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The importance of Harry Huskey

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Last week Harry Huskey died. He was 101. A death largely unheralded in Idaho, but worthy of a half page obituary in the New York Times.

In my mind, he is the most influential person ever to graduate from the University of Idaho. But if he was so influential, why have you never heard of him? Probably because you never tried to find out who was the father of personal computing.

Huskey came to Idaho with his parents when he was 18 months old. They settled on a ranch in Little Lost River, north of Arco. Harry’s father herded sheep and in his youth Harry did as well. The family next moved to Salmon and finally in the midst of the Depression, they moved to Pocatello to give Harry better access to a good education. His parents both had eighth grade educations and they were determined to make him the first in their family to attend college.

After graduating from high school, Harry moved to Moscow to attend the University of Idaho, where he majored in math. He lived in Lindley and Willis Sweet dormitories and graduated with highest honors in 1937. Following graduation from the UI, he received both masters and doctoral degrees from Ohio State University.

In 1946, he was one of the key members of the team that designed and built the ENIAC computer for the Army. The ENIAC was an 18,000 vacuum tube 27 ton behemoth that could perform calculation in 30 seconds that would require 20 hours to do manually.

The next year he moved to Britain where to joined the team led by British mathematician Alan Turing at the National Physical Laboratory. Turing had been the team leader of the top secret project that developed the techniques used to break the German Enigma machines codes and was the subject of the 2014 film, “The Imitation Game.”

At the laboratory, they designed the Automated Computing Engine, better known as ACE. It was one of the first stored-program computers.

Back in the states, Huskey was becoming increasingly recognized for his work in designing computers. At the item, the word computer wasn’t yet in wide use. Huskey used the term “large scale electronic computing machine” to describe his work.

In 1950 he was a guest and contestant on Groucho Marx’ radio quiz program “You Bet Your Life.” A recording of the show is available on You Tube. Listening to Huskey attempt to explain his work to Marx shows the small degree of public awareness of computers at that time. Although Marx makes wonderful use of his wicked sense of humor on the show, he also indicates that he recognizes that Huskey is involved in work that will ultimately have great benefits for mankind.

In 1956, Huskey rose to the zenith of his career. Working for Bendix Aviation, he designed and built the G15 computer. The G15 weighed 950 pounds and was the first computer that could be operated by a single individual. Because it could be operated by a single individual, it is generally recognized as the world’s first personal computer. It sold for $60,000 or could be rented for $1,485 a month.

At a time when the state of Idaho is giving a high priority to trying to figure out how to get more Idaho high school graduates to go on to some level of post-secondary education, they would use Harry Huskey as their poster child. From a childhood of herding sheep to attending the University of Idaho and eventually playing the leading role in the development of the personal computer. And all because his poorly educated parents were determined that he receive something they hadn’t.

There are lessons to be learned in Idaho from Harry Huskey’s experiences in the 1930s.

A national non-story

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The New Year begins with the national media taking a non-story and blowing it up into front page stuff in the New York Times and the lead story of CNN. The story concerns a band of armed know-nothings from Nevada who have taken over the visitors center at Oregon’s Malheur Wildlife Refuge.

I have spent a lot of time in that area over the years. We visit there each spring and each fall relishing an area generally without cell phone service and more cattle than people. As a result, I have gotten to know a number of area ranchers and county officials quite well. I also know the area’s history. And, when you put that all together, it is little wonder that Harney County’s local officials and ranchers want nothing to do with these interlopers.

The catalyst for this effort is the sentencing of two local ranchers on a charge of arson for setting range fires on federal land. Just as people in Idaho’s Owyhee desert and Clearwater Valley take the threat of fire very seriously after major fires this past summer, range fires are also a major threat in the high desert area of Harney County. The Miller Homestead fire in that area in 2012 burned 160,000 acres and forced the evacuation of the community of Frenchglen.

The Nevada group says that they are prepared to occupy the facility until federal land in the area is returned to state and local governments. That is the first hint that these folks did no homework before staging their takeover.

