City Lifestyle

Want to start a publication?

Learn More
Pg 3 photo - See Caption in "NOTES"

Featured Article


Her name invokes images of wide open spaces, lonely winding rivers and mountain skies fading into sunset

Article by Linden B. Bateman

Photography by Provided

Originally published in Boise Lifestyle

My love for Idaho politics began 66 years ago at age 14 while attending a Republican Party campaign event held on September 9, 1954 at the Civic Auditorium in Idaho Falls.  I walked to the meeting from my home on 7th Street, just two blocks from the auditorium, mainly to hear the keynote speaker, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Ezra Taft Benson who also served as an apostle in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  Many state and local office holders and candidates for office were present at the event including U.S. Senator Henry Dworshak and Idaho Attorney General Robert E.Smylie who was elected Governor later in November.

Being thrilled by the evenings patriotic fervor and stirring rhetoric, I actually had the audacity to go onto the stage at the close of the event to meet some of the candidates, most of whom paid little attention to the skinny kid with wild red hair.  There was one who gave me his complete attention, however. I shall never forget the kindness of Governor Smylie who took a few minutes to impress upon my youthful mind the importance of public service and then inscribed for me a sentiment upon a sheet of paper which I cherish to this day.  At that moment it surely did not enter the governor’s mind that his kindness would inspire me, 22 years later, to become a member of the Idaho House of Representatives where I served for 16 years, including 4 years in legislative leadership as majority caucus chairman. By that time Governor Smylie had been out of office for 10 years and was fading from public memory.  Sometimes he could be observed walking alone and completely unrecognized in downtown Boise.

I often talked about Governor Smylie with other legislators and constituents, mentioning how kind he had been to me as a boy.  One day an 8x10 autographed photo of Governor Smylie suddenly appeared on my desk at the Capital Building followed a few days later by an actual visit from the Governor who thanked me for remembering his service to Idaho.  He said that he always sought to spend time with children, and that we should not forget them, for they are the future of Idaho. In later years I also met the Governor’s son, Steve, also a member of the legislature, who emphasized his father’s love for the youth of Idaho.

Governor Smylie served 12 years in office and was widely recognized for his support of education, the expansion of Idaho’s highway system, and for the establishment of a Department of State Parks staffed by professionals.  Sadly his demonstration of political courage in support of Idaho’s first sales tax contributed to his electoral defeat in 1966, even though the sales tax is now widely recognized as necessary for a balanced system of taxation. 

Today, few Idahoans know much about Governor Smylie, nor for that matter, about any of Idaho’s past governors.  How many would recognize the name of Territorial Governor Edward A. Stevenson, for example, who helped to prevent the dismantling of Idaho after Congress passed legislation in 1887 which would have ceded north Idaho to the state of Washington.  That legislation would likely have been followed by another act giving southern Idaho to the state of Nevada which was rapidly losing population as a result of a decline in her mining industry. Governor Stevenson helped to convince President Grover Cleveland to veto the 1887 legislation thus keeping Idaho intact.  He then worked tirelessly to achieve statehood for Idaho which was granted in 1890. 

Today Governor Stevenson is all but forgotten.

How many Idahoans know about Governor Frank Steunenberg who was assassinated, or anything about Governor Moses Alexander, America’s first elected Jewish governor and leader of Idaho during World War I.  What do we know about Governor Clarence Baldridge who laid the foundation for the preservation of the now famous wilderness areas of central Idaho, recognition now made more secure by former Idaho Governor Cecil Andrus.

The reason most Idahoans know so little about former governors or about Idaho history or geography in general is that very little is being taught in our schools.  Our 4th grade teachers do a marvelous job teaching basic information about Idaho, but no higher level Idaho history or geography is required at the secondary level, not even in short units.

Sadly, the teaching of history in general has been neglected in recent years because of the current emphasis on math, science and language arts.  According to a report by the National Assessment of Education Progress, the teaching of history lags behind all major subjects in our schools and today few colleges and universities require a U.S. history class for graduation.  Too few formulators of education policy seem to comprehend the inspirational essence of history, “we gain from the greatness of our past, courage and confidence for the future.”

To encourage an appreciation for Idaho’s heritage, history and natural resources, the Idaho Legislature created an official “Idaho Day” in 2014 to be observed each year on March 4th to commemorate the creation of Idaho Territory on that day in 1863 by President Abraham Lincoln.  It is hoped that as our citizens learn more about Idaho they will become more fondly attached to her and more willing to serve her.

We love Idaho.  Her name invokes images of wide open spaces, lonely winding rivers and mountain skies fading into sunset.  Romance lies in her name. Freedom lies in her name.

EDITORS NOTE: Linden Bateman has resided his entire life in Idaho.  He served 16 years in the Idaho House of Representatives, including 4 years in legislative leadership as majority caucus chairman.  An author of many articles on history and politics, Linden currently lives in Idaho Falls with his wife, Deann.

  • Pg 4 photo - See Caption in "NOTES"
  • Pg 3 photo - See Caption in "NOTES"
  • Pg 1 photo - See Caption in "NOTES"