modernization of the state’s computer system, improved conditions for agricultural workers, and successfully negotiated favorable terms for the storage of nuclear waste in Idaho. In addition, during his administration there were long-overdue additions made to the Idaho State Historical Society’s library and archives. During Batt’s term, his top administrators comprised a higher percentage of women than any other state. In spite of demonstrated popularity in the polls, he decided to serve a single term.
Phil Batt’s wit and sense of humor are evident in both his writings and his music. Whether getting in some licks at the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival at the U of I in Moscow, or compiling the anecdotes in Life as a Geezer, he has never shied from sharing with a wider audience his joy of living. Nor has he been reluctant to make serious observations. Recently he has contributed historical overviews to the current administration on such complex issues as funding our transportation infrastructure. C.L. "BUTCH" OTTER, currently in his second term as Idaho’s 32nd governor, received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from the College of Idaho in 1967. Otter, born in Caldwell in 1942, served four terms as Idaho's Lieutenant Governor - longer than anyone in Idaho history. He represented the people of Canyon County in the Idaho House of Representatives for two terms (1973-1976). He served three terms in Congress representing Idaho's 1st District (2000-2006).
Espousing a conservative/libertarian point of view, and following entrepreneurial instincts, Otter consistently emphasizes the need for elected officials to keep the people’s needs in mind. In 2006 he said, “My goal as your governor is to empower Idaho to be all that America was meant to be, and to empower Idahoans to be the architects of their own destiny.” In his 2011 State of the State address, he reminded the assembled legislators of the tough tasks before them: “But ladies and gentlemen, that’s precisely why we were sent here – to make sound public policy that helps strengthen our economy and fosters creation of career opportunities without growing government….. The solutions we seek are in our towns, our neighborhoods, and around our kitchen tables… The State’s role must be focused on finding better ways of fostering those local support systems….. We need a long‐term plan for reducing the tax burden on our citizens.” Governor Otter graduated from St. Teresa´s Academy (now Bishop Kelly High School) in Boise, attended Boise Junior College (now Boise State University), before attending the C of I. Profiled in 2007 in the C of I alumni magazine, Quest, Otter recalled his professors: “The biggest change in my life is a direct result” of those teachers and the challenges they posed.
He served honorably in the Idaho Army National Guard´s 116th Armored Cavalry from 1968 to 1973, and later was awarded honorary doctorates from the University of the Philippines and the C of I.
Governor Otter´s 30-year career in business included membership on the Board of Directors of the J.R. Simplot Company. He also served as Director of the Food Products Division, President of Simplot Livestock, and President of Simplot International. He retired in 1993.
Governor Otter is a member of the Roman Catholic Church, the National Rifle Association, the Maple Grove State Grange, the Idaho Cowboys Association, and the Idaho 4-H Million Dollar Club. He is a Grand Slam member of Ducks Unlimited, a lifetime member of Safari Club International, was elected to the National Cowboy Hall of Fame Board of Directors in Oklahoma City in 1991, and is a lifetime member of American Legion Post 113 in Meridian.
Prepared by Jan Boles 2-10-11.