In 1876, Dr. Hugh Glenn, a successful California rancher, dispatched one of his employees, Pete French, with 1200 head of cattle to be trailed to Oregon in search of pasture land. French found it in southeastern Oregon. Forming a partnership called the French Glenn Company. Eventually the firm owned over 70,000 acres of land and 45,000 head of cattle. But, just as today there are protesters upset with the federal government, in 1897 there were homesteaders upset with Pete French and his control of so much land. On December 26, 1897, one of those upset homesteaders, Ed Oliver, pulled a gun on French and killed him.

The property was eventually purchased by Swift and Company. By 1935, they determined that it was unprofitable and sold 64,717 acres to the federal government for $675,000. This is now most of the land that makes up the Malheur Wildlife Refuge. The land which, although purchased by the federal government from private owners, the protesters think should be given to state and local governments.

There are a couple of other things the protesters seem to be oblivious to. The first is that even though the land is designated a federal refuge, it has continued to be managed as productive agricultural land. The series of canals and ditches originally developed by Pete French are still used to distribute water throughout the refuge where the huge expanses of natural hay that originally attracted French, continue to grow and are cut and bailed by local ranchers to feed their cattle during the winter.

There are also ranchers who have taken advantage of the flow of tourists that visit the refuge each year. The Jenkins family runs the Round Barn visitors center which has an expansive inventory of books, western wear and other consumer items. They also operate a commercial tour service.

The Thompson family owns and operates the historic Diamond Hotel in the center of the refuge. It is an important supplement to their ranching income and a major attraction for tourists visiting the refuge. And there are other ranching families who have also become part of the areas tourism economy.
But, perhaps most importantly, most residents of Harney County aren’t appreciative of outsiders coming in and trying to run their lives. That applies not only to external governmental forces, but also to out-of-area private citizens, whether they are well intentioned environmentalists or armed protestors occupying federal property.

I’ve spent some memorable evenings sitting with my friend Dan Nichols out at his ranch enjoying a finger or two of single malt Scotch. Nichols is a long-time Harney county commissioner and through him I have had the opportunity to obtain a fairly good understanding of the sensitivities of the ranchers in Harney County.

In the January 4 front page story in the New York Times, he was quoted as saying, “This county isn’t supportive of what’s being done here at all. Once again, it’s a bunch of those who live without the county telling us what we need to do, how we need to be doing it, and the repercussions if we don’t.”

My guess is that if the national media would pack up and go back to the east coast, this group of renegades would quickly dissipate and go back to doing more productive things. And they will. Just wait until they have spent part of a winter in the high desert country of Harney County, Oregon.

Church’s wilderness

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Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson has been receiving well deserved accolades for his tireless efforts during the last 16 years to have major portions of the Boulder- White Cloud mountains preserved as wilderness. The resulting legislation, now signed into law, creates three new Idaho wilderness areas: the White Clouds Wilderness, the Jim McClure-Jerry Peak Wilderness, and the Hemingway-Boulders Wilderness. Together, they cover over 275,000 acres.

In addition to Simpson, there were many other players who helped make this possible, including a variety of environmental organizations, Senator Jim Risch, former Governor Cecil Andrus, and hundreds of individuals interested in protecting the area from future development. But I would suggest that none of this would have happened without the previous efforts of one Idahoan, the late Senator Frank Church.

I don’t suggest that because of Church’s leading role in passage of the Wilderness Act and the creation of other Idaho wilderness areas. Rather, I suggest it because Church almost single-handedly made it acceptable for senators, congressmen and governors, Republicans and Democrats alike, to pursue the protection of Idaho’s natural resources.

Idaho became a territory in 1863 due entirely to the discovery of gold. From the beginning, Idaho was viewed as a place where there was money to be made by exploiting its natural resources. Mining came first, followed by agriculture and timber. Of equal importance was an abundant supply of water to feed those industries.

For 100 years, few Idaho issues received greater attention than the exploitation of the state’s natural resources. When the Idaho Constitutional Convention was held in 1889, one of the most hotly debated topics was what to do with the land that would be transferred to the state by the federal government. The debate wasn’t whether any of it should be protected from exploitation, but whether it should be immediately sold off to private interests or held and developed by the state. In the end, those interested in having the state exploit the state owned lands won.

