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Mayoral History Awaits Corradini Chapter
Colorful Mayoral History Awaits Unprecedented Corradini Chapter
Hal Schindler
Published: 11/10/1991 Category: Local/Regional Page: A1

When Deedee Corradini takes the oath of office as Salt Lake City's 32nd mayor (the first of her sex), she'll be joining a colorful, and sometimes questionable, group of political figures who held that office in the last 140 years. In her campaign, the mayor-elect experienced an easy win over opponent David Buhler, but it could not have been as effortless as the victory earned by the city's first mayor, Jedediah M. Grant, who ran unopposed in that initial "race" in 1851. As a matter of fact, none of those early aspirants, like A.O. Smoot and Daniel H. Wells, appeared to find the political stump a necessity, at least until the early 1870s. All were members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and it would seem they took office rather routinely for batches of two-year terms.

Grant ran unopposed (as did the rest of the City Council) and also found time to serve concurrently in the territorial Legislature. He was in his third term as the city's chief executive when he succumbed to pneumonia, thus becoming the only mayor to die in office. At the time, he was, in addition to his other duties, a counselor to Brigham Young in the First Presidency of the LDS Church. He was described by some Eastern newspapermen as "Brigham's Sledgehammer."

Abraham O. Smoot was appointed to fill Grant's un-expired term and at the first regular election, April 6, 1857, was returned to office. The political scene was anything but relaxed during those tumultuous years after public confirmation in 1852 of the worst kept secret of the 19th century, the Mormon doctrine of plurality of wives, and Mayor Smoot was pressed into service carrying the mail from "the States" to Utah. (An interim mayor, A.H. Raleigh, filled in pro tem until Smoot's return in July.) When the Eastern mail was refused him in Independence, Missouri, Smoot discovered that an expeditionary force of U.S. Army troops had been ordered to suppress a supposed Mormon rebellion in Utah. The mayor brought word of the approaching army to Brigham Young and a gathering of church members in Big Cottonwood Canyon on the 24th of July.

Smoot continued to serve as Great Salt Lake City's mayor until 1866 when he retired from office. He was succeeded by the most popular military man in the territory, Lt. General Daniel H. Wells, who commanded the Nauvoo Legion in the standoff with the Utah Expedition, managing to contain 1,500 infantry, artillery and cavalry troops at Fort Bridger until Brigham Young's emissaries could work their diplomatic magic in Washington and extract an amnesty from President James Buchanan. Before leaving A.O. Smoot to history, it is noteworthy to mention that he moved south to Provo in February, 1868, was elected mayor of the farm community, and held that office for a dozen years to go with the earlier decade of public service at Great Salt Lake City.

Wells was also to remain mayor for ten years, but not without difficulty. Anti-Mormon writers in later years would call him "the one-eyed pirate" because of a slight physical impairment, but Wells' vision was crystal clear when it came to dealing with mobs and mob violence. When William A."Bill" Hickman, a local desperado and confessed killer, committed his sins to writing, he cast a large loop as frontiersmen used to say and implicated a number of Mormon leaders in his murderous deeds.

Wells, who had been mayor since 1866, was arrested on a charge of polygamy in 1871, and three weeks later was under indictment on a capital charge stemming from the death (by Hickman's hands) of one Richard Yates, a trader, during the so-called Utah War of 1857-58. The mayor consented to an interview with a correspondent for the Cincinnati Commercial that fall and was described in the journalistic lingo of the day, as "the right-bower of Brigham Young." "He is indicted upon the oath of a desperado who confesses to the murder of some twenty men by his own hand," the correspondent noted. The case never came to trial.

In February of 1872, Wells was re-elected mayor and repeated the victory again in 1874. He was in office the following August when it came time to vote for a territorial delegate to Congress. (Municipal and national elections were conducted separately in those days.) Never has there been an election in Salt Lake City to compare with that one.

Since it was a national race, security at the polls was assumed by the U.S. marshal and deputies, who in exercise of their duties attempted control of the city for the day. But there were differences of opinion concerning authority and the federals wound up arresting a captain of police and several members of the force. By evening a mob gathered at City Hall (the local polling place) and Mayor Wells stood on the balcony quite literally reading the riot act, ordering police to beat back the gentile and apostate Mormon crowd which already had pummeled him and torn his coat while shouting, "Shoot him, shoot him!" It was politics Wild West style, but the crowd dispersed.

