Writings and observations

carlson CHRIS


In Chapter 5 of my recently published book, Medimont Reflections, I posed the question that if Idaho’s great senator, William E. Borah, was known as “the Lion of Idaho,” what historical female practitioner of the political arts should we award the title “the Lioness of Idaho?”

The chapter cited several worthy contenders, but drilled down on the case for Verda Barnes, Senator Frank Church’s long-time chief of staff, and Louise Shadduck, the long-time chief assistant to two governors, a senator and a congressman.

For retired former Twin Falls and Coeur d’Alene pastor, Mike Bullard, the choice was easy – hands down he believes it should be the former member of his last congregation, Louise Shadduck. He has written an enjoyable and informative 240-page biography of the multi-faceted, talented Shadduck, who grew up in Coeur d’Alene, cut her teeth in journalism and was a longtime member and former president of the National Federation of Press Women.

Always torn between a love of writing (she wrote and had published five books) and a love of politics, Bullard makes it clear she never really resolved the conflict. A creative tension always existed for her as she tried to balance feet in both worlds. Her love of politics eventually led her in 1956 to challenge First District congresswoman Gracie Pfost. It became the first race for a congressional seat in the nation ever between the major parties where each nominated a woman to carry the banner.

Despite losing, Louise never regretted making the race and called it one of her life’s great learning experiences.

During an interview with Bullard about Louise, who I had known since 1972 (I did a profile from Washington, D.C.), I mentioned that I was calling one chapter “The Lioness of Idaho” and essentially the answer in my mind came down to Louise or Verda. I mentioned also that I thought there were actually two classes of contenders for the title, those that had served in Congress, and those that had not.

Of course neither of the “finalists” served in elective office so it turned out to be a moot question.

After pondering it for awhile, Bullard decided to call his book Lioness of Idaho. He kindly asked if I minded and also said he would like to copyright it. He did both with my full blessing.

His subtitle though quintessentially highlights one of the attributes that distinguished Louise during her rich and full life. Bullard’s subtitle is “The Politics of Polite,” and that was a key ingredient in her long 93 year span.

She could and often was painfully direct, with a reporter’s mind and ear for asking one the central question.

However, she was always so nice about her directness because she genuinely cared about people. And like President George H.W. Bush, she wrote numerous “thank you’s” developing an incredible set of contacts. She always especially took time for young people asking about their plans, what they were thinking and why.

Those that considered her a mentor in the world of Republican politics would fill pages, but among the illustrious list were such stalwarts as Phil Reberger, Dirk Kempthorne’s chief of staff, Dirk himself, former Governor Robert E. Smylie and former Attorney General and Lt. Governor, David Leroy.

Bullard has many fine anecdotes throughout the book, one of the funnier one’s being how stricken a young Idaho State policeman was when he realized he had stopped and had to ticket a speeder – his Aunt Louise.

Always in a hurry to be someplace, Louise acknowledged her lead foot and took it with good humor when a traffic court judge once sentenced her to a week of driver training.

If any one in recent Idaho history would have stood a good shot at breaking the glass ceiling of Idaho never having elected a female governor, Louise is clearly that person. Only trouble is when party brass started pushing her to think about it, some balding lumberjack from Orofino, Idaho named Cece Andrus stood in the way. She would have run well, but she knew she wouldn’t win.

Besides, Louise liked Cece, and I’m proud to say, she liked me – even though we were “misguided Democrats.”

Bullard’s book is out this week and well worth the time and money to read.

I suspect too there will be a tear in your eye as you read the conclusion. I know there was in mine.

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Carlson Idaho