Perhaps no major Idaho politician better exemplified the mind-set of the state on natural resource issues during this period than Senator Weldon Heyburn, a Republican from Idaho’s Silver Valley. Heyburn was an attorney whose practice focused heavily on representing mining interests. During his tenure in the Senate, from 1903-1912, much of his effort was focused on fighting the emerging national conservation efforts of Theodore Roosevelt and Gifford Pinchot. Heyburn was opposed to the creation of national forests because he didn’t feel that government should control vast tracts of land in the western U.S.

This mind-set was understandable. The United States was a growing country. It needed lumber for construction, gold, silver and lead for manufacturing and farm commodities to feed the people. Idaho had them all and if its economy was to grow, it needed to exploit both land and water. In addition, Idaho’s growing population didn’t come from people seeking enjoyment of its many natural wonders. Rather, they came seeking to improve their economic lot.

Sometimes the argument wasn’t whether or not to develop natural resources, but rather who should develop them. The debate in the constitutional convention over future ownership of lands was one example. Another was the debate in the 1950s over who should build hydroelectric generating dams in Hells Canyon. There was little opposition to construction of these dams. The bigger debate was over who should build them.

When Frank Church was first elected to the Senate in 1956, the state had suffered through nearly three decades of economic restrictions. The depression had brought about a general economic collapse. Then followed World War II with rationing and the lack of manpower. By the mid-50s, with the depression, Word War II and the Korean conflict behind it, Idaho was ready to once again become a juggernaut of economic activity and most of that activity would depend upon the state’s plentiful natural resources. Conservation and environmental protection were not high on the state’s list of priorities. Idaho didn’t even have a state parks system.

But Frank Church had a deep appreciation for largely undeveloped areas of Idaho such as the Sawtooth Mountains and sought the means to protect them. His role in passing the Wilderness Act opened the door for subsequent pieces of legislation he would sponsor, including the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act in 1968, creation of the Sawtooth National Recreation area in 1972, the Endangered Wilderness Act of 1978 which created the Gospel Hump Wilderness, and the Central Idaho Wilderness Act of 1980 which created what is now the Frank Church – River of No Return Wilderness.

Church’s actions demonstrated to other politicos that there was public support in Idaho for the protection of some of the state’s most treasured natural areas. His pioneering efforts opened the door to future Idaho officials such as Cecil Andrus, Jim McClure, Mike Crapo, Mike Simpson and Jim Risch to make protection of some of Idaho most scenic resources a part of their legacies. But it all began with Frank Church.

Nothing new here

peterson MARTIN
PETERSON
 

Recent actions by some of Idaho’s politicos have attracted attention and comment both within Idaho and, in a couple of instances, in the national media. But the truth is that individuals who have followed Idaho politics over the years may not have liked what they saw, but certainly shouldn’t have been surprised.

The first was Representative Vito Barbieri’s lack of understanding that the female reproductive and digestive systems are not one and the same. It was the statement that launched a thousand jokes across the country, making it one of the most far-reaching actions to take place in the Idaho Legislature this year.

But Barbieri wasn’t the first Idaho legislator to be confused about female reproduction. In the early 1980s, Bill Moore served a stint in the Idaho Senate. Like Barbieri, he was a California transplant who moved to Kootenai County and gained election to the Legislature. During debate on an abortion related bill, Moore famously stated that there was no reason for an exemption for cases of rape, since a woman who had really been raped couldn’t become pregnant. Given their similar backgrounds hopefully the fault lies with their California roots rather than being a reflection of the thinking of their Idaho constituents.

Next comes the outcry over Idaho’s two U.S. Senators, Crapo and Risch, affixing their signatures to a letter to Iran’s leadership concerning the Obama administration’s negotiations on Iran’s nuclear program. The letter originated with Senator Tom Cotton from Arkansas and was co-signed by 47 GOP Senators.

It’s not the first time that southern cotton has divided our country. But for Idahoans, there should be little surprise about members of Idaho congressional delegation being involved. The stage was set for this decades ago.
In 1977, Idaho Congressman Steve Symms, travelled to Libya to negotiate with Libyan dictator Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi. Qaddafi was known as the “mad dog of the Middle East” and an enabler of international terrorism. Symms and Qaddafi both wanted things that they thought the other could help them get. Qaddafi wanted to gain access to a shipment of U.S. military planes for his armed forces. Symms wanted to gain access to Libyan markets for Idaho agricultural products. Both efforts failed.