In 1876 Wells stepped down and his Nauvoo Legion comrade in arms, Feramorz Little, stepped forward. Little served three terms as mayor. He had been instrumental in helping build the first territorial prison in Sugar House, which later would be occupied briefly by D.H. Wells, who was confined for two days in 1879 on a contempt charge for refusing to describe certain secret and sacred rites of the Mormon Endowment House.

Little's tenure was relatively uneventful. It was under his administration, however, that the city purchased the property for Liberty Park., William Jennings, a prominent merchant, was elected mayor in 1882 and served one term. In successive years James Sharp, Francis Armstrong and George M. Scott followed Jennings to office. (Scott was the first non-Mormon mayor of the city and served one term.)

When Robert N. Baskin was elected in 1892, the city found itself with a Harvard Law School graduate who was a ferocious anti-Mormon and had been prosecuting attorney during the trials stemming from the Utah War. One writer described him as getting "his red hot temper from his hair" and repeated the rumor that Baskin had "shot somebody in Ohio." With that sort of reputation and an attitude which spurred him to try kicking a judge down the stairs of the court house, Baskin still managed two terms. He was followed by James Glendinning (1896-98), John Clark (1898-1900), and Ezra Thompson (1900-1904), who built the Ezra Thompson Building on Main Street. (It has since been renamed The Salt Lake Tribune Building.) R.P. Morris was mayor from 1904-1906 and Thompson ran for office again in 1906, was elected, but resigned for reasons of health a year later amid charges of corruption and bribery against some of his appointees.

John S. Bransford was appointed to serve out Thompson's term and stayed in office until 1912. He had crossed the plains with his parents in '64 on the way to California and stopped at the emigrant campground in Great Salt Lake City, site of the present City & County Building. Bransford had been in public office in California, serving as county sheriff and county treasurer. He returned to Utah in 1899 and in August 1907 was named Thompson's successor.

It was Bransford who established the red-light district "stockade"on Block 64 in Salt Lake City, corralling the city's prostitutes in a walled enclosure from 100 to 200 South between 500 and 600 West. Samuel C. Park (1912-1916), W. Mont Ferry (1916-1920) became the 16th and 17th mayors. (It was during Park's administration that the term in office was increased to four years.) Then Edmund A. Bock, the city's former auditor, returned from World War I and at the age of thirty-one became Salt Lake City's youngest mayor; he also established another record?for the shortest time in office. His resignation after six months followed disclosures of shortages during his administration as city auditor. It was said he had embezzled city funds. (Three years later Bock was fatally wounded in a duck-hunting accident near Stockton Lake, Tooele County).

C. Clarence Neslen (1920-1928), and John F. Bowman (1928-1932) were next in office. Louis Marcus was the city's only Jewish mayor. He served from 1932-1936. E.B. Erwin defeated Marcus in an upset. Two years into his term he was implicated in a vice conspiracy scandal involving his police chief. Erwin resigned. John M. Wallace was appointed to serve out Erwin's term as mayor, and he was succeeded by Ab Jenkins (1940-1944), racecar driver and holder of world land speed records in the Mormon Meteor.

Radio executive Earl J. Glade won the office in 1944 and served three terms; he was succeeded by Adiel F. Stewart in 1956. The most colorful of Salt Lake City's 20th century mayors, most observers would agree, was the controversial, flamboyant J. Bracken Lee, whose running skirmishes with the federal government, and the Internal Revenue Service in particular, made national news. Mayor Lee served three terms (1960-1972) and previous public service as mayor of Price put him with A.O. Smoot as the only Salt Lake City mayors who had held that office in two Utah cities. (Mr. Lee, however, also served two terms as Utah's governor (1948-1956).

Jake Garn became mayor in 1972, but resigned in ?74 when he was elected to the U.S. Senate. Long-time music critic for the Deseret News Conrad B. Harrison, who had been a city commissioner since 1960, was appointed to serve out Mayor Garn's term in 1975. Ted Wilson was the city's 30th mayor. He was elected in 1976 and served 9 1/2 years, resigning at midpoint in his third term to become director of the University of Utah's Hinckley Institute of Politics., Mayor Wilson's public-works director, Palmer DePaulis, was appointed to serve out his term and was himself returned to office in '88. He announced his intention not to run for re-election at the end of the term. And there you have it, Madame Mayor-elect. Welcome to The Club.

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