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Calvin L. Rampton

John S. McCormick
Utah History Encyclopedia

Calvin L. Rampton was Utah's only three-term governor, holding office from 1965 to 1977. A moderate Democrat and a consummate politician, he easily fit into the centrist, conservative mold of Utah politics and was elected each time by overwhelming majorities. With a low-key verbal delivery and an restrained platform appearance, he lacked charisma; but he was politically astute and apparently so impressed Utah's Republican party leadership that they mounted only token opposition to him in 1968 and 1972, and he probably could have won a fourth term in 1976. Instead, he returned to private law practice and hand-picked the Democratic candidate, Scott M. Matheson, to succeed him. Even though Utahns that year voted overwhelmingly for Republicans Gerald Ford and Orrin Hatch, Matheson won easily.

Rampton was born on 6 November 1913 in Bountiful, Utah, the eldest of three children of Lewellyn Smith Rampton and Janet Campbell Rampton. He married Lucybeth Cardon on 10 March 1940, and they had four children. Following his graduation from Davis High School in 1931, he took over the family automobile business, due to his father's death that same year. He sold the business in 1933 and entered the University of Utah, graduating in 1936. Four years later, after having also attended George Washington University Law School, he received his law degree from the University of Utah. From 1936 to 1938, while at George Washington, he was administrative assistant to Utah Congressman J. Will Robinson.

Rampton was Davis County Attorney from 1939 to 1941 and Assistant Attorney General for Utah from 1941 to 1942. During World War II he served in the U.S. Army in Europe and at war's end was Chief of the Senior U.S. Army Claims Commission in Paris. Following the war, he returned to Salt Lake City, where he practiced law until his election as governor in 1964, becoming an authority on transportation and taxation law and developing a wide range of political and corporate ties.

Rampton was supposed to be a sacrificial lamb when he ran for governor in 1964, but Barry Goldwater led the Republican party to defeat that year in Utah as well as in the rest of the nation, and Rampton defeated Mitchell Melich, receiving 227,000 votes to his opponent's 171,000. Once in office he became one of the most popular governors in the state's history. With an unbeatable knack for conciliation and a pro-business/development stance that allowed him to become the consensus candidate of the business and political establishment, he was re-elected easily in 1968, defeating Carl W. Buehner, and even more easily in 1972, defeating Nicholas L. Strike.

As governor Rampton worked closely with business leaders and pushed industrial development, tourism, development of energy resources, and expansion of the defense industry in Utah. He also established the Little Hoover Commission to recommend ways of restructuring and reorganizing state government, established the Utah Police Training Academy, and created the Governor's Conference on the Arts. While in office, he was Chair of the National Governor's Conference, 1974-75; president of the Council of State Governments, 1974-75; chair of the Western Governor's Conference, 1969-70; and co-chair of the Four Corners Regional Commission, 1971. Since leaving office he has practiced law in Salt Lake City.

See: Calvin L. Rampton, As I Recall (1989); Robert Gottlieb and Peter Wiley, Empires in the Sun: The Rise of the New American West (1982).

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