Speaking of Iran, let’s not forget about Idaho Congressman George Hansen, and his solo diplomatic efforts with Iran. In 1979 revolutionaries took control of the U.S. embassy in Tehran and took 52 Americans hostage. Similar to the feeling of today’s 47 Republican Senators concerning executive branch negotiations with Iran, Hansen didn’t like what the Carter administration was doing to free the hostages. In fact he proposed that President Carter be impeached over the issue.

So Hansen made a solo trip to Iran to negotiate with the Iranian government for the release of the hostages. He wasn’t successful and, for the most part, was viewed as something of a nut, which shows how times have changed. Following in the footsteps of Idaho’s two congressmen, 47 Senators now see it as the role of Congress to get directly involved in executive branch negotiations with foreign governments. Who knew that eventually Symms and Hansen would be setting the stage for future actions in U.S. foreign policy?

And, finally, there is the refusal of three Idaho senators, Nuxoll, Vick and Hartog, to sit through a prayer offered by a Hindu cleric. Again, no surprise here. Religious intolerance is nothing new in Idaho. (more…)

Ending an embarassment

peterson MARTIN
PETERSON
 

The announcement that the United States and Cuba are attempting to normalize relations is over half a century overdue. For over half a century, we have attempted to change the course of the Cuban government through denying them diplomatic recognition, enforcing a trade embargo and numerous other activities. The thought has been that these actions would steer Cuba away from its communist form of government and get rid of the Castros.

So after 54 years, how has that strategy worked? The U.S. has gone through ten presidents in that time. In Cuba, the Castros are still in power and their government is still communist. At the same time, U.S. businesses have been denied the opportunity to profit from doing business in a county less than 100 miles from our shores and our citizens have been denied the freedom to freely travel there.

Obama’s decision will draw far louder cries of criticism that the previous decisions of Nixon with China and Clinton with Vietnam, which is troubling. In the case of both China and Vietnam, we had fought wars with them that cost tens of thousands of American lives. With Cuba, we lost four U.S. citizens in the U.S. launched Bay of Pigs invasion.

The Marco Rubios of Congress will rant that the Cuban government is guilty of having confiscated private property. Absolutely correct. But China, Vietnam, Russia, Mexico and other governments we recognize have done the same. They will also say that the Cuban government is a repressive government with respect to many of its people. Once again, correct. But we do business with numerous others governments guilty of the same charge, including Saudi Arabia, Egypt, China, Russia, Vietnam and many others.

Shortly after President Obama held his news conference announcing his decision to open diplomatic relations with Cuba, Florida Senator Marco Rubio appeared before the TV cameras. He gave all appearances of being in shock over the situation. And with good reason. He and a number of other politicians have built careers based on their opposition to the Cuban government. In most instances, they have represented states or congressional districts with a high percentage of Cuban-American citizens.

But times have changed. While the older generations of Cuban Americans – those who had lived in Cuba and immigrated to the United States – may still support things like the trade embargo, public sentiment has changed among the younger generations.

The U.S. maintains a fairly large interests operation in Havana. It will require little to simply change its name from an interests section to an embassy. Initially, confirmation of an ambassador will likely run into a roadblock, but with time that will also change.

Obama can take most of his actions to normalize relations via executive action. But the trade embargo is set in law and will require congressional action to be lifted.

Don’t expect that to happen any time soon. However, when a major effort comes to remove the embargo, it will likely come from the business sector, seeking to open new markets for their products. The petroleum industry will also likely make a push in an effort to gain offshore exploration rights from the Cuban government. Another U.S. economic sector that will make that push will be the resort and tourism industry. Cuba has huge potential for tourism and right now European companies are doing most of that development in Cuba. Unfortunately, the longer the U.S. drags its feet on lifting the trade embargo, the more likely it is that all of the prime beach front property will be developed by interests from other countries. (more…)

Something for Idahoans to celebrate

peterson MARTIN
PETERSON
 

When President Obama and his daughters paid a recent visit to a Washington, DC book store, two of his purchases were books by Idaho authors - All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doer and The Laughing Monsters by Denis Johnson. This was no fluke. Writers with Idaho roots are gaining more and more national prominence.

