The College and Idaho's Governors

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.