Earlier this week Idaho author and University of Idaho faculty member Kim Barnes was honored at the annual Governor’s Awards for the Arts with an Excellence in the Arts Award. She has also been a Pulitzer Prize finalist. Her husband, the much honored poet Robert Wrigley, also a UI faculty member, is a past recipient of the Governor’s Award. They are the first couple to be honored individually with the Governor’s Award.

On the same day that Barnes received her Governor’s Award, the New York Times arts section had a front page review of Boundary County resident Denis Johnson’s latest novel, The Laughing Monsters. Johnson has also been a Pulitzer finalist – two times. His book Train Dreams takes place in Idaho’s panhandle and won the Aga Khan Prize from the Paris Review. Train Dreams was reviewed in the New York Times by another Idaho writer, Anthony Doer.

Doer, who lives in Boise, has received wide acclaim. His latest novel, All the Light We Cannot See, occupies the number 8 spot on the Times best seller list. It has been on the list for 28 weeks. Longer than any other book currently on the list. The book was a finalist this year for the National Book Award.

Another finalist this year for the National Book Award, was Marilynne Robinson for her novel Lila. Robinson was born and raised in Sandpoint. In 2005 she won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction for her book Gilead. She is currently on the faculty of the Iowa Writers Workshop, perhaps the most celebrated creative writing program in the country.

Mystery author Ridley Pearson is a part time resident of Hailey, Idaho. Pearson has written 48 novels. Many of them NY Times best sellers. His series of books featuring the fictional Sherriff Walt Fleming takes place in Sun Valley. A measure of the esteem in which he is held by other writers is his membership in the musical group Rock Bottom Remainders. Other members of the group include Amy Tan, Steven King, Dave Berry, Robert Fulghum, Barbara Kingsolver and Roy Blount Jr.

Idaho has been home to other prominent writers. Lawrence Gipson grew up in Caldwell and graduated from the University of Idaho in 1903.In 1904 he was a member of the third class of Rhodes Scholars. He became a noted historian and in 1962 won the Pulitzer Prize for History.
Mountain Home native Richard McKenna’s best known work was The Sand Pebbles. It won the 1963 Harper Prize and was made into a movie starring Steve McQueen. McQueen was nominated for the Academy Award for his performance. (more…)

An Idahoan in Israel

peterson MARTIN
PETERSON
 

On election day, while many Idahoans visited their polling places, I was 7000 miles away on Temple Mount in Jerusalem. For Jews, Temple Mount, the former location of their two historic temples, is their holiest site. For Muslims, the mount contains the Dome of the Rock and al- Aksa Mosque, the third holiest site in Islam. The commonality for both Jews and Muslims is that the mount is the site where Abraham prepared to sacrifice his son Isaac. Both religions are descended from Abraham.

Temple Mount has been the focal point of differences between Muslims and Jews that have set off the current round of violence in Israel and Palestine. The day after we visited the mount, an Arab with ties to Hamas drove his car into a crowd of people at the base of the mount, killing two people.

I had two things I wanted to accomplish in Israel. The first was to visit a number of historic sites, including many that form the foundation for Christianity. There may be more historic sites and ruins in Israel than any other country. The second was to spend time in the Palestinian areas to try to get a better handle on things that are driving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. I began my visit as a fairly staunch supporter of the Israeli government.

The Jews have a sad history of suffering from discrimination, oppression, apartheid, confiscation of property and worse. Unfortunately, the more time I spent in Israel, the more it became obvious to me that the Israeli government has adopted a modified Golden Rule that goes something like “Do unto others as others have done unto you.”

There is no doubt that Hamas and other such groups provide a major threat to Israel. However, Israel doesn’t seem to understand that for a growing number of Palestinians, especially the young, things appear so hopeless that revolution is the only possible way out. Apartheid isn’t working any better in Israel than it worked in South Africa. In the United States, we launched a revolution against the British for much less cause.

Looking down on a Palestinian neighborhood in Jerusalem, I saw a group of teenagers throwing rocks at Israeli police cars, with the police firing tear gas at them. Watching this unfold I was told that such acts have become a recreational activity for Palestinian young people, since they have no parks, no recreation programs and little else to occupy their time. The Israeli government has responded with a law that provides up to twenty years in prison for throwing rocks at vehicles with the intent of damaging them.

Most Christian pilgrims in the Holy Land aspire to visit Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus. Bethlehem happens to be a West Bank town controlled by the Palestinians. Israel is now in the process of constructing a 26 foot high wall around Bethlehem and other Palestinian controlled areas. When completed, the wall will be 500 miles long. By way of comparison, the Berlin Wall was 12 feet high and 96 miles long.

The eastern border of the West Bank consists of two heavy duty barbed wire fences roughly ten yards apart, with the central area planted with land mines. (more…)

Idaho’s own political dynasty

peterson MARTIN
PETERSON
 

I’ve been watching the Ken Burns’ series on the Roosevelts. They were the most influential American political dynasty of the twentieth century, which is something when you consider that we also had the Kennedys and the Bushes.

But Idaho has had its own political dynasty. A family that, by nearly any measure, has been the most influential political family in Idaho’s relatively brief history. Even those who have heard of it are generally not aware of its extent. It is a family tree that, examined in detail, includes such notables as Governors Robert Smylie and Cecil Andrus and Senator Frank Church. It is also a family that, while heavily Democratic, also includes some influential Republicans.

The tree begins with the arrival of Joseph Addison Clark in Idaho in 1885. He became the first mayor of Idaho Falls, serving from 1900-02. He ran unsuccessfully for governor on the Prohibition ticket in 1904. Two of his sons, Barzilla and Chase, also served as mayors of Idaho Falls. He had a third son, David, who did not hold elective office, but needs to be mentioned because of others in his line of the Clark family who did become major players in state and national politics.

Barzilla Clark served two terms on the Idaho Falls city council and was elected mayor in 1913, serving a single term. He was elected governor in 1936 and served a single two-year term. His daughter Lois married Merlin Young, who served as a state district judge before being appointed federal bankruptcy judge for Idaho. The Young’s daughter Patricia, a state magistrate judge, married Byron Johnson, and Idaho supreme court justice.

Chase Clark served two terms in the Idaho legislature representing Custer County. When his brother Barzilla resigned as mayor of Idaho Falls to become governor, Chase succeeded him as mayor. He was elected governor in 1942 and served a single two-year term. Following his term as governor, he was appointed to the U.S. District Court by President Roosevelt. His daughter Bethine married Boise attorney Frank Church, who was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1956 and served through 1980. The Church’s son, Chase, was married to Kelly Andrus, daughter of Governor Cecil Andrus and they have two children. (more…)

George Hansen’s lasting legacy

peterson MARTIN
PETERSON
 

When former Idaho Congressman George Hansen passed away recently, the news stories focused on his troubles with the law, times in prison and his trips to Iran during the hostage crisis. There was no mention of any sort of lasting legacy left by Hansen. But the case can be made that he left a huge, although entirely unanticipated, legacy.

Hansen could be described as Idaho’s first tea party Republican. But were his wife Connie to have heard such a remark, she would quickly comment that the Hansen’s had nothing to do with anything containing caffeine. No, while he really was a precursor to the tea party movement, that wasn’t his lasting legacy.

That legacy is tied directly to his 1968 senate campaign against Senator Frank Church. Frank Church was seeking a third term in the senate and Hansen was a formidable opponent. In my mind, the two most effective political campaigners in Idaho’s recent history were George Hansen and Bethine Church. But I would give the nod to Hansen, primarily because he stood nearly a foot taller than Mrs. Church, which gave him the advantage in working a crowd.

Hansen was legendary in his ability to work a crowd and seek support. Nothing illustrates that better than his conviction for defrauding Idaho banks and about 200 investors of $30 million in an investment scheme. Of the 200 individuals he defrauded, 100 wrote letters to Judge Edward Lodge indicating that they had willingly given him their money and that, even though they lost it all, they didn’t feel they were defrauded.

Hansen’s entry into the 1968 Senate race sent a strong signal to Senator Church and his staff. This was going to be an incredibly difficult race and it would require organizing a re-election campaign unlike any that Idahoans had previously seen. Church was an outspoken environmentalist who supported the creation of wilderness areas. He was also an outspoken critic of the war in Vietnam. Both of these issues ran against the grain of many Idahoans at the time.

Church was surrounded by some of the best political minds in Idaho. Carl Burke, a Boise attorney and his childhood best friend, chaired the campaign. Verda Barnes, Church’s chief of staff, was one of the finest and best connected political organizers Idaho has ever seen. He had a highly experienced staff, including Jerry Brady who would later run twice for Governor, who were focused on his re-election.

The resulting Church campaign was filled with many Idaho firsts. Church opened the first congressional field office in Idaho and staffed it with Billie Jeppesen, who would later go to Washington to be the personal secretary for Secretary of the Interior Cecil Andrus.

It was also the first Idaho campaign to use 4 by 8 foot “Minnie” billboards. A thirty minute campaign film was produced that aired on television and was shown at political functions throughout the state. And there were Spanish language bumper stickers.

But the innovation that had the greatest impact on Church’s re-election effort was the development of a statewide voter identification program. Idaho had never seen a similar effort of this magnitude. Volunteers went door-to-door filling out forms on voter preferences, all in the days before the use of computers and phone banks. The identification of pro-Church, leaning to Church and uncommitted voters was critical to the success of the campaign.

Voters leaning to Church and uncommitted were targeted to bring them firmly into the pro-Church camp. On election day, a well-organized get-out-the-vote program was activated to try to get every last voter leaning to Church to the polls to vote.

On election day, the results were remarkable. Church obtained 60% of the vote and carried forty of Idaho’s forty-four counties.
While Hansen lost and went on to face all of his self-inflicted future problems, he forced Church to do things that had previously been unknown in Idaho political races. And this is where Hansen’s lasting legacy comes in.

Two years later, in 1970, the Church organization had kept much of its 1968 campaign organization in place, including the voter identification and get-out the vote programs. This was of critical importance to Cecil Andrus’ campaign for Governor. It undoubtedly made the difference and opened the door for the rest of his remarkable political career.

Were the last half of Frank Church’s Senate career and the political success of Cecil Andrus the lasting legacies of George Hansen? I think a strong case can be made for that.

Marty Peterson is a native of the Lewiston Clarkston Valley. He is retired and lives in Boise.

Remembering Evans

peterson MARTIN
PETERSON
 

John Evans left the governorship in 1987 – 27 years ago. Roughly two-thirds of Idaho’s current population were either under the age of eighteen or not even born yet when he left office. Given Evans’ low public profile after leaving office, it isn’t surprising that many Idahoans don’t recall his many years of public service. Many of them probably associate him more closely as the face in advertisements for D.L. Evans Bank.

John Evans grew up in Malad. His grandfather David L. Evans served in the territorial legislature and, following statehood was Speaker of the House. Like his grandfather, John Evans was a Democrat and a banker. He was elected to the state senate in 1952, at the age of 27. In 1957, when the Democrats took control of the Senate, he became senate majority leader. He left the senate in 1959 and was elected mayor of Malad.

His years as a small town mayor, rancher and banker provided him with invaluable experience and skills that would serve him well when he returned to state government, again serving as a senator, then lieutenant governor and finally ten years as governor.

When Cecil Andrus resigned as governor to become Secretary of Interior in 1977, Evans became governor. His ten years as governor were during some of the most challenging times that Idaho has ever faced. In 1978 Idaho voters approved the 1% Initiative, which placed substantial restrictions on the ability of local governments to raise operating revenues. Then came the economic collapse. The state’s economy had little diversification and was heavily dependent upon natural resource based industries. In a perfect storm, the bottom dropped out of the timber, mining and agricultural industries. As a result, state tax revenues plummeted.

Using his experience as a mayor, Evans understood the need for basic governmental services at the state and local levels. As a mayor, he also understood the need for setting priorities and operating in a fiscally conservative manner. The result was a mixture of reducing non-essential services, cutting operating costs and increasing the flow of state revenues. He also created the Idaho Department of Commerce to help begin Idaho’s economic rebuilding. With a legislature heavily dominated by Republicans and led by staunch conservatives such as Tom Stivers in the house and Jim Risch in the senate, Evans had his work cut out for him. But he rose to the occasion, working with a coalition of Democrats and moderate Republicans, he kept the ship afloat and laid the groundwork for an economic recovery that led to some of the best years that Idaho’s economy has ever seen. In many ways, his relationship with a Republican legislature was more productive than that of some Republican governors. (more…)